Di­vorce Di­aries

If be­ing rudely wo­ken to the sound of ham­mer­ing wasn’t enough, Sarah’s land­lord sends her an omi­nous text mes­sage

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance - by Sarah Quigley

II’ve al­ways yearned to be a morn­ing per­son, some­one who jumps out of bed with clear bright eyes, glossy hair and end­less en­thu­si­asm for the next daily les­son from the School of Life. But yearn­ing doesn’t of­ten turn into re­al­ity. And my re­al­ity is this. Wildly mat­ted hair (I ig­nored the good ad­vice from my favourite hair­dresser back in my early 20s – “Al­ways sleep on a silk pil­low­case, Sarah!” – and it all seems way too late now). Eyes that feel as if some­one’s at­tacked them with a glue stick. And the knowl­edge that it’ll take some­thing like an elec­tric cat­tle prod to get me to speak be­fore mid­day.

To­day, I’m pulled from the soggy depths by an omi­nous pound­ing re­ver­ber­at­ing through my pil­low. Ber­lin is in a per­ma­nent state of re­con­struc­tion. It no longer dances to a techno beat but to the thud­ding of jack­ham­mers. “God­dammit!” I check my phone: just past 7, which for some­one who’s been awake un­til 4 is akin to the mid­dle of the night.

Pris­ing open my UHU eyes, I stum­ble to the bath­room – where I find a bronzed Ado­nis star­ing at me. “What the...?” I leap back and hide in the hall­way, curs­ing the fact that, be­cause I’m on the fourth floor, I’ve never both­ered to put up blinds. Peer­ing around the cor­ner, I see that Ado­nis is erect­ing scaf­fold­ing over my win­dow. I edge for­ward, pulling my skimpy T-shirt over my thighs. He smiles and waves at me. I’m des­per­ate to pee. I grab the big­gest towel I own and, half-apolo­get­i­cally, halfde­fi­antly, I stand on the toi­let and nail the towel over the win­dow.

One hour later, a text from my land­lord. “Come down­stairs now. We need to talk.” Even though he’s gauch­eness on legs and so Ger­man that he phrases what would or­di­nar­ily be a po­lite query as an or­der – the words fill me with dread. “We need to talk” has to be one of the most omi­nous sen­tences ever penned by made-for-TV movie writ­ers.

It’s still three hours be­fore my usual time to be­gin talk­ing, but I want to know what the hell’s go­ing on. The clash­ing and clang­ing around my usu­ally peace­ful pad sounds like a bat­tle scene.

“Okay,” I text back. “Put cof­fee on.” This isn’t a re­quest; it’s a bru­tal ne­ces­sity. When I open my door, I find three more mus­cu­lar Adonises there, cor­don­ing off the stair­case. “Tzk-kzi kow-skli, o-lowskiii!” one of them shouts at me. I don’t un­der­stand Pol­ish but it’s pretty clear he’s telling me to stay put.

I take a deep breath, avoid look­ing at the glimpse of tiled floor four floors be­low me, and mount the ban­nis­ter. I swoosh past the builders and come to a leap­ing halt out­side Dr Now’s door. Not bad! I haven’t done that since I was seven.

He wrenches the door open, cof­fee in hand. “Thank god!” I say, reach­ing for it. “Nein!” He pulls his hand back pos­ses­sively. “This is mine!” Gauch­eness on legs, I re­mind my­self, while also re­mind­ing my­self he’s the only rea­son I can af­ford to live in a quaint, char­ac­ter­ful

I’m pulled from the soggy depths by an omi­nous pound­ing re­ver­ber­at­ing through my pil­low

100-year-old house in cen­tral Ber­lin.

He’s even more ruf­fled than I am. His usu­ally pal­lid cheeks are Mary-Pop­pins red as he breaks the news. “The build­ing’s fall­ing apart. Bomb dam­age from the war. It’s lit­er­ally split­ting in two.”

It’s pretty bad for him, of course. He owns two apart­ments, and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have be­come adept at dodg­ing this sort of thing. I try to feel sorry for him, but as I seize his dis­carded cup and slurp wildly at the dregs of his cof­fee, all I can think is: ‘Where am I go­ing to live now?’

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