Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel (part 4. Monday to end.)
But walking back towards the hotel you feel inspired. You do not know why but you do. Maybe it is being out in the world once more! Look at that trees, this sky! Sure they are not beautiful but they could be! This day, today, could be the first day of the rest of your life.
Already by the time you have reached the car park you have made a number of resolutions.
You will sign up for an evening course in computing or IT.
You will join the hotel gym making use of the fifty per cent discount available to all employees at off-peak times.
You will take the shuttle bus into town and you will sign on as a person of interest at both the job centre and any job agencies you can find.
But the distance across the car park is far and the sun today is hot, one of those rare summer days in which the sky is a cerulean blue and in the face of a growing thirst you find your resolve crumbling.
Why do you have to make these changes today? That is the beauty of days. There are always other ones.
“Just one drink,” you say, “Just one little drink,” and, already knowing that it will not be just one drink because it never just one drink with you, you who have so many sorrows to drown, you duck into The Commodore Club.
The Commodore Club has a cruise ship theme, there are chrome poles and red faux-leather banquette seats and on occasion when you have drunk too much you have actually believed you were on a cruise ship and tried to pick up women with lines like, ‘play your cards right and I can get you a seat at the captain’s table’, or, ‘would you like to see my cabin.’ These lines have never been successful and you have never picked up a hotel guest and you tell yourself that this is because you know that sleeping with a guest is a sackable offence and that is why you always subconsciously fail.
You are going to have ‘I subconsciously failed’ inscribed on your gravestone. This thought gives you some comfort.
Simon, the barman, greets you by your name and asks you if you would like your usual. You greet him by his name and say that you would, that would be very nice, splendid.
You can see the hatred pouring from the tips of his fingers. You are not dreaming this. You can see it.
You and Simon do not like each other.
Simon, the barman, is French and when he first started at the hotel you thought he was quite a guy. With a gangster Moroccan father and a wildcat Tunisian mother he had grown up in a poor area of Marseille in the eighties and you had listened for hours to his stories of sailors, hookers, guns and drugs in that thriving port city. You had even, going back to your room, written some of the stories down with the intention of at some later time passing them off as your own in the hope of impressing a woman who might then sleep with you.
But if you grew up in Marseille then why don’t you have a French accent? she will ask.
But I do av ze French accent, you will reply sounding like Pepé le Pew you is your very favourite cartoon character and who, according to Wikipedia, was voiced by:
and Kevin Shinick.
You will channel all these men at the same time, comedy unknowns in the same way that you are a comedy unknown but maybe all they had to do was put on that French accent and the women would fell at their feet begging them to make love to them, on and on, until the cows came home.
You particularly liked to hear about Simon’s brother, known as Le Capitaine.
Le Capitaine, ten years older than Simon, had run away to sea at the age of fourteen. Returning four years later, minus his left leg, lost to a shark off the coast of Martinique, he had set up his own smuggling business, bringing people, drugs, weapons, over from Casablanca to Marseille in the dead of night.
Simon, when he was aged just sixteen and sick of being whipped by his father for any tiny infraction, had become the pilot of one of his brother’s boats.
Violent storms, escaping warlords, being chased by customs agents through deserted warehouses Simon’s stories contained all the elements of adventure that your life did not.
You stay behind when the bar is shut for the night and beg him to tell you more and more.
You cannot get enough.
You start to dress like him, affect his mannerisms, the way he has of pursing his lips when he is about to reveal some intimate secret, and you even, on occasion put on the French accent you have practiced in your dreams.
Then one day he had revealed to you his habit of sunbathing in the nude by the air conditioning units on the roof of the hotel and asked you if you would like to join him.
“Zere is nothing like eet you know? The feel of the sun on your skin. Nothing like it…”
The first few times he asks you make an excuse, you do not like to be in the nude even when you are on your own knowing that you do not have the kind of body that lends itself to being nude, but one day he catches you off guard, when you have already said a number of times that you are bored, that you have nothing to do, and how can your life be so empty?
“Then you will join me on the roof,” he says. “Come we will go now,” and being one who never had a steely will you follow him from the bar.
You have often imagined that the view from the roof will be spectacular. It is not. Past the square prefabricated Hot Top Nightclub Bar and Grill and the huger square of the shopping centre are scrubby fields, patches of wasteland, abandoned bikes, old tyres, the wrecks of several cars.
You wait until Simon is fully undressed and lying on his towel, being careful not to look in his direction so you are not mistaken for a homosexual, and then you quickly you take off your clothes and lie down.
The sun is hot and you have been awake since five o’clock in the morning and quickly you fall asleep.
You are dreaming that you have become trapped in a fold-up bed when you wake to find a body pressed against you and something large prodding between your buttocks.
“Oh yes baby,” says Simon. Although he no longer has a French accent you know it is Simon.
“Are you even from Marseille?” you say with difficulty. With each thrust Simon squeezes the breath out of you. “And Le Capitaine? Was he feared the length and breadth of the straits of Gibraltar?”
Your voice breaks into a sob. Those stories had been a comfort to you and as you feel Simon’s tongue slipping into your ear you wonder how you will live without them.
The next time you go to The Commodore Club you do not sit at the bar as has been your habit previously. When you go to order your next drink and Simon asks you if he told you of the time he and Le Capitaine were shipwrecked on S'Espalmador, one of the uninhabited Balearic Islands for a month and had to survive on molluscs and their own urine you fake a yawn. Later that same night you laugh when a bottle of vodka comes loose from its optic and clonks him on the head.
As he rubs himself and tears run down his cheeks he looks towards you beseechingly as if to say, ‘what have I done?’. You look back at him as if to say, ‘what haven’t you done?’
At the same time your heart breaks a little.
As you order your sixth drink and are waiting for Simon to fulfil the order, night has fallen and the bar is full of hotel guests now, you look up at the screen of the tv that is fixed to the wall behind the bar and you become transfixed by a news story about bison that have been introduced onto the marshland in a desolate area of the Netherlands and immediately you want to go there and live amongst them in a tent.
Imagine what peace you would have!
To live amongst nature and to care for animals has long been a dream of yours. You have often felt there is more to life than you currently have and that you have wasted yourself.
When Simon comes back, forgetting your antipathy because you are now quite drunk, you point wildly up at screen and tell him of yore intentions.
You are moving to Holland.
You are going to live amongst bison.
You will care for them and become a figure of hope.
Like Dian Fossey and her gorillas. Like George and Joy Adamson and their lions.
This is a new beginning for you and you couldn’t be happier.
“I see,” says Simon coldly, “except you are the kind of person who will never do nothing. You will talk about leaving this hotel but you will never leave. You will die here. You will be lonely. You will never make love again. Of this my man you are sure.”
You take your drink back to your banquette and as you sit there Simon’s words sink into you.
He is right.
You are dreamer.
A no good good-for-nothing.
You don’t finish your drink. You go back to your room. You fall into your bed sobbing until finally you fall asleep.