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HOTEL STATIONARY (AND THIS IS THAT)

And the night John Berger died, I, Maria, pale shadow, the youngest sister of Sabine, was walking the city. And the gallery stayed open late for the last hours of Abstract Expressionism. And I ducked into a bookshop to take a call, then stayed for two more hours, browsing. And bought a copy of Float by Anne Carson, which I had seen at a friend’s place the night prior. And with it bought a book I already had, as homage to a writer I desire. And knowing she will never know. And read the opening of the white copy with the blue writing of Secondhand Time. And could not carry it with me. And walked back the way I had come. And remembered the boys and men I have kissed, standing on Hungerford Bridge. And under the bridge. And by the river. And again. And inside nothing. And looked at the neon reflections. And saw the buses and cars float over the Thames, while couples embraced below. And retraced my steps to a hotel room, where the lights around the mirror make me look dirt pretty. And the intimacy kit costs £20. And thought of Sabine, and the tits-out girl she used to be. And her men in my hands, on her pages, brown-skinned, their taste. And now. And a mother of three, the number announces her wealth in her class. And value. And began to feel grown-up and older. And believe I have never known her. And care less about her. And hurt at the thought life cannot fix death. And is it enough to say I am? And I spy. And patterns repeating. And her children grow up. And the dark river shivers next to the lights of the city, tiger stripes on water. And inky black but working in pencil. And this brings its own temptation for erasure. And the mark of resistance. And love the possibility of erasure. And hurt for the house of love. And hate brown bruises more than black hair. And cut out pink shapes and pin them to canvas. And drink a sip of green tea. And all is lit, except the cathedral. And think about listing. And what is important. And use the hotel pencil, the hotel notebook, the hotel room. And me. And all writing is homage. And have a feeling of being caged. And think about the experiences of love. And the noise of the night city is muffled by glass. And the nightwalkers down there. And witness. And smoke rises off the rooftops: perhaps they are on fire. And think about Sabine – who read a book called Hotel while staying in a hotel. And wonder what she would be doing in this moment. And would she sit like this or this? And that morning you spent. And went walking and shopping in an old covered market. And it turned into a re-creation of ‘going into town’ as teenagers. And you grew up in the same smallness. And whiteness. And she has all the swagger and you have all the soft. And you have all the appearance of soft and she only swaggers. And she thought of the city as a lover, as service to her light. And to be in touch. And knowing if you meet again she will not know you. And then there was a week with X—. And you thought you would be her lover but she has always been too fast for you. And lips can be thick and teeth sharp. And tongues soft and rounded. And that’s mostly what you recall, except for the size of her hands, which are tiny like a sparrow’s feet. And life was days ago. And nothing you can say will ever heal her. And she will not read you. And black dogs. And worry the loose tooth might give. And wonder why paintings of blue squares move you. And stop. And go inside. And order gyoza and noodles. And write these words sitting in the window looking out over the street. And in the restaurant, they are playing songs from your twenties. And this is copied from another notebook. And back then the world felt fast-flowing and urgent. And has no power. And X—’s responses felt raw and inadequate. And inevitably ignored. And that might be something to do with not owning a denim jacket. And she was nineteen. And loved the teacher who taught her never to start a sentence with And. And is always looking for connection. And later, much later (a phrase he laughed at, the older man who called her story rite-ing). And his power was all in his. And she fell. And eventually righted herself. And wrote. And realising life was more wronging others. And wrongs done to others. And go to a party with people who never consider themselves others. And until the other raises a fist, walks a step, writes a word. And did she find her way home? And did she speak to her lover? And will she ever change? And dark matters. And when will it become real? And watch TV even though there is no reason to. And order food even though I am not hungry. And see the waiter. And eat even if there is a fatigue of mouth and hand. And do not begin to think about the words others write. And pain in the muscles. And points under the arms. And eat. And the night city cycles towards deeper night. And convinces with little hope of dawn. And maybe you think K— is less complicated, less intelligent than you. And even then she would be cleverer, sharper, more able to be hard. And telling the truth, to tell it, you would eat the saltsweet popcorn. And it breaks down to 15p per kernel. And on nights like these, food seems something you are sick of doing. And the lethargy of raising hand to mouth. And sleep to sleep. And the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night. And David Bowie. And it is hard to understand money, and bodies in gold lamé shirts, Rah jumpers, leggings, trainers with Coca-Cola. And the days are marked by the fear of dying, being dead slowly or fast. And sudden death. And when it goes off you take your time to find your bra. And don’t put underwear on. And be counted. And see the bellboy. And the waiter. And back to bed. And self-loathing comes in fashions. And blue can sometimes mean desire. And men want to fuck you but not to trust. And some are the other way around. And women walk away. And to the children. And everyone likes each other. And see the bell-boy. And love is in sleeplessness without him. And in the dream. And in the morning the city moves to the right. And people moving over bridges not looking up. And singularity of lives. And breakfast. And there is the waiter. And service. And the scarred body grows into the day. And rest makes the doing more urgent. And the individuality of others. And become the beast. And in the memory of paintings seen is the memory of self, becoming changed. And imagining what the body will do next as a means of making it happen. And what is it to mind. And society demands obeisance to function. And functioning is considered the basic value. And fantasy release. And getting up is the decision that changes everything. And for others it is an economic imperative. And slot machines. And there is nothing on TV. And go to bed, your shame is showing. And another day. And be careful. And break your fast. And the dehydration of coffee. And the sugar of bircher muesli. And on bright mornings, the river winds the tide proceeds and recedes. And people with bags go to the office. And vegan and gluten-free. And all decisions point to individual freedom. And nationalist ideals. And understand the system on which the moral is based. And raw. And violence. And look at the world as art. And as unfinished process with internal, abstract counter positions. And eat a muffin with a knife and fork. And fill the pages because there are only so many. And so much