Excerpt from Schneiderman at the Hôtel de la Mer et du Ciel

I had been staying with a group of friends in a small room in a rather large hotel in a warm climate, during the year following the death of my father. The room was on the second floor of the hotel though sometimes it was on the fifth floor. In either case it was in an older section of the hotel which had not yet undergone the elaborate renovations that were made in the finer and more lavish sections.

I say ‘section’ because the hotel seemed to be divided into clearly separate areas or towers, each with a large outdoor pool and a well-appointed dining room. The elevators in each of these areas served only the upper floors of that particular tower. Expansive clear glass French doors gave entrance to each section on the main floor which was a floor above the lobby which was open to the public as lobbies need to be. But entry into the pools, dining areas, and upper floors was limited to those guests and residents of the particular tower in which they were registered and access was monitored, though I was seemingly able to pass through from one wing to another, unimpeded, though it may have been that I was unnoticed or innocuous and pedestrian enough to be treated as though I were not there. I must note, though, that I was not aware of or simply could not remember when or by what manner of conveyance, I came to be a guest of the hotel. Nor do I know for what reason, if any, or how long I had been there.

When I actually had occasion to pass from one area of the hotel to another, as often was the case, searching for the elevator to the older and shabbier section of the hotel in which the room I shared with my friends could be found, I was certain that I was being watched and, moreover, at risk of being stopped and questioned about where I was going and what was my room number. This was a prospect that frightened me since at no time was I certain of neither the floor nor the number of the room in which my things were kept, and I never was in possession of a room key. I believed, too, that we were all being closely watched and that distinctions among the guests and the privileges to which they were entitled varied greatly on the basis, I assumed, of social class and apparent wealth.

At no time, other than the moment at which I departed my room and I carefully examined the black number on the wine-dark door and attempted to memorize it, was I remotely able to conjure the floor or the room number or even the direction along the dim corridor, which was configured in a complete square, where my room could be found upon exiting the elevator. There was, of course, due to fire regulations I assume, an interior staircase that gave access to all of the floors. It was less and less ornate as it rose to the upper floors of the section in which I might find my room.

More disconcerting, however, was the construction of the stairway in this older section of the hotel and there were portions which led one through what may have been a labyrinth of passageways for maintenance staff as I saw they were crowded with ducts and pipes of great diameter and variety running through the staircase at angles causing one to squeeze under or over them and to step or to be forced to leap across open shaft ways or to walk along the narrow gray-painted ledges along the openings to reach the entry to the next level of the staircase. Similarly, in the lower levels, the staircase which was well-lighted and appeared to be gold-plated, one would come to a point where the stairs were blocked by a filigreed latticework that did not communicate directly to the stairs either below or above, depending on the direction in which you were headed and which required one to climb, once again, over and up or down to reach the next level.

There were sunny white dunes just outside of the window of the room I shared with these friends, whose names I did not know and which I believe I had never been told. My belongings were strewn around the mattress on the floor upon which I slept and my suitcase was at the bottom of a stack of similar looking cases which likely belonged to the three or four others.

It was my cellphone alone, among the few possessions that had carried with me to the hotel, that, when I left my room, I either found myself without, having left it, I supposed, in the room, or, more likely, found in my pocket with a fully dead battery. And, though on occasion when I found the phone with some charge remaining on it and saw the opportunity to call home, I could not recall the phone number since I had long forgotten the number of the home I grew up in and seemed to confuse it with the number of my wife’s cellphone and therefore could reach neither her nor my long-dead mother.

The high dunes created a barrier between us and the open ocean. When the tide was up and the winds blew from offshore, we could see the waves, which must have been thirty feet in height, peak and plunge over the tall dunes and flood the narrow space along the exterior of the building. We would crowd around the window, some of us standing on one of the beds closest to the window, to see how high the waves would get and how much water would fill the moat, though none of us seemed concerned that the waves would crash through the flimsy window.

The excitement of the peaking waves had us all calling out loudly, “this is the one!” or “Oh, God, this is it!” and then as the waves receded, we would be out on the placid beach, having hiked through a narrow path over the dunes to where the sunbathers, mostly older, portly, men and women with darkly-tanned and weathered skin sat with glasses of iced tea in their hands and pointed us to furthest end of the beach where the younger guests could be seen in the waves and on the shore among whom were my roommates and several very attractive young women with whom they seemed to be friendly.

One of these, a lithe, long-legged woman with a narrow waist and long dark hair folded neatly in a bun at the nape of her neck, stood so close and seductively next to me that I assumed we were somehow coupled, though at no time did that play out in anything more than a fleeting adolescent fantasy of mine. I must admit that the prospect of something more was never far from my thoughts though, in truth, they had never coalesced into anything more than the vagueness of sexual possibility, at which point I would find myself alone once again with a shuddering suddenness, in the hotel searching my mind and my surroundings simultaneously and fruitlessly for the number of the room I shared with the others, as well as the correct staircase or elevator to use, and my phone with which to call my mother or my wife, only to find myself, without any agency on my part, having somehow found the room, finding it unlocked and abandoned by the group of young men with whom I believed I had shared the space, and at once, without concern or deliberation, I turned and ventured out into the hallway, once again allowing the door to close tightly behind me.

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