At home, I was still trying to rack up support for the filming of a new movie about the hotel. I needed a host for the segment. I thought about it every day when I went out onto the roof. I was smoking up to a pack a day, sometimes more, cleverly edging the dust out of my lungs with smoke, which was especially useful lately, as the dust had been swirling around us at an even more frenzied clip. I was watching some birds build a nest in the bathroom window down by my portion of the fourth floor. Between that and the ledge outside my bedroom, these pigeons had me surrounded with their habitat. My living space echoed with a persistent cooing at certain times of day.
In the old days, the Soviets used the building to hold, interrogate and torture potential enemies. Now it was my hotel. It was so goddamned haunted. A hotel employee had once seen an apparition so terrifying, he fired his gun at it and then fled the hotel, never to return. Although I had heard some impressive stories, I hadn’t seen much of anything too frightening, but then again, I was often too exhausted to humor any dead people in my down time. I was sleeping through everything: gunfire and explosions, pigeons, ghostly torture victims. The foreigners at work told me that as foreigners, we have a stamina expiration date of about 3 months in Afghanistan, and if you don’t take a vacation after that amount of time you usually wind up sick or crazy, or both. So I was pushing the envelope, but I wasn’t exhausted enough to sleep through the seismic tremors a few mornings ago, although I didn’t immediately identify them as earthquake material, instead pinning the shaking walls on my new, possibly frisky neighbors or their many lively children.