The bellhop was ever the gentleman, despite being rusty at communication and waited for Kate to feel comfortable speaking. She thoughtfully said, “I have many questions for you.” “I expect that you do; I am not sure I have the answers, though,” he replied cautiously. “Where are we?” “I don’t know, exactly,” he replied. “I know, you want to know more detail, but I have never gotten any sense of where I am in terms of geography. I don’t get any newspapers or e-mails aside from work and those never include any addresses. I haven’t been outside of this hotel and its grounds in a long, long time. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.” She tried again. “What does the hotel’s name mean? It looks like Spanish, but the phrase doesn’t make sense.” “That’s because the hotel’s name isn’t in Spanish.” “Does it mean something?” “Yes, it does. It means “The Hope Hotel” in Esperanto.” “Is that a real language?” “It is, and I happen to speak it a little and read it better.” “How come I’ve never heard of the language.” “Most people haven’t heard of it, but it is the most popular invented language, and it’s been around for a long time. It was invented by a Polish Jew in the late 1800’s who grew up in a Babel of tongues and wanted a language free of imperial domination and it is often spoken by people who are fairly idealistic and hostile to what they see as imperialism.” “Why do you speak it then?” “I have an idealistic streak to me, and the hotel has plenty of books in the language, and it’s an easy language to learn, being rather simple and straightforward.” “Oh,” she said thoughtfully and there was a slight pause.
“I’m glad I was able to answer at least one of your questions,” he said thoughtfully. “It’s a start.” “Is there anything else you wanted to know?” “There is a lot I want to know, but it’s hard to think of everything when you’re enjoying good food like this, she said, as the conversation had a natural rhythm where one person would eat a bit while the other person talked, and bite by bite they were getting through their food. “You’re not an ax murderer, are you?” “What? No,” the bellhop replied. “I have thought, though, that this particular place certainly made me look suspicious to anyone who has seen a horror movie. You and your friend are lovely young women, and I am a lonely guy in an empty hotel. It’s pretty natural to think the worst is going to happen. I get that.” “I’m glad you’re not offended.” “No, I have often wondered here in my solitude what it would be like to interact with other people. I worried about what they would think and whether they would see me as dangerous or not. It’s hard to prove innocence, after all, and hard to make a good first impression when so much about one’s situation is suspicious.” “So, what are we supposed to do about questions you can’t answer?” “Actually, I asked about that and got a response for you guys to call a number, *-4-1-1, when you have a question that I cannot answer. I regret to inform you,” he said in a mocking tone, “that my employers were unwilling to tell me all of the information to gratify my own curiousity but they did give me that number to refer you to. Have you thought of calling about any questions?”
She paused for a bit. “I didn’t want to waste your time while you were working.” “It’s not a waste at all,” he answered politely. “Most of what I do at work is fairly mundane. Early in the day I inspect rooms and later on I just try to pass the time reading work materials or trying to pass the time as best as I am able.” “Have you ever brought books to read to work?” “I’ve done that on occasion, especially at the beginning of my time here, but as I’ve read most of the books dozens of times I have ceased to bring them most of the time. What’s the point in reading a book for the hundredth time during work when there isn’t anything new that the book has to offer?” “That’s true. Why have you been here so long by yourself? How does the food last?” “I don’t know the answer to the first question. As far as the second question goes, we get a truck here every once in a while that delivers frozen and canned food, but the truck is driverless so I don’t get to interact with anyone.” “Really? That’s odd.” “The only people other than you and your friend that I’ve seen here are some of my bosses, and that was a long time ago when I was new here and they figured I needed some encouragement. Once they knew that I knew what to do, they left me alone and I haven’t seen anyone since.” “No one?” “No one at all.” “That’s really odd.” “I agree that it’s odd. There are many days that I wonder how I am going to be able to deal with the isolation, but I just try to take it one day at a time.” “That’s rather brave of you. Do you remember why you’re here?” “No, I can’t remember a lot, actually. I have feelings and certain things will trigger strong feelings or emotions, but I can’t remember why I feel that way, only that I do. I can’t remember much about my past life or what I did before or who I knew before. Most of my past is just a blank.” “Don’t you think that’s a bad sign.” “I do, but what is there to do about it?” “I don’t know, I guess you don’t know of who to ask who would care about that.” “No, I don’t. How’s your memory since being here?” “I can’t remember a lot as well, and I find myself forgetting a lot and sleeping way more than I used to. I don’t like the way I feel, like I’m losing my mind.” “It’s a terrible thing to lose, isn’t it?”
