Walk towards one of the white, round, modern-looking chairs, too aware of the squelching sound of your boots on the perfect surface of the floor.

Fiction by Marz Sappler
Assemblage Art by Ingrid M. Calderón Collins, Featured Artist for Mum’s Garage II


Enter the room without switching on the light and enjoy, for a brief moment, how interesting it looks in this late-afternoon pre-thunderstorm cloudiness. Realize you immensely enjoy the natural light coming through this (important) window, which is the entire wall really. It is powerful, but not bright. Wonder where you spend your late afternoons that it feels so special to you. Then wonder if it is just the room that makes you pay attention. Hear how your husband walks in behind you, closes the door and switches on the ceiling lamp. The warm and yellow glare erases the calm grey that lay on the furniture and floor a second ago. Step to the window, and remember how cold it is outside. 

Wow, you hear your husband say, impressed, almost with something of a quiver in his voice, as if it wasn’t ridiculous for a voice to quiver about something like this. Turn back to see him half leaning against the door. Yeah, is all you can bring yourself to say. Know you are taking the admiration out of your voice, because you are trying hard not to sound like him. Thank god we made it. It’s looking really uncomfortable out there. Feel suddenly panicked and stare, hard, out of the window at the surrounding woods under the indistinguishable grey. Imagine anyways, with the automatism and accuracy or someone who’s been together for a long time, but not quite long enough, him looking around the room and at you, your unshapely silhouette, displaced between the anonymous and expensive furniture. Jesus, it must be a pain to keep these clean, he jokes, and you feel him stepping up next to you, to the window. He is right, probably, (although, how much dirt do hotel guests really leave on a window?), but you hate that this is how he thinks. Phrase accusations in your head, snarky observations on why he worries, why this is the very first thing he says, when he doesn’t even have to do it. It feels too material to you. Feel embarrassed and angry, the anger mostly about your embarrassment, because you know you’re not being watched, but you’re watching yourself, because the room forces your eyes to take in the both of you, and you are so very aware that you are connected, that he reflects on you. You try to imagine reasons why rich people would take a room here in muddy hiking clothes, without luggage, but stop yourself when you realize what you’re doing. While your husband keeps staring out at the gradually darkening sky that still scares both of you even now that you are inside, examine the glass carefully, but as if in passing. Avoid his or your eyes in the reflection, you know you are being ridiculous. Find, after a while, a slight smear in the lower left corner, around the height of your knees, be satisfied and leave the window alone. 

Walk towards one of the white, round, modern-looking chairs, too aware of the squelching sound of your boots on the perfect surface of the floor, just like the one the two of you made in the stone lobby. Close your eyes and jerk from embarrassment when you remember it. Your mind, set on torturing you, makes up the judgemental thoughts of the receptionist. Don’t sit down yet, you’re afraid to touch the chair, you feel with certainty you might break or dirty something if you exist here. Look around. The bed’s fabric doesn’t look like fabric, it is creaseless, smooth, like something solid and plastic. There is a wooden construction behind its headpiece that separates the room like bars. There are polished bedside tables with randomly chosen books on architecture with impressive structures on the cover, books you can’t help imagining the weight of. The bedside lamps are gold-coloured plastic and very shiny. You feel the familiar sickness welling up in the upper part of your stomach, an anxious, dull pain you get when you know you are unwelcome somewhere, unloved by a space and its inhabitants. You feel the fatigue behind your eyes and nose that means you want to cry but can’t. Wonders if your husband gets these, too. He is still looking out, but you can’t because from your position and with the yellow light, all the window shows you is a reflection of your room. And absolute silence. The calm before the storm, your husband says. You can nod, earnestly, because that wasn’t about the room, so it won’t inexplicably rouse your anger. Take off your boots, clumsily, because your body somehow still refuses to sit down and you don’t want to steady yourself against the white walls. You see the same alertness in his body that you feel in yours. Remember that as a child taking the train, you were always scared of someone with a higher claim on your seat, and you having to get up under the reproachful stare of all the passengers. You had this fear whether you had a reservation or not. Now, see your husband move towards the bed and feel something inside you turn against him with the ease and habitude of a well-functioning revolting door. Act quickly before he sits down and destroys it. Step between him and the bed, and give him a hug. He is surprised, but pulls you in and lays down his head on your shoulder. I’m glad we’re safe, he says, somehow helplessly, and you manage to feel comforted and happy about his touch for one fleeting moment, but then you wonder if this hug isn’t giving the current circumstance more gravity than it needs and you feel trapped, imagining his thoughts. Energetically push him away, smile and suggest he takes a shower. You know what it must sound like. Add that is must feel amazing after the long hike, and all the excitement and worry, add that you once were in a hotel that had heated towels. Add that he has to check out the bathroom. Take his hand and lead him to it. Add that you’ll take one too when he’s done. The bathroom is a bright cell of dark greenish-blue tiles. You close the door between you and him. 

