They bombed the city every Sunday afternoon after tea.
The first warning honked twelve minutes before the blast. A second cautionary toot, issued six minutes prior to the first explosion, reminded citizens to stash away their fragile tea things. If people ran out of time, then it would be best to collect left over kaffee und kuchen, plus anything valuable (or likely to scream in pain) and take the lot with the family to the nearest fallout shelter.
I lived in the streets, walking from place to place, surviving between flashes of lights and shadows. I scoped houses and recorded the behaviors of each occupant, in order to visualize the inside of their homes. If my mind formed a clear picture, then I allowed myself to delight in forbidden pleasures, while citizens hid in hollows and their city was shrouded in Napalm.
One minute before the first bang, I was forced to run into a building I had always avoided. Everyplace else had been shut to me. I ran through an open side door and up a wide stairwell with my eyes closed. I rushed into the first room I found, and breathed easier at the sight of a sink and a tub.
“Thank you,” I said to Fate and to the small white statue of a woman sitting on a table that faced the sink.
Wasting no time—air raids and miracles didn’t last forever—I started the water, undressed, walked out of my boots, and sat in the tub. I focused on scrubbing yesterday’s filth from under my fingernails… on avoiding the photo of the man, which sat on one edge of the tub. I had tried to remove the offending image, but the frame was part of the wall. What kind of person looks at his own picture while…?
I felt the eyes on my left shoulder, on the side of my neck, inside me… before I heard the chewing. Wanting to mask my fear and perhaps show that I had trespassed out of need, I took a few seconds before facing the door. I shouldn’t have bothered. The eyes of the man standing at the threshold, gnawing on chocolate cake, were filled with so much death and hatred that human things, like fear and empathy, would have never reached him.
Magpie Tales 260
Lee Miller in Adolf Hitler’s bathtub, Munich 1945, by David E. Scherman