There was a brief silence as both of them reflected on things. “Are you married? I don’t see a ring on your finger.” “I don’t think I have ever been married.” “What makes you think that? You’re not an ugly guy, no matter what my friend says.” “Well, I can’t remember being married at all, but it’s more than that. I mean, the feeling I get you is a sort of nervousness that comes from not being very experienced with women. You’re attractive and friendly and the heart gets to racing like it doesn’t know exactly what to do but figures your brain needs some more blood and a bit of nervous energy so that you do something and don’t just sit there like an idiot.” “You’re not an idiot, believe me. I’ve never been married either. Not many people get married in the whole young professional still going out to drink and party all the time mode that my friends and I are in. I always figured it would happen someday but I wasn’t in any hurry for it to be soon.” “That’s not a bad way to be, but before you know it you wish it would happen and you don’t know anyone suitable for it to happen with.” “You’re not that old, even if you think you have been here for decades.” “I don’t know how old I am, actually.” “I can’t be that young, but I can’t remember aging much at all in my time here.” “That’s really odd.” “It’s one of the many odd things about one’s existence here. I try not to think about it too much,” he said with a bit of a sardonic laugh. “It’s hard not to think too much, though, and find unsatisfying questions for which there are no answers.”
There was another brief pause in the conversation. “Like the rooms,” Kate said suddenly. “Oh yes,” the rooms. “Like, why do you have paper with no pens or pencils to write with?” “I’ve always thought that was odd. There aren’t any pens or pencils to be found in the entire hotel.” “Really?” “I’ve looked everywhere for them and you can’t write a thing. At least I have a computer that I can use to type, because you can’t write. You can read if you want to, and you can fold those pages up and make paper airplanes, but you can’t write anything.” “Why not?” I don’t have any idea why not. It’s one of many things that doesn’t make sense at all to me, you just have to take it as reality and deal with it.” “What about the items in the hotel bathrooms?” “You mean, why isn’t there a comb or a brush or something like that?” “Yes, that’s right, for one.” “I don’t get that one myself either. It’s not that I have that much hair myself, but I always found it odd just how little there was in the rooms for people to do. There are only about three channels and they all show really odd shows and movies.” “I noticed that. I mean, what gives about that?” “I don’t know. I don’t get to make the decisions on what is shown, and I’m not familiar with there being any networks. This hotel does some strange things in terms of its choices of content and what is around. There’s a lot of thought that goes into making something that gives you no clue about what place or time you are in. It’s really mysterious. I don’t think it’s a bad sort of mysterious, since I’m still here and all, but it is really mysterious.”
Kate started, as if she suddenly had a thought. “Who booked our reservation?” “I figured you would get to that. I haven’t the slightest clue.” “You mean you didn’t see a name or credit card number or anything like that?” “No, not at all.” “When did you see the reservation come in?” “It was about an hour or two–time is hard to remember in this place–before you came.” “How far is this place away from where I’m from?” “I don’t really know, but where are you from?” “I’m from Portland, that much I remember.” “Well, I’m an American too, so there’s that. Even if the decor of this place looks a bit Eastern European, you know.” “You noticed that too?” “Yes, I have.” “Were your bosses American?” “They certainly acted that way. They didn’t speak with European accents or show off knowledge of other languages that Americans don’t tend to know.” “That’s good, at least. Do you think anyone else will come while we’re here?” “Probably not. You’re the first people to be here in forever, so I don’t expect anyone else to come for a long while.” They both smiled at each other and suddenly felt that it was getting late. “Would you care to accompany me to my room?” she asked politely. “No problem, he said. “Let me take care of some unfinished business first,” he said as he rinsed the pots and dishes and silverware and put them in the dishwasher, where he would retrieve them in the morning as part of his errands, without all the food stuck on them. At that he took off his apron and hang it on the nail next to the door and then took Kate arm in arm and walked her back to her room. She leaned her head against his side and he liked the way it felt, and before long at all they were back at her room. They looked at each other a bit hesitantly, and then leaned in and kissed each other gently on the lips for a bit before saying goodnight and blushing a bit. After that Kate unlocked the door and went inside, and the door was closed.