I walk through the ruins one last time to the house in the little alleyway behind the church in Clerkenwell. Everybody is gone now and I know that I will not survive another winter here. I believe that you’re still out in the ether somewhere but there has been no blip on the radar, no distant ship smoke on the horizon for so long.
The house is silent. In an upper room, I take a spool of tape (the last one) from my case and cut and splice enough to make a loop. I thread the loop into the Studer – one minute, no more, is all it will need. I connect the radio microphone into the old amplifier and the amplifier into the Studer. I climb the spiral stairs to the roof and step out onto the parapet. Outside, the smoke has cleared for once and through the darkness, stars shine down brighter than they have seemed for years. I thought this house might survive but it still feels a miracle to stand here. I make some adjustments to the solars and connect them to the batteries powering the transmitter and the equipment below. There is not much direct light anymore but then not much will be needed. I rotate the transmitter like a giant gramophone horn toward the direction from where I last heard your voice. Other transmitters and receivers teeter on nearby remaining rooftops calling and listening for signals that will never now come. I look around for one last time at the broken horizon and the shadowy fragments of city that remain and climb back inside.
In the lamplit room, I make final preparations. I take the microphone, press the record on the Studer and speak. A single take and it is done – but then I have rehearsed this moment for so long. I stop the tape, connect the Studer to the transmitter and switch it to play. I gather my things, shoulder my bag, blow out the lamp. I step into the corridor and descend the staircase to the ground floor. For a moment, I pause, remembering the rooms as they were, full of lights and beautiful things, books, maps, dancing guests, the sound of laughter, voices.
I step into the night and close the door behind me. There is no need to lock. I look up to the roof where I can see the transmitter silhouetted against the stars. One day the tape will break, the panels fail, the roof fall – but not yet. One day, this will not matter anymore, there will be no one to care – but not yet. For now, I can almost hear the voice broadcasting out in an infinite loop across the distance and the years between us:
“I loved you, I loved you, I loved you, I lo…”