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Hooked up

by Ralph Messmann

“Wil je niet douchen?”
“Yeah, sure, no bother.”

The awkwardness of undressing in front of a strange woman irritates me slightly, but I take my clothes off anyway, trying not to disclose my insecurity. While keeping my underpants on, I walk into the bathroom across the room. Only after I close the door do I feel safe enough to take the pants off, swiftly slip behind the protective shield of the shower curtains, and give the hot water nozzle a hearty twist.

Yet the water does not warm up, and after shivering for several long minutes, I concede defeat and take the plunge under freezing cold water. After the quick and half-hearted cleaning procedure I step out of the shower, and reach for the only towel hanging from a hook on the wall. Damn, the white cotton fabric is already wet. I hesitate for a short instant before I rub my bloated red flesh thoroughly with the god-forsaken thing.

All of a sudden, I feel watched, and my head jerks to the right where my gaze is caught by the plump reflection of my naked body in the mirror. I shriek in disgust, so I quickly wrap the cold and damp towel around my chubby features and humiliated groin. With another hasty movement I cover my bold forehead with a couple of long strands of hair to protect my receding hairline from disdainful looks. Stripped of all desire, I step out of the bathroom.

“Wacht. Ik ben direct terug,” she says, tightens the cotton belt of her virginal white bathrobe, and leaves for the shower herself. Standing in my wet towel, I feel the last streaks of confidence vanishing into the anonymous air of the functional, sparsely furnished hotel room. I cross the room for the radiator, but am unable to find a button or switch to turn it on. So I sit down on the bed, and crouch on the slightly crumpled sheets, quivering, not daring to slip between them. All I can do now is wait for her return and the miracle of warmth and affection.

“Where you from?” she asks, exhaling cigarette smoke.
“America,” I lie.
“Oh, I like!”
“You wife?”
“No,” I lie again.

“Why? You rich!” she giggles, and starts massaging my flabby gut with her long, dextrous fingers. Then she downs her fifth glass or so of cheap champagne, and, with a twinkle of the eye and a nod of the head to the mini-bar, she wordlessly asks for more.

“Whatever,” I pout, and generously stretch out my arm. Without covering her exceptional dark skin she elegantly stirs her soft and delicate curves into motion, and winds her way to the mini-bar without a sound. When she returns in the same svelte and graceful manner, she produces a new bottle, and coquettishly holds it out in front of my eyes.

I take it from her, and for a split second my pudgy oversized hand and hers form a grotesque ring-like unit, both embracing the frosty green bottle. My spirits fade. Since I am well aware of the shameful fact that I have major difficulties in opening devices of any kind, I try and disguise my clumsy attempt in what I hope looks like an air of statesman-like sovereignty, grunting sounds of fake surprise and determination. Beads of sweat start crawling down from my wrinkled forehead, and at the moment the first ones reach my squinting eyes to unleash their salty punch, the odds eventually go my way, and my struggle is put to an end with a small pop.

“You strong!” she chants, giddily pouring herself a new glass, but I’m not convinced. I want to leave.
“I gotta go,” I say, adding a tone of severity to my now unfortunately hoarse voice, and make a move to get up. Her eyes narrow and release a sudden look of surprised fear. She clings on to my wrist.
“Please, no, please. Ik kon niet alleen slapen, stay, please!”

Her hazel-brown, pleading eyes begin to fill, I have to lower my glance. Her hand still tight around my wrist, I can see the colour of my skin next to her fingers turning even paler before melting into a numb pinkish red. “Okay,” I reply, subsiding.

“Oh, thank you!”, she chirps happily, and her full-bodied lips lower gently onto my stubby cheeks. I should feel honoured, but am repelled. She must have read something in my facial __expression, for she suddenly lowers her gaze, too.

“Ik kon alleen slapen met TV en die hier,” she says, pointing at a tube of Prozac peaking out of her handbag positioned on the shelf next to the bed.

“Excellent! Can I have one?”
She looks at me, startled, but then hands me the test tube, brimming with pale, round shaped tablets. I swallow one of the many pills with my first sip of champagne from her glass. Minutes later I am fast asleep.

The next morning I am woken by the first rays of sunlight casting their light on my drowsy face. The TV hums MTV songs. I gingerly open my eyes, turn my head to the left, and observe the motionless body lying next to me. On the shelf next to her bed, I can see two empty bottles of champagne.

I get up carefully, and while putting on my clothes I manage to avoid causing any kind of conspicuous noise. As I make for the door the tip of my foot accidentally hits the test tube-like bottle of Prozac, and sends it spinning across the carpet - but it doesn’t rattle. I stop dead; a cold shiver runs down my spine. Without looking back, I quickly steal out of the room, noiselessly close the door, and, after a brief contemplation of whether to take the lift, I opt for the staircase next to it.

Down at reception, where she left her passport last night, a boy dressed in a ridiculous uniform sits comatose at the desk, emanating regular sounds of ignorant snoring. I have no problems passing by unnoticed. I walk out of the hotel casually, and disappear into the jumble of streets in this strange city.

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