Now you are alone with the room. Try to realize that you have the room until tomorrow. Tell yourself that nobody’s coming to get you. Tell yourself that you are a paying guest. Feel, nonetheless, like a human doll that has been placed in this setting, just to see if it works. Turn off the light. Take off all clothes as quickly as you can while staring at the window. Your rain jacket. Jeans that are always a day’s wear away from ripping where your thighs have thinned them out. The underwear you had planned on taking off at home tonight, and now it feels strange to see it on the floor next to an unfamiliar bed. You see your body mixed in with the clouds. They have stopped darkening. It must start raining soon. The bed is at once reaching out to you and repelling you with its impeccability. Want to lay down, to cut it up, in the evil and weird way you are sometimes tempted to commit some cruelty – the other day, you were walking over the bridge, and saw a homeless person’s sleeping bag and belongings, backpack, paper cup, left unattended, and had to keep yourself from kicking it of the bridge, through under the railing, into the river. To see if you could. Feel the same way about your husband. Picture, because you can’t help it, throwing him off the bridge. Know that this is you tempting yourself. Lay down in the bed and rush to pull up the covers. The bedding is too cold against your skin. Realize you have to pee, but the water in the shower has just started running. Run your right hand over the blankets until they are smooth again, then try to motion your bare arm under it so it covers all of your body. When your movement creases the material, get out your arm again and repeat. Do so until he comes back from his shower and sits down on the bed. You wish he would get up so you could fix it. He lets himself fall down to a lying position next to you and stares at the ceiling. There is nothing you can do about it. A guilty conscience presses down on the room.

Your husband readjusts his position a few times and makes the small happy noises he does when he goes to bed at home, but you don’t want to hear them here. You don’t want him acknowledging how comfortable this bed is. It feels mean to your bed at home. We’ve been meaning to get away, he says, and you can’t tell if he believes his own cheerful attitude. This is also not what you meant, and the both of you know it. Neither of you meant to spend a Sunday night you didn’t prepare for in a hotel, because you didn’t check the weather forecast. We’ve been putting off getting a vacation forever. Maybe this is destiny pushing us towards taking better care of ourselves. Think about how happy you would be at home right now. Consider telling him to stop pressuring you to enjoy yourself. Let an uncomfortable silence that neither of you want to acknowledge settle over your bed. Think, as the time passes, that you might have enjoyed this forced night of luxury if you had been on your own. It still hasn’t started raining. Your husband starts moving again. After a while he gets under the covers and turns to you. When you start feeling his hand caressing your arm, pretending to be merely affection, then your legs, as if coincidentally, and then moving over the hill of your stomach upwards, say to him: 

When I was a child, I watched a Czech show about two girls living in a fairy-tale land. One was evil, and one was good. The evil one travelled to our world in a magical suitcase, and she had a ring that could grant every wish. She lived in a flat in a skyscraper, and she always wore shiny pants and tops that showed her waist, and she went to restaurants, and ate a lot of pretty food. Every time I go to a restaurant, and I have to sit inside and let people bring me food, I always wonder if I can pay what I owe. And I start fantasising, that all of the sudden it turns out I have not enough money, or the meal was more expensive than I thought, or that I broke something I have to pay for, and either the restaurant people threaten to call the police and make me stay and do the dishes for days until I have worked off my debt. That happens to Xenia once, the evil princess. I’m not sure anymore that’s her name. She loses her magic ring and she has to put on a giant grey apron, and she has to clean the dishes before she gets to leave. And it takes a lot of time because she always orders the most expensive thing. I start thinking about that even before I order. I think about it when I enter the restaurant, I think, will I be able to leave? He has stopped touching you while you spoke. Now you feel bad. You want him near again. Admit that I don’t know if that is an actual danger. I’ve never heard of it happening. What happens when you can’t pay at a restaurant? – I don’t know, he answers you, gratefully. Look past his head out the window, where the blue sky is drifting towards the both of you. Point out to him that it still isn’t raining. He just looks at you.

About the Author

Marz Sappler is a Germany-based artist and writer of narrative and conceptual literature and the co-founder and editor of the international literary magazine The Open Sewers Collective. They can be found on instagram @marz.vic and @opensewers.

About the Artist

Ingrid M. Calderón Collins is a poet and tarot reader. She is the author of twenty-seven poetry books. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband, painter John Collins.

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