by Nick Soto
The hotel had always treated him well, but then, of course, he was a star—or something like it—and the hotel made certain to treat all of its would-be stars well, just in case.
“I’ve set you up in the same room as last time,” the manager Chad had told him, secretly patting himself on the back for having thought of it at the last moment.
There was a bottle of wine in a basket of cheeses and some sort of cured meat sitting on the desk, compliments of the hotel or rather, compliments of Chad, a boot-licking company man who took the liberty of telling his wife now and again that important people came through the hotel quite regularly, like that guy who was Urkel, and that other guy, the artist who died. In any event, there was the wine and the cheese and the strange cured meat there in the basket, and the gossamer drapes slightly hidden by heavy red velvet curtains that obscured from view the city streets, and the party that had already started below in earnest because hey, it was Friday payday, a three-day weekend, and the summer heat made everyone agitated and ready for a good time. Except for James of course, he was there on business. He had a scene to shoot at a restaurant somewhere, just a low-budget thing about a monster going berserk for no good reason, except that the monster was really a man who couldn’t help change whenever the planets aligned just right—something about an old voodoo curse. It was a silly low-budget thing, this movie. Everyone had high expectations.
James sat on the bed eyeing the claw-foot tub that peeked out from behind the open door of the bathroom, feeling tired and jet-lagged and hungry. He took a shower in an attempt to resist the urge to go downstairs to the oak-lined fish house on the first floor. He turned on the tube. He eyed the wine bottle. He fingered a bottle of Xanax while his innards rumbled and then the said fuck it and took the plunge.
“See you soon, Mr. Dotson,” said that girl at the front desk as he walked through the heavy glass door that led to a hallway that led to a set of stairs that led to a foyer with marble floorings that led into the restaurant.
No sense getting a table for one, not during the dinner rush, he thought as he sat cautiously at the bar. There was a stained-glass picture of some nice Dutch people with wooden shoes tending to their windmills that he couldn’t help scrutinizing. There was the bartender named Mwabudeke tending his flock of drinkers. There was James looking at the menu, and then there was the decision: tilapia, water and a pale ale. The fish was good for being overpriced and the beer perfectly cold.
Just one, he thought as he sipped his water. But then, how could he deny himself another, just one more, two couldn’t be so bad. And then there was the woman Andrea, who talked with him about film and said things like: “It’s terrible that the only thing anyone remembers La Dolce Vita for is Paparazzo,” or “Ah yes, but who would have thought Charlie Sheen would play a garbage man long before he became the garbage?”
And by then three or four beers didn’t seem so bad either, it would be rude to leave a woman like this all alone, maybe he could even get her to his room. Maybe she’d like to see the set. He was going to feel like hell tomorrow, he thought as he swallowed down a fifth before he and Andrea decided to go dancing. Things were going so well then that it seemed strange to him, as he lay in bed the next morning vomiting into a trashcan, that they should have ended up fighting over a Kurosawa film, that he should have stumbled to the next bar, and what had he said as he ordered a beer that had caused such consternation? And even as his mind replayed the scene of a scuffle with a bouncer over an imagined slight, he forced himself out of bed and went on to play the role of a man who turns unto a monster, and tried to forget.