The old man shows up after midnight. Dietrich has only one room to offer him, 303. Beside the couple who fuck – how would Dietrich put it: orchestrally? thunderously? what’s the sonic equivalent of Technicolor? Anyway, it’s loud. That’s the only reason the room is empty. Everyone else placed there asked to be moved. Now here’s this ancient sap. If it were any earlier Dietrich would tell him sorry, all full. He’d say try the Andorra two blocks west. But this man isn’t here because he wants to be. Dietrich has learned to recognize the look. There are a million reasons but just one look. The old man is pleasant enough, is admirable enough trying to hide his fatigue. So Dietrich sends him up to 303 and there’s worse fates. It’s a rough night but at least he has a place to spend it. Memories might be dredged up – or their absence will be – but: occupational hazard of being in the world. Dietrich can’t guard against that. No more than he can tell the lovers to keep quiet. Who are you to deny ecstasy, to tell people who’ve found something in each other worthy of that kind of noise that no, you can’t have it? And if the old guy comes back down in half an hour and asks for another room then Dietrich can tell him, with a clean heart, sorry, try the Andorra. None of this is my fault, Dietrich thinks. I am not to blame. He raises his hands a bit, palms out, in response to the accusation no one has made. All he hears is the couple next to the old man. Their obscene chorus. Not my fault, thinks Dietrich. The moans unfold into shapeless roaring. The Andorra’s two blocks west.
Pete Segall’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He lives in Chicago.
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