He was unknown to me, a phantom bird. Our flight paths intersected momentarily, somewhere over a sandalwood sea. I dreamed of empty hotels in the desert. Stories that never seemed to begin or end. The virus came and I was stranded in an airport, feeling lonely. That much was real. My heart was bruised. His heart was an empty hotel. Someone said the oilwells were on fire. I laughed and turned to the sporting pages. Extinct frogs. The coffee grew bitter and cold in its porcelain cup. I drew moons on my breast in the dark. Echoes riddled my fever dreams. A sniper drew out my tongue and bit it off. Confiscated it. A thud, inside the theatre. Detonated bombs. Now I circle the lobby, translating his dim messages into the code I use to breathe. The smoke from the sabotaged pipeline, like evidence of cigars in a private club. Plans for my eventual evacuation, on hold. I tuned a radio to their world service, laughed again at the inaccuracy of the reports. Still, in the empty hotel, when I found him, the music screeched. I remembered a dance step from my youth and drew diagrams in chalk on the marble. Commenced my private hopscotch. Incredible, isn’t it? In the magazines that arrive daily, always a month ahead of schedule, I see my own words and blanch. That final interview. His strangled noises. Bi-planes and Range Rovers. Sweet whispers. Do not assume that you know me, empty hotel. Who he was, who I became. I shall be my own search party, walking down corridors drenched in sweat. Perhaps the pool is still there. My heart is still there. My mirage, my embrace, my death wish. Stop the atomic clock. His heart, my heart. Tell me one day this will stop. Tell me I’m still here, inside the empty hotel, praying for their surrender, our bypass, his feelings, my sandalwood bird.