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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 36 page 10


corridor with floral wallpaper

The Stupid Hotel

by Ekaterina Borovikova

In a hurry, Beatrice walked alongside the river. The wind blew. She wore a black leather coat which did not even reach her knees. She walked slightly leaning to the right, as a massive baggy black bag hung on her left shoulder. Her dress was short, it couldn’t be seen under the coat. She wore beige stockings and summer evening black shoes. It was still morning, but the time when all the people were hurrying to the factories, enterprises and offices was already over, the streets were empty.

Having reached the café, she sat at one of the tables outside — they had not yet been removed, in hope of some last warm days. She chose the furthest table, laying her large bag on one of the chairs. The overhead awning barely hid the sky, which was shrouded in gray clouds, and it was shaking from strong gusts of air. She took out her cigarettes and, asking the waiter for a cup of coffee, looked around and straightened her hair. In that same second, her hair was blown out again. She lit a cigarette. She decided that it would be better, it would be possible, to put an end to this faster.

Claude walked, his hands in the pockets of a light coat, slouching a little, as if he missed his usual briefcase. He wore thin woolen trousers and a sweater under his coat. Under so many layers of clothes, he looked in better shape than he really was. He frowned and put on his sunglasses, although there was no sun. At that moment Claude tried to get out of this dream, stop it, stop it! — but was it a dream? Now he began to hate Beatrice.

At first, their meetings were pleasant, a breath of fresh air. They were alone, her laughing face was very close, or he was lying and watching her walk across the room for the tenth time, her figure moving against a background of light yellow wallpaper with pink flowers. And then he went home. But afterwards, at home, he began to drift away somewhere, and, worst of all, he did not notice when and how it began to happen to him. He didn’t hear what his children were saying, didn’t remember what he had just read in the newspaper, didn’t feel the taste of food and, going to bed with his wife at night, starting to fall asleep, he reached to her hair, but felt short and stiff curls instead of the long and silky hair he was reaching for. He shuddered. He woke up and after that couldn’t fall asleep for a long time. Beatrice was there sometimes, smirking, most often sitting on a chair near the window, smoking and looking at something on the street, or at herself, her hands, her knees, her feet.

Claude was going to put a stop to this.

Having reached the café, he found her quickly, since no one else was sitting outside. Beatrice was squinting, her hair was shabby and poked in her face, smoke curled from the cigarette, and her fingers seemed thin from the cold. She kept her black eyes on him. He looked into her eyes for a couple of seconds, took off his glasses and sat down, holding his hands in his pockets. From afar he signaled to the waiter that he was not going to order anything.

For a few seconds of silence, Beatrice continued to look at Claude, and he was looking aside.

“Well, how are you?” she said.

“Everything is going on as usual.”

She smirked and shook off ashes from the cigarette. “Little Emmy got used to a new school?”

Claude abruptly pulled his hands out of his pockets, but, clutching them in a lock, he laid them on the table. Now he looked Beatrice in the eyes. “Yes. I hope we don’t have to transfer anymore.”

“Good. I am happy for you.”

“Why didn’t you go inside? It’s blowing like on the coast.”

“We are not staying for long anyway.”

They remained for some time in silence.

“Where are you going?” Claude asked.

“After this? I’m going to classes. I’m not making it by ten, so I’ll arrive a little later.”

“Tell me,” Claude hesitated, “have you ever met...”

“Your wife?” Beatrice said too loud and laughed. “You want to know if I have met your wife?”

“No, I don’t think that...”

“Of course I haven’t. I have never seen her and have not even looked in your wallet for her photo.”

“I don’t carry her photo with me.”

Beatrice laughed again, this time quietly. She finished her coffee and said, “I don’t even know where your car is turning when it goes beyond the Roms & Company sign at the end of the street.”

Claude bowed his head, then ran his hands several times through the hair back and forth, digging his fingers deep in.