I had barely arrived at the hotel before being whisked away. Anticipation and trepidation. I had come from a meeting, right off a flight, wearing business slacks and such. After freshening, I opted for jeans with a blouse and cardigan. I threw on some slick new trainers, because shoes always elicit your attention. I also figured practical was best; not knowing how much walking the evening would entail or how cool the weather would turn.
The hotel had an old-world aesthetic and regality, but the carpeted stair runner had a musty smell under each step. A once-over with the vacuum would spruce it up, I thought. My senses seemed to be moving back in time as I descended to the lobby.
You were tucked to the left of the foyer with your head tilted down into your phone screen. Upon seeing me, you seemed startled, as if unprepared. ‘Ok, we’re off then,’ you said, with very little engagement between us. I wondered then, why was I really here and for whom had I come?
A hackney carriage was waiting at the curb for us. The high-top frame of London city cabs always makes me feel like I should be wearing a top hat to fill out the space. They’re so roomy inside, and you took a seat opposite me. I commented how my singing would sound great with these acoustics. You were staring out the window. It had been daylight when I arrived, but now the weather had turned. As we traveled further from the city, it became dark and began storming.
We were headed to the outskirts and the mood felt ominous. The only lights seemed to emanate from the cab and the sparse street lamps. Droplets of rain danced under the triangular glow the lamp bulbs gave off. The avenues were vacant and emptiness existed between buildings. No one was in this weather. We were going nowhere.
Suddenly the cab pulls over to a curb, and the driver rushes away, as if his sole purpose is to get out of the rain. I have no idea where we are. You are no longer in the backseat with me. Neither of you are around anymore. I see a convenience store illuminated across the street like a beacon. I make a run for it too; in the rain with no umbrella.
As I cross the threshold of the automatic doors, a draft of air billows up and chills me. The high-pitched ‘ding’ signals to store clerks another patron has walked in. There is one long line of people backed up waiting on a single cashier. I head straight to the very back, somehow knowing there are plastic bins with discounted goods ready to grab. A single black, compact umbrella sits ready for me. I pick it up and acknowledge how light and flimsy it is, thinking how it’s better than nothing. Anything is better than nothing. I grab a bottle of water and feel fortified to stand in line. I can ask others exactly where I am and how I might return to the hotel.
Except all the other patrons are immobile and mute, or props and mannequins. It also dawns on me I have absolutely no memory for the name of the hotel or its location. This is unnerving. I am in between worlds. No idea where I’ve come from; no idea where I am; no idea where to head back to. My shaking hands go for the wallet in my purse, searching for the business card of the hotel. I always grab one from the concierge, a built-in behavior over the years. Always know home base, I say. No luck. I go to call you from my cell phone and see the power at a single digit percentage. I let it ring. You aren’t answering. I try again. You still don’t answer. I feel abandoned. I don’t want to waste any more charge on my phone. I head up to the cashier and get a surge of relief seeing she is human and engaging with some tall blond bloke. Of course she knows where we are, but regrets to inform me ‘…no cabs come out this far, lady.’ Her tone is deriding. She sees I’m a tourist and at her mercy.
‘You will have to walk. You must go, we are closing.’ Disdain.
I pay for my water and umbrella and sadly leave this temporarily dry state.
I linger outside of the automated doors, tucked under an awning. I know I should just head back in the direction from which the driver came. The streets are still empty. There must be a metro along the way. The young blond from the store comes towards me with a buffoonish gate. Nothing about him is threatening, but I don’t find him particularly trustworthy either. There is something companionable about his offer to walk with me a part of the ways, though, until he must turn off towards home. At least he knows the terrain.
I do find myself entering the lobby of another hotel, knowing I can purchase a room for this one night. It’ll be nice to have a hot shower and venture out in the morning under clear skies. Rest. Get my bearings. I lie down on the bed, mentally and physically exhausted.
Why did you come for me, to take me somewhere and leave me?
I arrived here to find my own way back.