The waking up of Eric
by Timothy Gallagher

You wake up with no idea where you are and wishing you were dead. Your hangover is worse than normal and your bed stranger than ever and it is no relief when it dawns on you that you have spent the night in a squalid hotel room.
          The situation is critical and more critical still your failure to recall what sort of character had the freedom of your body in the night. Was it female? Male? Or simply yourself?
          You are quick to calculate the improbability of its being yourself. Which is a shame. For wouldn't it be wonderful to believe you might have paid for this room, squalid though it is?
          Yes, you think of that. You think of all the possibilities. You think that perhaps nobody has paid for this room. You even have a vision of your shadowy lover fleeing in the early hours leaving you to negotiate the bill.
          But you cannot cultivate that nightmare for long. A couple of considerations rule it out.
          First is the fact that hotels like this cater for suspect types who are always asked to pay in advance; and
          Second is the memory of standing in reception last night watching the nondescript lady at the desk snatching up the twenty pound note proferred by your forgotten lover.
          You get out of bed and make straight for the sink and drink three beakers of tepid water. Then you become conscious of your nakedness.
          Is this a clue? This some sort of evidence?
          You quit the sink and head for the wardrobe mirror to stare. The thing to do now is to wank. So you start. It isn't that you're in the mood. It hardly ever is. It's just the tension. It's just that you feel that something irrevocable has occurred; or if not, is about to.
          But it's no good. You can't make it. Even if your heart were in it the amount of alcohol in your system has made you arid and even in the absence of that you would still be left with this premonition that there will come a time later on in the day when you will be glad of everything you can shoot.
          What you really need now is a cigarette but you know that the Rothmans packet on the chair by the bed is empty. What you really need is to get out fast. Which means getting dressed.
          Then you become conscious of your clothes on the
limo and topping your clothes a pair of white Y-fronts. Is this another clue? This some sort of evidence?
          You get dressed at breakneck speed and returning to the sink accomplish your toilet and study the effect in the mirror. The eyes are bloodshot and the face weathered. You haven't shaven for days but then the rough look becomes you; or so you have been assured by lovers you can recall.
          You abandon your image and look out the window for the first time today:
          You beat your trouser pocket and you have money. £2.49 in the palm of your hand. Enough for some cigarettes and a couple of coffees. It is time you moved
on.
          Now that you descend the stairs you realize that last night's mystery  or at least a bit of it  might be solved at reception. For though Memory has failed you, there is the register.
          Of course a request to examine it will prove an embarrassment but you can always steel yourself with the conviction that never in a lifetime will you cross the threshold of this dump again.
          Steel yourself with the conviction that you're not the sort of character to turn up at the same venue twice.

(c) Timothy Gallagher
For more about Tim Gallagher click here.