Nov 3, 2005

Outside the Ibis

Outside, in front of the hotel, a young man in dirty trousers, veers this way and that through the fog. An older night lady, in black dress and pearls, leans toward the rear view mirror in an old fiat, doing her make-up. Later, she will enter the hotel and sit discreetly, but proactively in the worn red couch in the lobby. No one will come to her. Meanwhile, the guardian makes change under the light of a street lamp. Ramadan has just ended.

Inside, the middle aged woman who is always in the lobby sits on a stool at the bar. She is the 'regular' and wears narrow rectangular glasses. She looks unmistakably French and sits with a man her age. He speaks German and is spread out, from extended leg to bent elbow, like an old Fokker propeller blade. The woman talks and looks at her empty glass. There is no bar tender. And truth be told, there are no spirits. The Absolut bottle and the Gordons bottle stand behind the bar filled with water. All that's left is a half shot of Schmirnoff.

The overhead lights in the dining room flicker. A man by the window holds his shining bald head in his hands. Through the static overhead you can make out “smooth operator.”

On 2M, the pretty newscaster, with long straight hair and uneven teeth, is telling the story of the Moroccan diplomat and his Moroccan chauffeur captured 10 days ago by Zarqawi’s soldiers. The Moroccans have been threatened with death. How can they not meet the same fate as the Egyptian diplomats? The newscaster leads us to a meeting of diplomats discussing the problem and then to the home of the chauffeur’s family. The brother is sitting on a narrow winding staircase, next to what looks like a dead plant. Another brother, blinded by the klieg lights, is talking about how much he misses the hostage.

The public night is winding down. Donna Summer is singing What’s Love Got to Do with It. The gare around the corner is empty. The waiter is taking up the table cloths. The woman at the bar and her partner have finished dinner. She is talking about gliding as her hand turns and banks. The woman at the desk is counting money in an envelope. The night lady reads the paper. The guardian sits on the low wall that runs along the front of the hotel. The veering man has disappeared. A night train will arrive shortly. A few people will get off. A man will get on. I’m sitting in the last of the dining room, making some notes, watching double sticks in stride.