Early Check-In

Was there a crowd of people watching them sleep or was she hallucinating? No, she was not. Now, she remembered. They had paid the extra fee for an early check-in to the hotel, but the room still wasn’t ready. Fucking Europeans, never caring about what you paid for. Thus, Mira had been instructed to wait among the chairs situated directly in front of the so-called dining hall, where other guests had trickled through in droves for their slop by the time ten a.m. rolled around, and she and Jessica had already fallen asleep once again. Their sleep cycle had first been interrupted around 6:35 a.m., when Mira had insisted that they give up on sleeping in the hall of Jessica’s building (she also really needed to find a place to shit out the effects of the alcohol). Well, not technically her building. She had paid 1,500 euros to live in an Italian couple’s apartment. They were breaking up and no longer wanted to be around one another while they each looked for their respective new situations. At least that’s the story Paolo gave Jessica. She would later realize that he hadn’t told his ex anything about the present lodger, and was planning to pocket all the cash for himself. When Jessica had found her number by happenstance in a drawer near the refrigerator (Europeans still had the retro sense to write things down on paper, especially in forever post-war feeling cities like Berlin), she had decided to call it on a lark after she had randomly stuffed it into her jacket pocket–with no one else to turn to in this bizarre situation of having lost the keys entirely, somewhere, she surmised, in the club they had spent the final portion of their night in as they each tried to convince themselves that the European experience just had to be better than the American one. Patrizia, having no prior knowledge of Jessica’s paid squatting in her apartment, went off on a tangent in Italian before finally getting to a point of calmness to arrange a time later in the day to give her the keys, which Jessica would pay two hundred dollars to make a copy of. It was turning out to be a real money pit, this attempt at soul searching. But then, it was also a money pit to live the life unexamined. And Plato’s challenge spoke to Jessica more than chewing cud mindlessly and still suffering with less awareness of it anyway. Mira wasn’t so sure she felt the same after their ultimately harrowing night on the town.

She had informed Jessica of her arrival in Berlin two days prior, not knowing very many other people who lived there apart from a repressed gay couple living in Wedding, which still felt like the far reaches of the world for her even though she had been informed it was the new Kreuzberg. This is how she kept ending up in the latter neighborhood, it was closer to Neukölln, where Jessica was staying. And she was the only one who seemed to comprehend that they were in Berlin, and that it ought to be celebrated by going out, taking advantage of how much the city was mulletesque in its button-downness on the surface and freak flag flying once you made your way to the back–the front and back of a mullet being representations of day and night in this instance.

Maybe they had gone too far back with regard to that mullet, so to speak. Had entered a rabbit hole of no return as Jessica talked to middlebrow Asians from New York who seemed overly grateful to be talked to at all and Mira focused her energies on the generic mmms mmms mmms of the beat on the dance floor. Before either of them knew it, it was 5:23 a.m. and Jessica was faced with the revelation that the keys were gone as she brazenly rang the buzzers of every resident in the building, all of whom seemed to come out of their apartments to scold them as they walked up six flights of stairs in some vain attempt at believing the door to her apartment might somehow be unlocked. It, of course, was not. After Jessica barked back at a stern German woman wearing curlers (Mira didn’t realize women still did that when they went to bed) who had lingered longer than the others to chastise her, the two surrendered to the cold tile floor as their bed and sanctuary. It was that coldness, paired with Mira’s urgent bowel, that drove her to dial at least five hotels before finally finding one that could accommodate an early check-in. That same early check-in that found them with the very same cricks in their necks as they struggled to find a position that wouldn’t cause some sort of long-term damage to their vertebra. They were getting older, after all. Much older than when they had first met one another back in New York, when Jessica was still tending bar and Mira was still convinced the office life was the only pace of work she could endure, filled with mundanity, but at least a sort of mind-numbing pressurelessness for a cool $70,000 a year price tag. Sacrifice the soul, she told herself. And pay for the sacrifice in alcohol. That’s how she had gotten to know Jessica, by going so frequently to the bar closest to her apartment.

The girl she knew then seemed so different from the anti-establishment woman of now. The one who would rather cut off both hands than return to the U.S. For Mira, this was just another jaunt. Another detour away from her inevitable succumbing to New York and all of its false charms. As she looked at Jessica sleeping through the barrage of judgmental travelers staring at them as though they were trash upsetting a perfectly good view of the Fernsehturm, she had to wish that she could be as carefree about the state of her life as Jessica. Maybe Mira was the one who had it all wrong in thinking that this mode of living wasn’t sustainable. That vagabondery always had an expiration date and that you could only outrun its consequences for so long. Consequences like getting locked out of your non-apartment in a foreign country and being scrutinized severely by a surprising amount of pasty people. Were all of these guests Scandinavian or something?

She couldn’t exactly ask Jessica to corroborate. In fact, she seemed to be in a practical coma as Mira tried to shake her out of her slumber after reminding the front desk agent about what she had paid for and that she needed to get into the room immediately. But Jessica wasn’t budging. Not wanting to alert the hotel staff or guests to this alarming state for some reason, Mira decided to leave her in the chair. It would be less embarrassing than the alternative of calling for help or attempting to carry her up to the room.

Mira couldn’t help but fall asleep for three hours the moment her head hit the pillow. It only took another thirty minutes between waking up and showering for her to remember that she had left Jessica downstairs. Rushing to get dressed, she immediately bolted back to the lobby where she made it just in time to see Jessica being carried out on a stretcher, the hordes of guests being told to get back by the medics who had stuck her with an oxygen mask that didn’t seem to make any sound that would indicate she was breathing at all.

Mira had not mentioned that Jessica was “with” her when she checked in, per se, and something inside of her told her to simply back away. To let a sleeping dog lie, as it were. Not to say Jessica was a dog. But in so many respects, she was a stray. Maybe if she really had kicked the bucket, she could at last find a sense of peace. A truly permanent home. Mira, meanwhile, still had to find hers once her night at the hotel was up.

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