21 January, 2011

Character sketches from a hotel in Tel Aviv.

Night desk clerk. Late twenties or very early thirties. He tells us he is recently married, which is the only exchange that brings a smile, briefly, to his otherwise indifferent face. He shows us his ring finger in the same way I might give someone The Finger. The gesture is defiant; his marriage is already something he uses to keep other people from judging him for being a night desk clerk. 

He is the most nondescript person I can remember seeing. The sort of person who must get accustomed to being immediately forgotten. After a life of being ignored or unremembered, he's trying very hard to make us feel the same way, by ignoring our questions or giving curt replies. It's obvious he never forgets anyone.

Breakfast. Beside our table-for-two in the corner of the hotel lobby sits a boy, gangly and incongruous with puberty. He slouches over an expansive meal, including at least one kind of everything at the buffet table made of either sugar or bread. He stares at us with sullen, anxious eyes that preempt any rejection but also recognition or affirmation. It's a sad, vicious, memorable stare. As in, I remember deploying that stare.

He's also occupying an entire table-for-four at a very crowded breakfast, and knows it, and is too afraid to acknowledge his overreaching...

...by sitting with his mother and sister, who occupy the other table-for-four adjacent to our table in the corner. No communication passes between their tables, verbal or otherwise. The mother and sister leave first, and humiliate the boy by stopping to say goodbye and see who will be ready when. As soon as they depart the lobby, the boy looks up, stuffs eight sugar packets into his right coat pocket, leaves his breakfast wildly strewn about his table, pockets some fruit from the bowl by the coffee pot, and gets in the same elevator as his mother and sister just two minutes ago.

A family of teenage daughter, mother who looks like her teenage daughter, and enormous father. The father is wearing jeans overhung by a t-shirt. His arms hang impeded by his stomach so there is some involuntary arm-swing when he walks. He has that buoyant look that really fat people have. His arms are definitely water-wing flabby. He hunkers down at the table and eats just toast. He is already sweating, on his sides behind his arms and lower, by his kidneys. His light gray shirt makes the sweat unmissable and explicit. His wife is maybe one-third his size, the same size as his teenage daughter. He is bigger than the rest of his family combined.

Morning desk clerk. A woman about fifty years old, perhaps only forty. She doesn't smile and she doesn't appear to listen to me when I speak to her. It's like we are giving speeches that happen to fit together like a conversation, almost. She is soft and round, with huge, flat breasts that hang off her chest like (I'm sorry) leaky water balloons. She is curt in a way that is either rude or ingrained from years of dealing with the sorts of young people who stay at affordable beach-front hotels and behave in a purely self-indulgent and cavalier way towards the hotel staff, amenities and fixtures. She has heard it all before, every excuse in the book, and knows that most things are excuses even if they don't sound that way at first.