It’s 8 am and the Danube is the colour my father’s Wellington boots used to be. I’m sitting by the window in my pyjamas while LSB sleeps curled to the side with his mouth slightly open. By the riverside, joggers in white hot-pants are battling the heat. Every so often a crow takes flight and I watch its shadow glide effortlessly over the water. A white cruise ship had just gone by. In the distance is a gigantic Ferris wheel.
LSB and I arrived in Vienna on Saturday evening, worse for wear. We had spent the previous night in a cocktail bar in Kreuzberg and arrived home at 5 am to finish off the packing, only to rise again at 7, to make our way to the train station.
Four months of my life amounted to two suitcases and five bags. I had winter coats, summer dresses, an obscene amount of books and sentimental rubbish I cannot throw away. LSB was heroic in lugging so much of my existence on his shoulders.
We sat in a stuffy train compartment with a German couple and their teenage son. I held a poorly-packed plastic bag on my lap and fell asleep, uncomfortably, with my head resting on a damp towel at the top of the bag. I jolted awake suddenly, with the terrifying sense that everybody’s attention was directed upon me.
I became aware of a continuous beeping sound, the kind associated with either a bomb or a digital timepiece. “It’s coming from around here,” said the woman, body-searching her teenage son but with her eyes still on me. I maintained a rightful expression of innocent curiosity. I peeked into my bags and shook my head quizically, keen to share in the bewilderment but even keener to return my head to my damp and malodorous pillow. I was positive I hadn’t packed a bomb.
The beeping continued and so did the search. The woman put her ear under my seat and said, “There! It’s coming from that bag.”
With the last strength my feeble arms could muster, I swept the offending carrier onto my lap. The beeping became louder. LSB, who at the time had been in the corridor by the window admiring some charming north German village or other, peered into the compartment at the commotion. He looked bemused.
I rummaged awkwardly through loose batteries, postcards, underwear and socks. When I saw LSB, I motioned for him to come over. I dumped the bag on him, he left the compartment, I slid the door closed.
The German couple looked at me kindly and tried to mask their triumph.
A little while later, LSB returned, clutching a black alarm clock which I could have sworn I had never encountered before.
The couple laughed, their son smirked and I protested feebly, “I’ve never seen it before!”
On mature reflection, I realised it was the alarm clock my mother had packed for me before I left but which I hadn’t used since my very first night in Berlin, when I decided it was defective.
In four months, the alarm clock had failed to announce its continued existence. Evidently, I had stuffed it in the corner of a bag and forgotten about it, relying instead on the unhygienic house cat to wake me up. I can only assume that it had been stewing, furious at my neglect for the past four months, and had plotted the whole thing.
While I have been writing this, LSB has woken up and fallen back asleep. Every so often, he scratches the back of his leg with his other foot. Now on the river bank, two dogs on the same lead have been let loose by their owner. They are playing together and getting themselves in a tangle. And a lady in blue pants is jogging by.