I woke up in the morning to find myself staring at a door that was wide open. It quietly rocked in the sea wind from an open window above my bed. There was a dull creeping sensation all over from a couple of red ants that were everywhere in the bed, their ruby selves visibly moving about in the worn out but well laundered white sheet. The fan above struggled in circles and I was sweating from the humid air inside.
For a while, I did nothing and kept staring at the door. I didn’t remember closing it but I might have done it nevertheless. Shifting my glance to the grimy coffee table beside the door, I found almost all the contents from yesterday night as I’d left them. The old laptop, a small steel flask, two oddly twisted paper cups, a book on law of contracts and the huge bronze keychain with the room keys. Nothing had been taken. If someone had broken in, he had quietly contemplated the picture inside and left.
I clambered out of the bed and stepped to the corridor outside. It was deserted as always. The walls had been painted light green and the mild odor of fresh paint lingered in the trapped air. Shivering, I stepped back and closed the door shut. It was 4 in the afternoon and I’d missed another day in my life.
This was the dolphin hotel that I had.
It had no one but a senile receptionist who kept staring at an old 14” TV set. He handed me the keys when I walked in, which was, almost always in the midnight. I would take a late train to Thalassery and walk all the way through the dark rain soaked roads to the lodge, the lights from the occasional cars and trucks guiding me to it. He’d always be there, slightly twisting his mouth into a cursory smile acknowledging my familiarly and hand me the keys of a random room. I’d always ask whether it was to the direction of the sea and he’d nod.
I’d seldom seen any other occupants, though there would be occasional dust bins with trash placed outside some doors indicating the presence of occupants within. Once I came across a scruffy foreigner with a backpack on the stairs and we both eyed each other speculatively while we crossed.
One sleepless humid night, I took a scrap of paper and wrote “This is the Dolphin hotel. Don’t let appearances fool you. Open your door in the midnight and walk out to the old Dolphin hotel. Do not be scared when you find the sheep man waiting in the end of your corridor.”
I tore off the portion, folded it and placed it carefully inside after removing a draw from the shelf. I replaced the draw and slept imagining nothing.
Dolphin Hotel and the sheep man © Haruki Murakami and Vintage Books International
Image courtesy http://labs.triggerstreet.com