I’d barely checked in (and put my bag down) when I realised that I was, in fact, bored. I’d been bored all week – I had to be in the city for a few nights and had nowhere to go – and had spent quite a while in the big market square playing Pokémon Sapphire. I had, in fact, been there since Thursday, and had managed to source places to sleep until Sunday night. To whit, I acquiesced, walked to the most convenient hotel I knew… and asked for a room.
My bag stashed in my room, I took myself back down to the lobby/bar area and sat at what amounted to being a bar (although it wasn’t too much). The girl who had checked me in came up to ask what I wanted to drink, and it was at that point that I got a look at her properly.
Let’s get a bit of context here. I was 19 or 20 (or thereabouts) and had spent the entire day playing music (if what I do actually counts to the discerning listener as ‘music’). Following a week of boredom ending with a day of cacophonous racket, the one thing I really needed was a drink. My overwhelmed mind beginning to decompress, I noticed a couple of seconds after I started speaking that the girl I was talking to was incredibly pretty. I noticed in the mirror that the look I was giving her was somewhat appraising, and then a moment later that she was giving me the same sort of look.
“Hello, could I please have a Friar Tuck?” I asked clearly and politely. “That’s full-fat Coke with a shot of blackcurrant cordial, if you’ve got that.”
“Coke and blackcurrant?” she repeated.
“Yes,” I sighed, and then fished around in my head for the necessary addendum to the question. “It’s a non-alcoholic cocktail invented in Nottingham and it’s…”
“It’s what I drink!”
“It’s what I drink! Coke and blackcurrant! I like the combination! It’s very sweet! I’ve never met anyone else who likes it!”
“Oh!” I ejaculated. “Excellent!”
She handed me my Friar Tuck and, for a few seconds, both of us paused. It took me a while to remember I needed to pay for this, and as I fumbled for my change, I could feel her eyes on me. Focus, ILB. Focus.
After an eternity of silence and smiles, she drifted away to check in some git who had arrived specifically to distract her from me, and I found some solace in the trivia machine in the corner (I was the first to play it, as she told me later, so I was first on the scoreboard by default; I did quite well, nevertheless) for a while. A few games later, with my wallet lighter in my pocket, I finally took a sip of my drink.
It was the best drink I’d ever had.
I got back to my hotel room burning with energy, excitement, and a few other things. What do I do for her? was the question blazing trails through my head. Buy her something? Just be polite and thankful? Maybe I’ll ask her out. No, that’s stupid, when am I going to be here again?
I sat at the little desk that all hotels seem to have and pulled out some headed paper.
I know, I’ll write her a song, I genuinely then thought. And, after a fashion, that is exactly what I did – a few verses and even a chorus. I even used the word “exuberance” once, non-ironically. In my head, it resembled the finale from Antonín Dvořák’s ninth symphony (although, when I added chords a week later, it sounded nothing like it). I finished three pages of scribblings, crossings-out and corrections, signed my name and…
…what do I do now?
I couldn’t just go and give it to her. Weird guy checks into hotel you work in and writes you a song? That’s creepy. I stashed it in my bag, made myself a tea (also a hotel room thing), and looked for something else to do.
After breakfast the morning after (which I almost didn’t make it to: I was there three minutes before it ended), I went back to my room to pack (and, let’s be honest, clean up). On the desk, once I’d moved off all my stuff, I noticed a little card I’d overlooked the night before: a nomination card for a guest service award. I pulled out a thick black gel pen and carefully wrote out her name on it.
It proved more difficult to write out exactly why I was nominating her for an award. Somehow “I have only met her once but I think I have a crush on her, and moreover, I think she has a crush on me” didn’t quite sound right in my head. I wrote out something generic about being friendly and helpful, and quickly added “…also knows what my drink is” before taking it to the counter.
I checked out, paid for my one rented ‘movie’, and handed the card to the lady now occupying the counter.
“Oh, she’s a honey,” she said after glancing at the card. “I’ll make sure she gets this.”
“Oh, thanks,” I said, before adding, “well, tell her I said hello. I mean, you too. I mean, it was a very pleasant stay, I mean, yes, thank you, yes.”
ILB, the master of wondrous wit and ready repartée.
“Will we be seeing you again?”
“Oh, yes, yes, I’ll come back, I will, I promise,” I squeaked as I walked out of the door. Standing outside for the first time in twelve hours basking in the warm air, I took a few long, deep, steadying breaths before trudging my way back into the milieu of the city I knew so well.
I went back to that hotel once more, with 47 in tow at that point. It was then that he told me that he knew I was ILB.
I never saw her again.