By George Alabaster
Association: Room 669
The maid comes every morning to change my sheets and spruceup my pillows. Today I feel crisp and clean when she leaves. I’m waiting for mynext visitors, wondering who they will be. Yesterday was a solitary man whocame late and left early. His body barely made an impression, a cold sack ofskin lying rigid and alone. Those are the worst kind of guests.
The door opens and two people come in. A man and a woman. Thewoman puts a heavy rucksack on me; the man throws his on my brother. They sitand talk with tired voices about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Ilisten. When I’m alone I construct narratives from these snatches ofconversation, spinning complex tales to pass the hours.
The man takes a shower and the woman sits flicking through aguidebook. They leave as soon as the man has finished. I’m alone again. Fromwhat I heard they’ve been travelling for some time, a few days here, a few daysthere. I decide both have left their jobs, choosing to see the world together.He intends to go back to office work but she wants to start again, carving outa new life. A painter, perhaps.
For the rest of the day I imagine the kind of things shewill paint. Maybe it will be landscapes, swirled in amber mist, or portraits ofold and important men.
They come back late and drunk. Fingers fumble for the switchand sharp light is thrown over the room. He goes into the bathroom, then I feelher painter’s hands on me. I am being pushed closer to my brother. She onlymoves me an inch before lying down, but we are nearer now.
Her body is warm and soft. There are no sharp angles to it andher curves swim across my surface, just like the mist will shimmer over thepeak she paints. The man comes out of the bathroom but doesn’t notice thechange. The light is switched off and we drift away.
Over the days that follow she moves me closer and closer tomy brother. I feel the ridges and furrows of her hands, fingers engaged in aslow waltz to a lonely tune. The man either doesn’t notice or says nothing.Then one night they stumble in drunk again and suddenly it’s happening. I amslammed against my brother. Their bodies fall on me together, twisting andturning like the fog she will one day capture. I see the colours of it all, adeep red and a sleepy gold, dying in the sun.
They stay for another week. Every morning and every night theypaint the scene again, their bodies like brushes sweeping across a canvas. Butthen something changes. I don’t know what happened, but I know something has.For one night I am still against my brother, but they do not touch, lying stifflike the man before them. The next night I am back where I was before, and theday afterwards they are gone.
George Alabaster is a philosophy student at Manchester University.