Something in her knew it was going to be ill-advised to leave the arrangements for the lodging to Lucien. It wasn’t in his blood to be able to sniff out a scam, nor did he have the nose for luxury of any kind. It was as though, in contrast, he attracted only that which was ghetto. As such, it should have come as no great surprise to Martine that, upon arriving at Gare Marseille-St. Charles, when Lucien “splurged” on a taxi (which he would not have needed to splurge on had he secured appropriately located lodgings), the ride took them about forty minutes away from the city center. All the way to the Plage du Prado–endlessly far from all of Marseille’s main attractions, including the Vieux Port, the Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, Notre Dame de la Garde, Château d’If, the Musée des Beaux Arts–in short, anything actually worth a damn in the second largest city of la France.
It wasn’t feeling so large in the strange enclave surrounding this plage that they found themselves near. An entire microcosm unto itself that catered readily to all the preconceived notions one might have of Marseille in all its “port city” debauchery. Chiefly, and the one presenting itself to Martine that very evening being the free-flowing availability of prostitutes perfect for bringing back to the Aparthotel Adagio, which billed itself as some sort of “sumptuous” apartment hotel with a pool, to boot. And yes, Martine noticed the pool all right, just as she and Lucien wheeled their suitcases up from the driveway–a rusted and decrepit (formerly) white formation of a whale’s tail serving as a beleaguered diving board. She didn’t dare look too closely at the water beneath it for fear it might make her retch. Deferring to the naturally timid role that most females seem to when they’re out of their element, Martine instinctively fell behind Lucien, his robust frame blocking her from immediate notice as they approached the front desk. The almost sinisterly (especially when considering the environment) woman who checked them in did not bother to give them a rundown of the amenities as there were none, minus the (cess)pool. She did, however, cajole Lucien into paying extra for the breakfast option, which would inevitably turn out to be hard croissants and a fruit salad bowl with only honeydew melon.
But Martine would not be partaking of that the following morning when Lucien went down without her as she continued to emotionally reel in one of the separated-by-a-crack twin beds pushed together (though Lucien had sworn there was an image of a king in the website’s photo) from a sleepless night spent listening to a man (or several different ones) get sucked off and fucked in the next room. And each time she brashly awakened a blithely snoring Lucien to force him to hear the same pornographic sounds she was hearing, they would abruptly stop. Or who knows, maybe the whore next door was simply switching clients every instant Martine decided to rouse her husband of five years, the fifth year of which they were meant to be celebrating with this very trip–one that, much to Martine’s offense, Lucien had decided to be frugal about, as he was with everything. She had foolishly hoped he wouldn’t be about this, though. That some remaining trace of any romantic feelings he might have toward her would inspire him to, for once, not be so fucking parsimonious for the sake of “their future.” Well, maybe she didn’t want a future tied to his anymore. This much seemed to be driving the thought process behind her singing the only standard American song available in an esoteric karaoke catalogue filled primarily with French nationalist anthems: that song being, of course, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” She had insisted upon going to Le Coco Bongo after Lucien took her to essentially the only viable restaurant along the Plage du Prado, the Maronaise Cafe, a “kosher” restaurant where Lucien saw fit to order a strip of pork.
As he stuffed his overly eager maw with it (God, she thought, how easily fucking placated he be with something as mundane as food), Martine poured heavily from the carafe of red wine, proceeding to chat with the server in English, who got to mentioning that the only thing that would be open during this “off” season (though Martine surmised it was always “off” here) for a bit of “nightlife” would be Le Coco Bongo right next door. In fact, it was at Le Coco Bongo that Martine first saw the Senegalese (she overheard him specifically mention that’s where he was from in response to an argument about how to pronounce a certain French word) john she would also view once more as she and Lucien returned to the “hotel” sometime shortly after midnight. Lucien, though not as drunk as Martine, did not seem to notice that he was the same man from the bar, or that a scantily clad woman had answered the door to let him in. This infuriated Martine to no end as she was continuously forced to reconcile just how annoyingly oblivious Lucien could be. It was, in truth, this level of oblivion that had landed them in the Aparthotel Adagio in the first place. Although he would never admit that was the reason. No, he would insist until eternity’s end that he was conned and it could have happened to anyone–how else would one explain the numerous other suckers at the hotel? Did Martine really need to point out, again, the obvious to him in explaining that everyone else there was riffraff with a sordid purpose?
She wasn’t going to endure another night in this decaying pit of low-level venial sin. The thought of hearing any not so muffled heavy breathing and moaning that wasn’t even her own (this was, after all, supposed to be some sort of neo-honeymoon) was too much to stomach (much like the hotel’s breakfast). She would have to take matters into her own hands, reclaim her destiny, as it were–Lucien’s loss of barely two hundred euros be damned. If he wanted to carry out the rest of this sad version of the vacation for the sake of his vexing principles about not squandering money no matter how much it squandered sanity, then so be it. She was busting out on her own. And when she informed him of this as he returned from the dining “hall” with a plagued expression on his face (maybe it was the environs or the cement-textured croissant already making its way cumbersomely through his intestines–or a combination of both), he appeared genuinely enraged after the initial shock of the announcement. “But why Martine? Don’t you understand how wasteful that is?” She sneered at him, pausing momentarily from packing her things to say, “I. Don’t. Fucking. Care. I’d pay any price to get out of this shit hole.”
He stopped himself from lunging at her, from nearly backhanding her for her ingratitude. She laughed, her breasts jiggling in her polka dot bathing suit top she had paired with cutoff shorts. “You wanna hit me?” She ripped her suit off and dropped it to the floor as she got close enough for him to do just that. “It would make my nipples even harder if you did. A little fucking deviancy in the bedroom for once.”
Lucien looked solemnly at her, almost with tears in his eyes. “You know what? Just go. Maybe it’s better for us to enjoy our anniversary apart.”
She chortled. “Better? Or you mean telling, more of the same? Indicative of how we’ve spent our entire marriage?”
“How can you say that?” he countered hollowly.
“Because it’s the truth.”
She backed away from him and then, with a flourish wrote the name and address of the decadent hotel she would be staying at for the next couple of days on a piece of paper. “If you come to your sense, this is where I’ll be.” She slammed the pen down. “If not, we might as well stay separated when we get back to Paris.”
That night, while Martine took a late swim in her new hotel’s heated indoor pool (that did not have the needless gimmick of a diving board fashioned after a sea creature), Lucien could, meanwhile, finally hear the noises she had complained of. It was as though, without her by his side to absorb them, he was forced to in her stead. Irritated both by the cliche sex sounds and his own erection over them, Lucien rose from the uncomfortable twin bed to turn on the light and look at the paper Martine had left behind. Into the night he fled to go join her. Sans bothering to check out.