Thursday, 2 February 2017


A hotel room in disarray. A tan suitcase unlocked and lying, with its lid open, on the unused hospital-cornered and turned-down bed; its carefully packed and now lightly creased clothes escaping in a crawl across the dark carpeted floor.
The underwear, which had already been unpacked, spills from a hastily stuffed drawer as if refusing to be confined, so soon, to another unlit cramped space; a thirties-style hat rakishly placed on the dressing table looks ill-at-ease in-between the TV and the hospitality tray with its cup and saucer, plastic kettle, sachets of instant coffee, Breakfast tea, brown and white sugar and UHT milks; a floral scarf and black corduroy jacket trail over and across the back of an upholstered chair which even unadorned would not suggest comfort; and shoes, singly or in mismatched pairs, are dotted everywhere, arrogantly upright or placidly on their sides, their heels and toes at all conceivable angles, which to a maid or porter, should such a figure happen to enter this picture, would understandably be a hazard for him or her to pick through, though possibly less so to the occupant.
The female occupant, newly arrived, is however preoccupied, and appears, like the room, in a mild state of disorder. The tempest, if there was one, now over, although the evidence seeming to relate to that could just as easily be the usual way she unpacks after a tiring journey; a tedious task, no matter how it's achieved, that at present looks as though it's been stopped mid-flow, as if she simply couldn't be bothered or needed a quick rest and a few minutes to survey the mess to galvanise herself once again into purposeful action.
Her shapely form is seated trance-like on the made bed, her torso hunched over as if her head is a weight she can no longer carry. Her face is drawn and pale, framed with wispy blonde hairs, and her light blue-grey eyes though they stare are not fixed on anything in particular.
At some point, she has peeled off the outer clothes she was attired in, feeling, perhaps, they harboured germs from travel or that her delicate skin needed to breathe like a wine that is best served at room temperature, and so she sits in an all-in-one dusky pink undergarment, which is not unbecoming but not becoming either. It neutralises her English rose tone, whereas a bolder colour might have enhanced it, but then she had dressed for comfort not vanity. And of course it's possible, before this lapse occurred, that a hot shower was next on the agenda.
But maybe the thought of that had been too much: too weary to stand, to put one foot in front of the other and walk the short distance to the bathroom, and this had quite literally stopped her in her tracks so that she just threw herself down and sat. And sat, staring at nothing. Her eyes and mind suddenly turned vacuous; the battle to stay alert gone now her destination had been reached and she once again had the privacy of her own space, her own paid-for room.
Who can guess, from looking alone, how far away this lone woman is from home, how many miles she's travelled? What's brought her here, and where from here she might go? Is she a habitual traveller or was this a rash decision, in so much as decisions can be rash without advance planning if you have responsibilities?
That she is alone, and seeming somewhat pensive about it, makes one looking in assume that she is the type, in looks and manner, to be overly anxious or flighty, even perhaps resentful of the mood in which she acted: what was it for? what was it about? why is she here?
How will she spend her time? Will she dine alone? The adventure worn thin now that the consequences of doing so have begun to set in and solidify.
Anonymous people surround her, just outside these neutral walls, upon which at least one is hung a bland landscape; just across the corridor or in a room a floor above or two below, other occupants in a not too dissimilar position, are, with glazed eyes, as is the woman described, reaching for their handbag or briefcase to delve inside and bring out a yellowed piece of paper on which a faded bus or train timetable is printed. For to each of them the point is the journey, and not, as they are doing now, sitting still.

Picture credit: Hotel Room, 1931, Edward Hopper