As soon as I checked into the Hotel D'Angleterre I knew it was a mistake. I went into the room, put my valise on the desk and lay down on the bed. I had thought I wanted a room there because the grand, stone building is one of Copenhagen's oldest. But it has all been remodeled. Now it is sumptuous, white, gold, classic, fine but too much. For this project I did not want all this new gilt. I had a room in the First Hotel Skt Petri and a second in the Blu Royal. For this third night I needed to find a replacement for the Angleterre. I went back down to the front desk. The young man heard me out and suggested a much smaller hotel by the water. I walked down to the 71 Nyhavn Hotel. Perfect. An old warehouse, dark wooden beams, white walls, brick walls. Being on the water added everything that the gilt at the Angleterre would have removed. I spent the night there, my third night in Copenhagen. I was now ready.
A few years after I had moved my practice from Long Island to Portland, Maine, I had a client who was with me for what I then thought was a long time, about six years. He told his problems slowly but after a while the stories, about his failures, searches, successes, insecurities, a divorce, some moves, pain, recovery, injury, guilt, all somehow coalesced less for him, I think, than for me. I wanted to get out altogether, to walk away from all that, to close down shop and if I ever reopened one it would not be as a therapist. Maybe something else, scrimshaw? copper geegaws, who knew? But something in that one patient's presence gave me the permission I wanted. In hindsight it was a gift. Whether he offered it, I don't know. Perhaps I simply stole something from him. I didn't know that either. Sort of the way therapy usually went, even when patients chose to exit and declared themselves better or ready or over or missed appointments over and over until there were no more. But I could never be sure it was really this patient. Perhaps it was Claudia's leaving, disappearance, betrayal, whatever it was, it felt like all of the above. No matter now. I was in Copenhagen to put all of that behind me, to close the doors once and for all on that earlier, long chapter of my work life. I wanted now to become a kind of private emissary, a trusted courier. I used the three hotels to establish my credibility for this venture. No one would really ever know why I was living in three hotels at once, or how I did so, or what it involved. No one would really notice but if anyone did I would still remain beyond their calculations, even if they followed me for three days and established clearly my three-part regime of overnights. In the first few weeks in the city, my goal was to walk between the three hotels looking like someone who had lived in Copenhagen for years and years, if not for all of his life. So I practiced each day walking the streets without looking at anything in particular. I especially never wanted to look like someone new in his environs who was noticing things the way travelers do. After a night at the Blu I would decide either the next night would be at the warehouse, the Nyhaven, or at the Skt Peter, the First as I called it. I liked how long and straight Studiestraede was and there I could walk without looking at anything special or being looked at in any special way. In time each pathway became affectionate to me in special ways, but I worked hard not to show that to myself lest anyone seeing me should discern this. From First to Nyhaven, "71" I began to call it, was such a clean slice down Landemaerket and right onto Gothersgade. Then the third day the lovely triangle would complete itself as I walked with slight purpose and slight delay from 71 to the Blue, or Blue, as I liked thinking of it. Whether coming or going between Blue and 71 I could rarely resist staying on the waterfront as much as possible. Even so, in the coming weeks, I loved exploring the city as I walked the routes possible within the inscribed triangle.
I wanted to walk like a native, or at least like someone who has lived in Copenhagen for years. I knew Americans were always noticed in foreign cities by virtue of the space they took as they walked. I watched other people on the sidewalks and quietly tried to imitate their posture, their body language, the angles of arms and the tilt of the head. I walked slowly and deliberately, I walked as if I had a meeting in six minutes. I practiced aimlessly sauntering, like the fellow on the opposite side of the street in the dark green jacket who looked as if he were killing time until his girlfriend came up behind him and put her hands across his eyes.