time. And want to come. And work to network and network to work. And try to read the New York Times. And see monstrosity. And have an idea. And join the international business class. And read an article about a writer writing about a ‘former writer’. And look at the lemons piled up in the silver tureen. And recognise the voice but not the song. And be aware of mental confusion. And acceptance of service. And listen to a cover of a song you know. And submit. And strive to recall the original. And wonder how to become a famous mind. And the valuable real. And see an ex-lover at a fast-food chain. And the orange Barnet Newman against the purple sky. And he has a terrible jacket. And overhear a conversation about witchcraft. And arrive at the station. And almost reach the middle of the book. And on the way to the city, you passed your hometown on the train. And were picked up. And fuck it. And be met. And see the sunset reflected in office workers’ windows. And admit. And think about S— some more. And bet. And the connection of bees to being. And the notebook has a pink inside-cover. And in the fold. And what is it? And cannot find an empty locker. And do not tip the masseuse. And use the testers for dry skin. And to have no umbilical cords left. And inside the space is filled. And the masseuse goes to have a shower. And look into luxury travel to get back to nature. And no matter. And LOL. And think delighted beauty about the confidence of white. And meet S— to go ice skating, which I say I am good at. And she says she’s good. And look at Twitter in the bar. And at everything. And you cannot see underneath her skin. And do not engage. And decide your side and take it. And being single and childless and in love and partnered and married and kidded. And grief is the highest calling. And shopping. And today the salad is made with seeds, avocado, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, carrot and cucumber. And do not move from the desk. And what time is there to write between meals? And girlfriends text each other after years gone by. And the day. And after new years. And think of him. And if there is no bread he will walk to the market. And confess. And construct. And hoover the spaghetti. And come out. And all the guests of that party are now in different parts of the world. And believe it. And think about the power of P— her beauty and ability and feel awe and love and rage and want to kill and steal her pleasure. And when tomorrow comes. And try to imagine the new experience: a death, a birth. And cannot. And live. And can, for it is inevitable. And give up. And blue spilled on white. And rewrite. And the gallery is closing in ten minutes. And the time. And a second-hand denim jacket. And what would you like to know? And the next day. And films of men and action. And montage of progress set to music. And go back to bed. And I do know the inside of the body. And do not comprehend my own brain. And know that white girls play brown girls. And on TV. And black is not a colour. And brown is the easy rider. And bear witness. And shade might be an illusion or the only fact. And when an & is used instead of the word the serial comma is omitted. And watch period drama. And on screen, a man loads a gun. And all the dog days of the year. And be a prisoner of hair. And hormones. And feel envy. And think of all the silences. And feel them. And redraw the parameters. And decide to give up trying. And try to do that. And stop taking the pills. And be quiet. And believe for a moment that all you need is sleep. And consider loss. And do not believe him. And feel the fullness of it all. And know men who win. And never forgive. And be told you are good. And criminalise the buyer. And feel with a finger and get bored. And all the others have bigger ones. And see the bell-boy. And more space. And sit alone in this hotel room. And understand. And in the bed. And press 0. And call again. And tell him something you have never told. And make a decision. And this is hotel stationery. And be haunted by the past. And pass on. And prepare for the public. And discuss shaving your head. And think you don’t know me. And text your father. And call your brother. And who broke who. And never want it again. And hear the news of other people’s lives. And feel ready to come. And want to have it all the time. And only feel this in the mind. And menstruate for affect. And feel bared from all your fantasies. And curate a list. And descend to violent pornography. And it pays to work. And never come back. And forget the power of imagination. And only have a selection of photographs to choose from. And a finger inside, to check. And develop a flickering eye. And the men of your race are thugs. And the women. And mourn that without words. And cut you. And commit the sin of omission: a violent erasure. And your face is the only thing you have not made up. And old research. And ideas cannot be stolen. And plan to tidy the planner. And remember his white hands on your whiter skin. And listen, he says, I fucking love this sentence. And feel nothing. And don’t forget to search for the following words: shining, nothing. And meet a range of new people. And point out racism over dinner. And think you can while believing you can’t. And will he come? And a knock at the door. And think about being able to, and not being able to. And feel too tired for any kind. And think of the damage you may have done. And come. And wonder what it is like to live alone. And remember D— who always has. And about past and potential lovers. And suspect you have no more strong feelings. And explain to the mirror that you are in a weird mood. And have old emotions. And begin again. And consider this to be the world order: meaner and more fierce and more unaccountable than ever before. And loose friends. And let go. And its opposite. And wonder what writing feels like for others. And promise to post that copy of Float to V— in Berlin. And try to read the space between. And is easy to garland. And remember the moment you found this notebook. And feel your way while sleepwalking. And suffer from leg pain. And read again. And feel bad there is no feeling. And he is here. And see the bell-boy. And he was the breakfast waiter. And his smile. And wish to lie on him heavy in the dark. And listen to his dogheart beat. And feel dry. And receive notes. And dry out. And women. And he is here. And see the waiter. And his brown skin. And hunger. And now I will order this. And Jill Scott sings this. And this. And this. And this. 


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

PRETI TANEJA’s novel We That Are Young is published by Galley Beggar Press. Hotel Stationary, the story of Maria, sister of Sabine, and Is, a hotel bellboy, was begun in London in December 2017, in a hotel notebook found while on tour for the novel. It travelled with her around the world over two and a half years, though the nature of hotel rooms often made it feel like she had stayed completely still. This gave the story its title, its subtitle and its form, and the constraint to keep writing until the notebook ran out of pages. Though the story takes place over a handful of days and nights, it was not finished until early 2020, in a hotel room in New York, just as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. The notebook was full; Preti returned to England to lockdown.


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