The room smells
of cigarette smoke, fetid breath, stale sex. The only room available
in her price range. The bed is covered with a velvet spread of crumpled
stormy purple; a yellow ashtray is on the bedside table, a piece of
chewed gum hardening in the centre. Maria had asked for a non-smoking
room, but the woman at the desk pursed a slippery red mouth, shaking
of those left, dear," she said. "Popular those are."
backwards onto the bed, sighing, and reaches for the wine
she had purchased at the corner store. She twists the cap, then
drinks deeply from the bottle as if it were soda. It tastes warm,
coats her tongue. When the room trembles, then roars, she jumps
to her feet, frightened, spilling the wine. The red stain soaks
across the pillow, adding a new scent to the room.
from the window is blocked by hulking black metal. Only yards away,
a train waits at the signal light outside her window. The train
screams suddenly and then is gone.
train startles her but it moves more slowly. She watches from the
window, staring directly into a first class carriage. A man sits
reading a newspaper. He wears a dark suit, a quiet tie. He is
dressed like Derek before a court hearing. She imagines his briefcase
full of appellate briefs and pages of research put together by his
paralegal. He will look at these later, while his wife reads a
novel and pours strong, soothing cocktails.
frowns, looks up and around the carriage, checks his watch, then
stares back out of the window. He looks right at her. His face
does not change but she wonders if he can see a shadow woman in
this dim hotel room. Slowly, the train pulls away. She
checks the time. The 6:20 train from the city.
night she is waiting, she has the light on, and sits at the window.
But the signal-light is green and the train does not stop, simply
slows a little and slides on. No one looks out at her. No lawyerly
man with Derek's hair and clothes.
if he has a mistress, too. Does his wife know? Will she discover?
And run out into the night, forgetting luggage, cash, credit cards.
Carrying nothing of value except the jewelry she wears and will
sell in a pawnshop that smells of cat's pee. Wanting to get away.
Wanting also to punish. Let him worry, wonder if she is alive or
dead, let him explain to friends, colleagues. Let him.
the room only to replenish her wine supply, then she sits very still
and waits for the train. When it slows, then stops, she is at the
window, illuminated by the light. Yes. There he is. He sits calmly,
looking at her. Looking at her.
removes her blouse, lets it slide to the floor. She loosens the
bra, releasing her breasts, then tosses her head back so that her
hair falls down her back. She has seen such a pose in movies.
She wills him to respond.
his mouth dropping open, such confusion on his face.
at him with brazen eyes and pouting mouth. Like an actress. Like
as the train shudders, moves on.