art by Liz Clarke
The Fabulous Hotel
by Sandra McDonald
He left the presidential mansion so gripped with excitement that he had to sit in a lovely park afterward, hands shaking on his knees, while children splashed in a water fountain and he smiled at the limitless possibilities ahead. Back at his hotel, he hunched over the desk while the orange sun burned its arc and dipped behind the government buildings. He scribbled on the pale stationery, on the back of napkins, on pages torn from the expensive hotel binder that listed room service and pool hours. While he slept, his fingers twitched in search of a pencil to draw more.
During the train trip home he sketched in the margins of newspapers and on the back of security announcements. Through dirty plastic windows he watched soldiers on platforms, their green uniforms crisp despite the heat. When a tired businessman sat beside him, the man showed him a very preliminary diagram. The hotel, he said. The fabulous hotel by the sea. The president had agreed.
The businessman ignored him. The porter who took the man's ticket nodded and moved on. At home, neighbors placated him with smiles, glanced at the plans without comment, and returned to their air-conditioned living rooms to watch the state-controlled news channels. The man continued his plans on grid paper and poster boards and butcher paper. His fingers developed blisters and calluses from legions of colored pencils and permanent markers. His refrigerator shelves went bare. His armpits and clothing stank. Outside, the school buses stopped coming and the trash piled up but none of it meant anything as long as he could continue his rectangles and arcs and thick solid lines.
Every lesson from school reasserted itself in the grand design. The guestrooms, luxurious but simple in blue and gold, with door frames and bathrooms wide enough for wheelchairs. Every room had a balcony overlooking the sea. Soundproof walls everywhere, to keep private any nightmares or crying. An army of sleek elevators would service the hotel wings both vertically and horizontally, carrying gurneys and room-service carts. Pneumatic tubes would deliver guest and medical information. In the dining room, under great crystal chandeliers, there would be no barrier of rank or service. The hotel bars and lounges would stay open day and night, to raise a toast or trade a story or sit in silence, remembering. A wraparound porch of white rocking chairs overlooked the lush rose gardens and marble memorials; inside, assorted wings held indoor pools for recreation and therapy, gymnasiums where the paralyzed would learn to walk again, suites where the finest engineers would design and fit prosthetics to replace arms and legs and eyes and penises.