At the moment I am on my 37th hour of perpetual consciousness following an all-nighter of every museum in Amsterdam and then a red-eye to Madrid. I am sitting at the tiny hotel desk scribbling this note frantically while outside the night is slowly turning to dawn. It’s 5:10 in the morning and decent people are not awake, which is why I am still writing and not running to save my life. A shit storm is about to blow the windows of this room.
I want to get this down fast because I don’t have a lot of time before I have to get out of here. It won’t take long to pack, since all I have on me are the clothes on my back a couple of notebooks, a novel I’ve already read and a violin case with a cheap Chinese fiddle inside. I don’t know why I’m bothering with the violin; it’s not like I play the damn thing. But it’s a perfectly good fiddle and it did cost someone about a hundred euros. My laptop broke down a couple days ago so I didn’t bother dragging it out to Madrid. They lost the rest of my luggage somewhere between Amsterdam and Munich so at least it’s their problem now. I won’t have to carry anything and will just have to figure out how to find it later. With any luck I can get them to ship it straight to me, though not at this hotel… not anymore.
What I could use right now is a little more time and some clarity – I need to think. But I can do that on my way out of here, I guess, which needs to be soon. I could also use a map of the city marking police stations and cheap hotels and perhaps some deodorant. All of these items are, by the way, in my lost bag which is in the capable hands of the Lufthansa ground staff at the Munich regional airport for some inexplicable reason.
The issue of the moment is that they’ve messed up my hotel reservations here and I’ll have to be leaving a day earlier than I’d planned, which is a hassle and and normally they would be forcing me out of the hotel this morning to make room for another paying guest. Normally I’d also get until 10 or 11 am before I had to leave; the typical check out time. But not now.
No, Christmas will come much sooner this year for the strong-armed Spanish bell boys of the NH hotel in Madrid. Those kids will have to do more than just carry luggage today. When they come to check me out of the hotel they’ll be wanting more than just my credit card and signature and if I’m still here I am not going to enjoy it.
God, it’s going to be messy: when they walk into the reception area today and see the bar reduced to shattered martini glasses and peanuts strewn with the shards all over the floor they’re going to have a suspect on their minds and that suspect is going to bear a very strong resemblance to the man in room 403.
I am that man.
There will be a lot of explanations requested and reimbursement required and I want no part in either. I’m a busy man and become very frustrated by having to explain why the bar is destroyed with peanuts on a Tuesday morning, especially this early. And that may be just the best-case scenario, the civilized scenario – and I’m not counting on it. This is, after all, Spain, a nation of hard-headed Catholics, Moorish-Visigoths who run with bulls and stomp on wood. They are people who see ripping the necks off of geese and using the sinewy toughness to slide down a foxline over a lake as a constructive way to pass the time on a Sunday. What they will do with me here, I can’t imagine.
I couldn’t sleep last night after 4 am. It happens often, especially in my line of work and it’s not altogether a healthy thing, but what the hell? I didn’t decide to be what they call a road warrior for the health of it. I had wandered downstairs, hoping to sneak into the breakfast buffet and get some carbohydrates in me while I read from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick. When I found the place locked and not a soul in the reception to help, I sat at the bar in the hall between the breakfast buffet and the reception desk. The bar was relatively small, mirrored and had several shelves of glasses and only a few with bottles.
The peanut jar was open so without thinking, I grabbed a handful and lined them up on the bar. I started flicking them at the mirror for no reason other than that’s what seemed like the right thing to do to peanuts that are lined up. Like anxious foot soldiers they stood at attention on a bar at four in the morning. I would aim at the bottles that jumped out at me, the blue Bombay Sapphire, the green Tanqueray, the yellow label on the Cutty Sark, and whatever marketing splash Absolut recently dreamed up.
When I hit the first glass and knocked it off the shelf, it very naturally smashed on the floor into a thousand little pieces. I was certain it would have awoken half of the hotel or at least someone who would care enough to storm into that hallway to find out what animal had gotten into the bar and chase it away with a mop. I was sure they’d be shocked but I was also paranoid – as I said, I haven’t slept much in the last two days.
I didn’t hear loud and fast footsteps headed towards me right away with Spanish calls of “what the hell are you doing, you fiend?”, but I grabbed a bottle of Contreau just the same, reasoning that it would do some good damage with it’s hard angles and rectangular corners, should it come to that. I waited by the desk at the reception, crouched below eyesight and thought up all kinds of stories I could use before I had to get violent.
But nothing happened. Nobody had been disturbed by the shattering and I started thinking of pushing my luck. After a short time I went back and lined up a whole slew of them on the bar, my troops ready and willing. At first I flicked them indiscriminately, more out of anger and spite, content in my knowledge that I had time to flick the peanuts and surprised by my own impulse and unwavering hate, bent on lashing out at a hotel bar in a very dark part of the night. But then I started getting efficient, choosing more solid peanuts, kernels with both halves or else the ones with a slight curve underneath so that I could get my finger under it and provide enough lift to hit the top shelf.
Before long I had improved my aim down to bottle caps and just above the center of gravity of the martini glasses. I was mindlessly destroying the place. It only took about 10 minutes of fun to lay it all to waste. Not complete destruction, mind you, but certainly beyond cheap repair. I’m normally not a violent person but this morning I was pushed over some line for some reason; the feeling was genuine. It lacked a plan, a coherent line of thought, but not enjoyment. This was a truly twisted act that would cause someone a lot of work, a lot of grief, some debt and perhaps some anger, and the worst part about the whole affair is how much I liked it.
I think that I could explain where the desire for hopeless violence came from, especially given their attitude towards kicking me out when the mistake was theirs. I could rationalize it with the fact that I resented being kicked out of their hotel before I was good and ready to leave. But I couldn’t justify the destruction of their bar. That was an act of irresponsible malice that normally should have no business in a civilized society and anyone crazy enough to actually do such a thing should probably be locked up and guarded by rottweilers.
Wait. Whoops. Did I say that?
Well – in any case. It sure felt good.
But as I said, I don’t have a lot of time and soon some poor Peruvian woman will walk into the hotel to vacuum and dust and sweep before the actual staff arrives. Her usual routine will be torn when she sees the disaster this place is in and begins to fear the attackers are still on the premises, which I hope to God that I’m not. She will be filled with confusion, make the motion of the cross on her chest and mumble out a prayer of some kind. But with any luck she’ll snap out of it and start with the vacuuming, getting most of the peanuts, thereby erasing the evidence of my presence down to shards of glass, perhaps seen as a common break-in. They won’t discover that there’s nothing missing but the broken glasses for at least a couple of hours and by then I think I can be at another hotel across town where these guys will give up on me. Madrid is a very large place.
There an obvious lesson in this, but it applies more to them than to me. That lesson is to never leave the bar open with the peanuts out. I’m pretty sure it can be metaphorically applied to a great many situations.
_**Madrid, Spain — November 2007
Alberto Aguillera NH, Room 403**_