Living with Ghosts – a short story by Jackie Treiber

Artwork by Jackie, Human Hotel community member and guest, who wrote the following short story after her stay in Copenhagen.
Images: Jackie T.  @jackal_ann_studios

Artist and Human Hotel community member Jackie stayed at the home of Andreas in Copenhagen a couple of years back. Andreas was away working on a documentary film project, but Jackie really bonded with Andreas mother Claudia during her stay – and was inspired to write this short piece about her experience of real human connection during her homestay with Human Hotel:

I’ll remember that house for many years. In the pause of a daydream, I will think of Claudia and I ascending the two person wide ladder to a cavernous attic where her ex-daughter-in-law’s boyfriend crafted unusual experiments with vinyl and turnstiles. The rest of the room ascetic, blank and similar and empty enough for me to transpose a recent dream onto. An attic I found, untouched, the roof breaking apart-pieces missing where the shy gray sky hung. This house did something mysterious to me. It felt mine. I understood its clutter as if I had married the man who produced it. I understood our family and I watched the children, grated the cheese, declined the wine and washed the dishes.

Settling in with Claudia as if she were my real mother, her eyes always wet. She kept up with the ironic lyrics of the Parisian jazz unit playing from the other room, alternating between wistful sighs and laughs. All at once it seemed her mood could dampen. She’d think of Henri, gone now for a year. She’d grow soft, knew loss and held her role as grandmother tenderly and well.

Photos taken by Jackie during her stay.
Images: Jackie T.  @jackal_ann_studios

She lived at the top of the family tower. She was conscious, aware of her frailties and joys. She was comfortable being and living with ghosts. Her space unchanged, her husband’s cameras still in the wardrobe. Photographs of her younger self–dramatic, dancing, dark in the stairwell. A boyfriend long passed and framed, posed in a runner’s jacket–his cheeks still pink from the wind.

She couldn’t look directly at things. Incense blurred the doors and windows. She even arranged her vanity mirror to reflect the church steeple when she rose out of bed.

I felt that we could be one another. We could practice each other’s life lines. I could be her understudy for an old age spent in relative solitude, peace. To love enough for five decades and then some, and love more for a lover and enough for myself, perhaps tucked away in an attic room in a country different from my birth.

– Jackie T.

  • Explore Copenhagen and get ready to be overwhelmed by its welcoming happy people, canal tours and bike-friendly streets.

  • Be inspired like Jackie and connect with Andreas and his family for your own human adventure. Stay in his beautiful Syberian-style house he built and furnished with amazing quality wood for himself and his own family two years ago.


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