The trolleys, parked in the foyer of the Catholic Cemetery in Santiago, Chile are waiting patiently for their next assignment – that of carrying a coffin and its contents to its final resting place. This image appears on the front cover of Hard Bed Hotel because it says it all. Hard Bed Hotel – the title of the book – is a Chilean slang for ‘cemetery.’
A conversation might go something like this:
“Where did Jaime disappear to? I haven’t seen him for weeks.”
“Oh, didn’t they tell you? He’s staying at Hard Bed Hotel.”
“No! When did he check in? And how did it happen?”
The similarities between signing into a hotel and checking into the cemetery are many – trolleys at your service, prepared to carry your load, the administrator arranging details of the stay and caretakers with hands out for a tip.
But this time there’s no question of how many days you’d like to reserve. It’s an eternal stay and the question is simply which room? Will you rent a niche for 25 years? Or do you own your own mausoleum? It will be the current administrator’s successor who will renew the lease after 25 years and if necessary, arrange the move to a new niche. This is all very long-term, you understand. No short term options at Hard Bed Hotel.
And it’s the family who will be tipping the porter after the cargo is safely in place.
These trolleys have made hundreds, if not thousands of trips down the main streets of the cemetery, rolling along as stoic participants at the edge of somber ceremonies and then returning to their place in the hall to await the next resident.
Look at them. They’re tired but satisfied.