Thursday June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
On the roof of the Hotel Accord, there are sniper positions. It is an open secret in this city. You can see them, if you can get high enough, shallow figures moving darkly beneath their camouflage netting. The hotel is only overlooked on one side, by a tall apartment building, but you can see them too from the upper floors of the Zachler building, or even the old Exchange building, itself now apartments.
The Hotel Accord has long held a place in the mythology of my inner life. Before the occupation, it is where Presidents would come to celebrate their election victories, and where they would host lavish state visits by foreign dignitaries. My father, like me, was a diplomat, and my childhood and adolescence were punctuated by short stays in the tired, complacent luxury of the Hotel Accord, my mother and I ensconced on one of the mid-level floors, while my father attended the banquet downstairs. I watched the election parties on state television, usually to the accompaniment of my father’s dark mutterings about how this or that Party (it didn’t matter on which side of the political spectrum they sat) would undo years of patient diplomacy within six months of gaining office.
As I got older, reached my early twenties, well-to-do friends would have their wedding receptions there, hiring out the second floor which could be turned into a disco, and dining area. I have been pretty drunk in the Hotel Accord, and I always feel a surge of nostalgia when I walk past it along the street, and glance in at the thick rouge drapes hanging in the floor-length windows. Or driving along Xsander Street, turning into Leda, see the big American cars pirouetting into the hotel’s underground car park. It is an unusual road layout, and involves a certain amount of skill to turn sharply across three lanes of traffic and into the narrow concrete opening. Most times of the day it is possible to see, for not a very long wait, a flustered chauffeur or official driver sweating and stranded, beached in the high tide of traffic rushing east to join the freeway at Clermont.
Or at least until they shut the freeway at Clermont. Another casualty of the occupation.
I am standing in that apartment building, on the fortieth floor, looking down at the Hotel Accord, several stories below, watching the small figures dancing over the network of camouflage and battlements covering the roof. It is dusk. Grey shadows, our shadows, move softly across the glass. I am already on my second drink.
– It’s like watching ants, I say. Through the wrong end of a telescope.
Nedra is cooking. Her brother and I are in the living room.
– Have they ever shot anybody from there? he says. Have they ever killed anyone? He is sitting in one of the beige, featureless corner-sofas enclosing the room.
– I don’t know, I say, and genuinely don’t know.
Nedra shouts through from the kitchen.
– Will you pull the drapes now?
– They can’t see us, you know, her brother says, stretching his legs, walking over to the sideboard where he pours himself another measure of schnapps. Silently he gestures to the opened bottle. I nod. Yes, another drink.
-Dinner is nearly ready, she says.