Here to Forget
He meets her in the hostel’s hallway. This hostel is not similar to where he first met his ex-wife. The hostel in which he met his ex-wife was in a city. That city had a small lake where they swam every day. He followed her to the sandy beach.
During their next trip there, they did not stay in a hostel. Twelve years had passed since the first time. That time they stayed in a luxury hotel with a big pool. In their room, he could view the bath through a glass window. When his ex-wife was taking a bath, she pulled the window curtains down.
He was the one that insisted on going to the hotel. This was the type of place that could help people like them.
He doesn’t know why he has chosen to come to this hostel with its narrow hallway and showers with moldy nylon curtains. The hallway of twisting tropical plants. Young boys and girls walk the hallway with their towels.
He has to line up to take a shower. Under the shower, his feet slide on a slimy film. An old woman with mottled skin monitors the showers. She is there to make sure people don’t shower in pairs.
One night, he wakes up to his roommate using his towel. He sits up in his bed, stares at him. “That’s my towel!”
He goes to the reception area and asks for a private room. No private rooms are available. It hasn’t been the best idea to come to a hostel. The roommates walk around the room naked.
On the beach or in the room, he thinks about his ex-wife. He tries to remember things that have happened during their two trips together. This hostel isn’t in the same city. It’s not even in a city. This place doesn’t have a lake, it has an ocean instead. It could have easily been the same hostel in the same city. The ocean could have been a lake, and it would not matter.
He watches her walk, her bare feet stepping on the white sand.
Flip-flops dragging on the floor, breasts busting out of the towel. Pulling his hair, pressing her lips on him under the shower. He wants to creep on her skin like a tropical plant. He could have asked her age, or where she has come from.
People are waiting for the shower, someone bangs at the rusted door. “Clean up the shower before you leave!”
He won’t go to the beach today, he will stay in bed. He wraps the damp sheets around him, squeezing in a corner. He wants to call his ex-wife, but her voice makes him shudder.
Each morning, she is in the line for the shower. He sets up his bathroom time to wait in line with her. What he would like to tell her keeps him awake at nights. He finishes his shower, waiting for her, pretending to dry his thinning hair. He stands in the hallway, in front of her room.
Once, he manages to make her laugh. But how long will he stay in this place? She smiles when she sees him standing in front of her room. He doesn’t have time, he should do something.
He follows her, staring at her black hair. He watches her walk, her bare feet stepping on the white sand.
Rubbing oil on her back, his fingers beneath her bikini.
Rubbing oil on her back, his fingers beneath her bikini. Their bodies float in the pool all day, the sun above them. After a couple of drinks, she laughs at his jokes. She tries to be nice. But when she runs the bath, she pulls the curtains down again.
They try not to go to the room until they are exhausted. They leave two days early. On their last day, they stay in, watching TV in another language.
He is sixteen when they go to the seashore with his parents. His parents have booked a separate room for him and his sister. His bare feet touch the white sand for the first time. Colorful triangles sit on skins, breasts served like oranges on the chests. Beside the pool, a fountain splashes water on tanned teenagers. He joins them, starts to dance, inches toward a girl. A rainbow has formed from the water drops splashing from the fountain. When he puts his lips on hers, she kisses back. His fingers slide beneath her bikini, staying there until the music stops.
On his way back to their room, two boys push him from behind. His face is in the sand, the sand fills his mouth.
In the room, he rubs himself against the mattress, with his sister sleeping across the room.
He can’t believe she is sitting in the bar with him. He is drinking scotch on the rocks. She is drinking wine, her fingers on his head. “What are you even doing here?”
I am here to meet you, but that would say too much. I am here to forget.
“This isn’t the type of place people like you come to.”
When his hands slowly move on her thighs, her hands do nothing. He wishes they had a room to go to. He’ll book a room in a real hotel tomorrow, ask her to join. He’ll watch her take a bath.
Pulling her black hair, pressing his lips on her under the shower.
He waits in line, waits in front of her room. After he can’t find her, he decides to go to the beach.
He books a hotel room, a room with a king-sized bed.
On the beach, he spreads his towel, stares at the cloudless sky. Colorful triangles sit on skins, breasts served like oranges on the chests. He opens a book, reads a few pages, can’t go on.
Their bodies against the waves, holding hands—what really happened?
He watches her walk, her bare feet stepping on the white sand. She swims in the lake, her blond hair bleached by the sun. Their young bodies in the dim light of the damp room.
Their bodies float in the pool every day, the sun above them. Rubbing oil on her back, his fingers beneath her bikini. His body with hers in the light of the air-conditioned room. He sinks himself in the sweet smell of her skin. The white sheets, both of them breathless, his hands somewhere, her hands somewhere else. Even before drinks, she laughs at his jokes. During dinner, her long hair is wrapped. He is drinking scotch on the rocks. She is drinking wine.
He waits in line, in front of her room. He finds himself knocking at her door. After he can’t find her, he calls the hotel, cancels the room.
Pulling his hair, pressing her lips on him under the shower. He is certain there are two people in the next stall. She is with someone else. He can hear their moans, their bodies against the wall. These showers with their dirty nylon curtains. His fingers on his bald head—what is he doing here? He thumps at the rusted door, wondering where the guard is.
In the hallway, he watches her leave the shower area alone. Her flip-flops drag on the floor. Her skin is flushed, a purple mark on her neck.
He goes to his dim room and climbs onto his bed.
The roommate enters right after, uses his towel to dry himself again.
“I told you that’s my towel,” he says, pushing the roommate.
The roommate knocks him into the bedframe. His nose starts to bleed.
He rubs his finger on the blood, takes it to his mouth. He tongues the blood on his fingers.
He’ll call her.
They plunge his face into the sand. The sand fills his mouth.
She swims in the lake, her blond hair bleached by the sun.
The curtains are drawn. The fan flaps a damp towel against the bedframe.
3 thoughts on “Here to Forget, by Babak Lakghomi”