The French road guys are outside having angry cigarettes — know what I mean by angry cigarettes?
They draw on their smokes hard, lips tight and thin, fingers pinched, then snap their hands away quick from their mouths, their bent arms straightening until their cigarettes are held out and also down, near their belt loops.
Something is going on at this hotel. A P.E.I. hotel, rural, big empty parking lot, the restaurant on life support until June when the tourists arrive.
The French guys, they’ve got a Ford F-150, white, backed into their parking spot outside my window, and there’s a well-used diesel tank in the back of the truck, tight up against the cab, and a spatter of disorganized calligraphic tar on the tailgate, like the messages left by tramps about this being an easy mark.
The licence plate is from New Brunswick, and there are three guys, one of them with a Captain Submarine bag hanging loose in his fist, like he could drop it at any second if he had to — “it’s only a sandwich” — and they’re all looking east, but I can’t see what they’re looking at.
The guy with the sub sandwich bag is out to the right and the other two have left their truck doors open, like bent wings, and they have a way of standing, leaning forward as if into the wind with the point of one shoulder, that says something about expectation.
Last night, next door, it was a woman, laughing over-loud at everything, the kind of laugh that says the next noises will be emphatic sex; they went out to dinner, she didn’t come back. In the morning, the bald guy, his remaining hair shaved tight to his head, he gave me a look that said “don’t ask” as his door swung shut hard.
Last night, one of the French guys was walking up and down the hallway, talking on his cellphone, the sound of his voice rising and falling, rising and falling, and even though it was French, you could tell it was his girlfriend he was talking to, you could hear her voice, interrogatory, and the only question that kept coming back to me was “Why isn’t he having this conversation in his room?”
As if that wasn’t obvious.
If I had a hotel, I would have a guy on the desk named Big Bob who looked like a standing slab of beef, hands like hams, a guy who would never ever have to fight anyone, who would just have to lean in enough into their space to let them know how concerned he was.
There is nothing like the night hotel, like the shared bathroom fan, and if I owned a hotel, the first thing I would do is to listen to every single bathroom fan in every single room, and buy only the quietest of fans, and revel in the savings I would have from people actually using said fans, instead of turning them off from sheer embarrassment and letting condensation reign. (Rain?)
If I had a hotel, I would have a guy on the desk named Big Bob who looked like a standing slab of beef, hands like hams, a guy who would never ever have to fight anyone, who would just have to lean in enough into their space to let them know how concerned he was. A guy who would never have to do more than intend.
And my hotel would be quiet at night.
I like the anonymity of the numbered identical doors, the hallways with the patterned, stain-hiding industrial patterns. I like that anything can happen, always, and that you get to make a conscious decision, about how and when and if you are going to intervene — or just merely interrupt.
The angry cigarettes. They’ve flicked their butts away almost simultaneously in a curved shower of sparks and shucked the shoulders of their shirts straight, and they are still looking down the parking lot, but things are different now.
The only thing I can think is that scores are going to be settled.
And I can’t tell if they are big scores, or little ones.
There are transport trucks on the next-door highway, the Trans-Canada east and busy, and the noise of all that whirring, spinning rubber covers up everything else, even when the guys walk into a tight circle and start to swing.
Other columns by this author
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at Russell.firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.