There are times when the walls of this shitty hotel flex, pulse, retract, and constrict like being on the inside of a corrupt beating heart. There are times when everything is fine. Usually this is when you have just returned home from an unsuccessful bid at finding some employment more gainful than vacuuming up the hallway for loose gold teeth, lottery tickets, and the scraps of cut-up literary projects left everywhere by the faggot upstairs. They don’t sell for much, but something is always more than nothing.
It tends to take a while for the walls to start doing their trick. You are unclear on why it happens at all. Exhaustion? Malnutrition? You are eating, though not well. Very few people are. Crusty bread and small beer. Tasty, but no variety. Perhaps something in the bread? There are rumors that you have heard of the poor growing conditions of both the rye and wheat in the collective farm fields outside of the city. You don’t know much about science, but you know the word ergotism. You shrug.
Lonely- despite the time you spend with the black market grocer, and the faggot upstairs, and the landlord’s daughter, and the monk who occasionally comes to bless the hotel, basket on head, playing his flute atonally- you have decided to seek solace in the method of the voyeur. Your narrow window opens over a disconnected fire escape, and you have painstakingly claimed the small outdoor space for yourself. A potted pansy, a rattan chair, and a small wrought iron table bearing an ashtray are all that you allow out there. The fire escape will not bear more weight.
When dusk arrives on the Rue de Becker et Fagen, you bring a carton of cigarettes and a field glass outside. A girl directly across the way must have even less space in her apartment than you do in your hotel room, and she changes in front of the window. You can see everything in her apartment through that window- the tiny kitchen, the bookcase with a few books that you recognize as having owned yourself once upon a time, the bathroom behind its brocaded curtain, and the television.
Her dreadlocks are short, the hair around her pussy long and lush. The thing that excites you most are the lines beneath her breasts from a long day in an uncomfortable bra. Tonight she shows these things to you very briefly, and she turns on the television and plops on the battered old recliner that is her only chair. You cannot see her anymore.
The light from the television washes everything out, contrast increasing in parts and decreasing in others. You wonder at the radiation being given off by the valves and tube of the enormous thing. She is watching some strange recording of an avant-garde play. It is interrupted by a news bulletin, and you swear that you have seen this before. A press conference. After handing out some pamphlets and making some speech that you cannot hear, Bud Dwyer pulls a revolver out of a manila envelope and shoots himself in the face.
As he slumps against the wall, blood fountains from his ruined face in a cascade that is so copious you did not believe it the first time you saw it, and it is here that the program you are watching deviates from the televised suicide in your memory- the blood from Bud Dwyer’s face continues to flow. It increases in volume and pressure, covering his pudgy body, and the floor, and finally starting to wash away the terrified bystanders. The blood eventually fills the room, a red line gradually climbing the face of the television screen and obscuring everything. At last the screen is filled with deep dark crimson, but you can tell from the faintest squiggle of movement that Bud Dwyer’s blood has still not stopped flowing.
It never stops flowing.