“I can resist everything except temptation.”
We slipped inside slowly and spotted the manager, his hands waving about dramatically in rage. His brow and lips slick with grease. The man standing across from him had handsome features, was tall and well-built. Under his red baseball cap locks of wavy golden hair sprouted out at the sides. He replied to the manager in French that was smooth and precise. The manager was so engrossed in their argument he never even noticed our entrance, or when we slipped by and went into a nearby hallway that connected us to the central stairwell.
After two flights we passed a man sitting on the steps, hunched over with his head between his legs. He glanced up at us sluggishly as we passed. He appeared to be listening intensely to the argument between the manager and the man in reception; the sound was echoing up the walls of the stairwell.
Max and I stopped on the floor above and looked down the centre chasm of the stairwell at him, his head still bent back between his legs. Max bit his lower lip in thought for a moment, then leaned over the railing and called to him, “Salut, comment allez-vous?”
The man arched his neck to look back up at us, his eyebrows raised in pleasant surprise. His eyes widened then narrowed again as he focused in for a moment. He was drunk. “Salut! Enchanté. Mon ami et moi avons un problem avec notre chambre.”
His French wasn’t as good as the man in reception’s but it was better than mine, and it was better than Max’s. “Parlez-vous Anglais?” I threw in quickly.
“Yeah, of course I know English. I’m American!” he announced proudly, a southern American drawl bouncing up the red cement block walls.
We all began moving now. He was on his feet, making his way up the stairs as we backtracked our way down to him. We extended hands and exchanged greetings.
“Hi, I’m Gray,” I said, taking his hand firmly.
“And I’m Max,” said Max as the American swapped my hand for his.
“Nice to meet you, guys, I’m Calvin. So what you Irish guys doing in this shithole?” he asked, his big, white all-American grin glistening like a wet linoleum floor. We explained who we were and who we were with.
Moving the conversation on, I asked about the argument downstairs, prodding him for information.
“We were out all over the city today. Seeing the sights. Food. Beer. Then we get back here and realize we forgot our keys. It was an accident. Now he’s gone fucking bananas on us. Says that he can’t let us stay anymore. He’s trying to kick us out. So I lose my shit because we still have another five nights paid for and all our bags and shit are in there. Our passports. What’s the dude going to do? Keep our passports? He’s crazy. They’ve been arguing around in circles for twenty minutes. I mean, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do if this moron doesn’t come to his senses.”
“What!? That’s ridiculous. He can’t do that. It’s a key! What does he expect you to do?” Max said, stunned by the story.
“He wanted us to retrace our footsteps across the city. I told him he could stick that idea up his ass. All he wants is to get us away so he can fill up our room with another customer, then he’ll shut the doors and pretend we never even stayed here. It’s a fucking scam!”
“Well what options do you have?” I asked.
He paused and looked at me; I could sense the thoughts firing at the back of his brain. “Is there any chance I could I look out your windows and see if its next to my room?” he proposed tentatively.
I looked to Max and he looked at me. “Yeah, come on, man. Let’s give it a look and see,” Max said to his relief, and we started to make our way up the stairs again following Max. “My room is closest, we’ll head there first.”
“Sweet, man. I owe you guys.”
We followed Max down a series of snaking corridors into what seemed like the bowels of the hotel. We finally reached his room. He knocked on the door a few times to give Diageo a heads up. I could hear a hair dryer faintly in the background behind the thick wooden door.
“He can’t hear me,” Max said to the both of us. He put his key in the lock, opened the door and the three of us walked inside.
Diageo’s head spun round and the hair dryer flipped off. He was sitting on the bed in a white bathrobe, his plump shaved legs sticking out, draped over the side of the bed. A slipper on one foot, the other fallen to the floor. His long black hair puffed out in a large wild bush that hid the top half of his face. I could see his eyes peeping out at our new American friend.
“Max, who the fuck is that? No offense,” he barked.
“None taken, dude. I’m Calvin. Sorry for the intrusion.” Max quickly walked across the room and threw the shutters open.
“Sorry, Diageo. This guy needs our help. The manager won’t let him and his friend back into his room. We’re helping him break back in,” Max explained as a flurry of wind swept across the room, rushing up Diageo’s robe, causing him to yelp in discomfort.
“Well hurry the fuck up. I don’t like strange men in room and cold wind up my arse,” he screamed. I laughed and sat down next to him on the bed.
“Don’t be silly, you always have strange men in your room. Where is he hiding? In the bathtub?” He flashed me a sassy look.
“You cunt,” he moaned. I knew he liked it though.
“Speaking of cunts. Why didn’t you stay out for drinks, you miserable heathen? Look at all the fun we found ourselves.”
“Fun? I wouldn’t call picking up a strange, homeless American fun. And anyway, can’t you see I’m making myself look fabulous?”
“He’s roomless, not homeless. Making yourself look fabulous for bed, I can’t see what the point is. Why do you shave your legs, Diageo?” I asked, genuinely interested.
“Because I like it. I don’t like hair,” he said with a comforting honesty in his voice. I ran my palm across his shin.
“You’re like what I imagine a dolphin feels like,” I looked into his eyes.
“It’s called moisturizer, you neanderthal. Ever try it?” He considers me to be completely uncivilized.
“You don’t need moisturizer; you don’t have wrinkles,” I told him.
“I don’t use moisturizer ’cause I have wrinkles. I use it because I don’t want wrinkles.”
Max and Calvin peered out the window, their heads rotating in all directions. Finally Calvin declared, “No this won’t do. My room isn’t on this side of the building, we’ll have to try another.” He turned and looked at me. “Can we try your room, Gray?”
“Sure. Why not? But let’s stop along the way at our friend’s. I think we might have better luck there. I’m sure my room is too far up to be near yours.” I stood and walked away from the bed, but could feel Diageo’s eyes on me. I could see him brushing his hair with a yellow comb from my periphery.
“Good idea. It’s too early for this sleeping bullshit.”
Max walked us out. I grabbed the door behind me. Looking back at Diageo, I paused a moment and smiled at him.
“Ever swim with dolphins?” he asked. I laughed from the pit of my stomach and pulled the door shut. I stood with my face next to door for a moment and waited for the hairdryer start again. When it did I turned away.
Calvin and Max were standing at the end of the hallway, awaiting me, side by side, like the twin sisters in The Shining. Before I reached them they continued around the corner and for a moment I was moving completely alone down the narrow passageway, the muffled sounds of sex coming through one of the walls nearby.
(To be continued)
G.W. Bollard is a graduate of the Institute of Technology, Tallaght and NUI Galway respectively. Born in Dublin, where he grew up under the supervision of his beloved mother and aunty (having never known his true father), he currently resides in Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland.