Anywhere Hotel

   
        His handsome face is obscene in the dimly lit space of this lounge. Somehow I know we're in a Hilton hotel in a city in China. The handsome fellow might be sixty-seven or so with a rugged face and proper, upright posture, and his body glides into the room like fluid rolling slowly down a shallow tilted plane of glass. His short, translucent white hair is combed back; stubble from what looks like yesterday's shave protrudes from his handsome cheeks moving down his chin onto his upper neck. Bright sunken eyes with pupils that show every color at once yet lean towards emerald green and a hoary fresh snow mixed with a splash of blue Kool-aid powder. He wears a fine grey wool suit which he must not have pressed in some time. The loose legs of his trousers shuffle against his ankles wearing black, silky, ribbed socks on feet shielded with polished black leather shoes. My eyes are locked onto him as he enters the bar; other people scatter into the room all having, moments ago, exited the same elevator as this man. He notices me watching and begins to walk a bit more confidently toward a seat at the bar. Not too close, not too far, and he chooses the seat which rests two spots to my left then slides it away from the bar to provide enough room for him to mount the high seat. As he plants himself down, I nod and raise my glass slightly, the golden brown whiskey giggles against the motion. The fellows lips indicate he is pleased that I am greeting him by forming a smirk and he returns a small nod. He utters his drink request to the bartender, saying, "dirty martini, stirred," with such grace and innocence as if he may be ordering such a drink for the first time and I could nearly smell the fragrance of his words -- dried rose petal and black tea steaming just off the stove. The bartender begins the bartenders dance with glasses and bottles flipping, and liquids pouring and metal clanking. The handsome fellow fidgets patiently, finding a comfortable position for his drink at the bar, lifting his thigh to access the wallet which sits in his back right pocket and I wonder why not the more convenient location of the inner lining of his grey wool jacket. He is aware that I'm still glancing over to watch him between watching the bartender perform, looking at the contents of my glass, and looking past the bar at the various other faceless patrons. He pulls his mobile from the inner pocket of his wool jacket, seemingly to check time on the bright screen, then locks the phone and slips it away. The blue light glow had illuminated his face in such a way as to juxtapose him against the sparsely lit lounge interior behind him and the floor to ceiling windows which framed the city skyline that we hover above. I save this photograph in my mind and continued living in the moment. I forget why I'm here, in this bar, at this hotel in China. I couldn't answer that question right now, and I don't need to. "How's your night?" I hear that familiar gracious, fluffy noise enter my ears and I exit my daydream to notice the fellow is looking at me waiting for a response to his question. I offer him a gentle smile not showing my teeth, merely curling my lips to show my sincerity; "I'm here," I respond honestly and he nods and returns a gentle smile then looks away. It's clear that I'm not native Chinese and by my appearance, the candor of my response, the contents of my drink, and my solitude at the bar, one could assume various situations as the reason for my being in such a position. I'm curious about those reasons because I don't myself know why I'm here or why I'm drinking whiskey alone at a bar in the Hilton hotel in China at 23:12 as indicated on the clock behind the bar. Yet, I also wonder about my neighbor's reason and why he's choosing a dirty martini at such an hour at this particular place. He slides his credit card forward as the bartender finishes the performance and they seamlessly exchange alcohol for monetary compensation as we do in such places. His hand moves to pick up the stem of the petit glass and he hoists up the beverage to his lips to then reverberate that sharp, rippled sound that people make when they sip, and he again sets the glass down to contemplate the taste. As the bartender hands him a check he speaks again, "it's delicious, thank you," with such genuine gratitude while he uses the black ink pen to scribble his signature onto the paper receipt. The bartender nods and says he's glad to hear that and should the fellow need any further assistance or would he like to make any more requests that he, the bartender, would be ready to oblige. "I'm here too," again, the beautifully rich tone of his voice grabs my attention and begs a response; yet, i'd rather not be speaking to anyone seeing that I don't know who I am or how I arrived here. Suddenly, I remember the feeling of what it’s like to laugh or to make other people laugh and now my idea of joy is no longer a right but a privilege. Regardless of this existential bullshit and the forever wondering brain contained in this technologically organic, skin-covered skeleton,  I thought it is lovely to be here with this fellow who says he is also here, and so I reply, "it's lovely to be here with you now," as I glance over at him and we look into each other. Intimacy is a violent and hapstance occurrence. One can find intimacy with total strangers in a mere moment if the right words are said and the right approach is taken. As my words escape my mouth and land on him, he inflates and his spirit rises, his body rests, and he curls his lips to show his sincerity. He seems to feel the ice has been broken in the course of our few exchanges which then leads him to say, "where are you from?" This unsurprising question is no less intimidating to answer and I look into him and say, "I can't answer that right now, the answer seems to be changing, but you can tell me where you're from if you like." Puzzled by my response yet no less compassionate, he replies, "Japan," in a way that made the word Japan take on an entirely new character and sublimity, as if merely in saying the word he praises the entire country and gives due respect to his Homeland. The fellow is very engaging to me yet I have nothing to say, I have no curiosity, I have no desire, I have no need, and I am unsure how to respond further. There must have been an abnormally long pause between him saying the word Japan only a moment ago and my unresponsiveness which led him to toss another cluster of words my way, "what do you do?" To which, I look into him, smile gently, moved the glass of whiskey from the bar to my lips, pour the remaining contents into my mouth and swallow in one graceful motion. Rising up from my seat, I hold my hand out toward the fellow. He looks into me with confusion as I say, "give me your hand," to which he immediately lifts his soft, wrinkled, right hand and places it onto mine. With my left hand I cover his hand which creates a hand sandwiched and I notice that the temperature of his hand is much cooler than my hands, which catalyzes a change in our hand climate forcing his coldness to adapt. We again look into each other with our eyes fixed sternly at the other. (Have you ever noticed that when attempting to look someone in the eyes, you're restricted to using both eyes to look at a single eye of the other person. The design of the eye organ does not allow for focusing on two distinct points at one time. So, in the moment, me and the fellow focused our eyes on either eye and switched focus from looking at either the right or left. This dance was entirely invigorating for me and also for the fellow as I noticed he began to be excited). We hold attention for what seems like eternity and everything that ever was or will be has vanished and we go beyond intimacy and we are no longer strangers. I had noticed the golden ring on his finger long ago when he had first arrived at the bar yet I entered into this heightened level with him knowing that he is a husband to some body somewhere on the planet or maybe he is a widow or maybe he is committed to an idea yet I ignored all of these assumptions so that together we could enter into this place beyond words, bodies, feelings, and senses. We enter that place in a matter of seconds and I understand that he has never entered into this space before. "This is what I do," and I remove my left hand from covering his and I lift his hand to my lips to then plant my lips against the pale, spotted, skin of his limb and give him a kiss which embodies all of the love which I have available to me and I do not know why I do this but I know that I love this fellow as I love all of the fellows in this bar and this Hilton hotel and those in China and in Japan and those fellows who are spread across the planet. I release his hand and we return our gaze into each other. "I love you, my dear fellow," I say and I begin my exit walking around his seat at the bar and through the dimly lit space of the lounge toward the elevator lobby. Now I notice the groups and couples of people sitting and making sounds with their mouths either forming words or sharp, rippled, sipping noises, and moving glasses containing liquor. The large panes of glass which separate our room from the outside air act as televisions to the sable world beyond which appears to be a vast ocean of buildings and distant hills that make up a city located somewhere in China. I do not know which city or why I am here. I'm still walking towards the elevator and I notice the dark blood-colored carpet rubs against the bottom of my black leather shoes -- size eleven -- and the infinite amount of information presented this evening is pleasing and glorious and I feel the eyes of the gracious fellow follow me as I make my way to the elevator lobby still hearing the bartender moving bottles and I hear the tonal ding of the elevator signal indicating that I'm just on time and a group of people pour out of the little container as the copper doors slide horizontally allowing them an entrance into, and exit out of, a place. I switch spaces with them and the copper doors slide again closing me into the small box that is the elevator. My ear is now invaded by a harsh digital abstraction and I feel a vibration in my pocket and I notice that I must have a mobile phone too so I reach into the inner pocket of my black jacket and use my hand to pull out this vibrating phone. On the bright screen is displayed a row of numbers and a circle which shows a grey outline seemingly representing a faceless person like the people who I left moments ago in the lounge from which I am now descending below as I move toward the ground level. Using my finger, I swipe the screen to answer the phone call and I place the phone to my ear and listen. The sound coming through the device is disjunct audio noise and I continue listening expecting someone to speak and then a dark, rough voice makes itself known with the question, "are you ready?" To which I involuntarily reply, "yes."

2020