I smiled at the young friendly receptionist as I gave her my car keys, I'd written my real name on the card for the valet and it was such an anti-climax.
I glanced longingly back towards the entrance I'd just walked through sensing the ghost of my former self. Fearlessly arriving in a revealing black outfit before embracing the elegant stranger of the evening.
She handed me my room keys and gave me directions. I knew this hotel like the back of my hand but I politely allowed her to finish. As I walked through the corridor I again sensed her. The one-dimensional seductress I’d created who only came to life when requested. She was a better version of me; more beautiful, more interesting, more generous. She rejected mundanity and frequented luxury hotels like this, accompanying anonymous lovers for champagne-soaked dinners before unashamedly giving them what they craved: intimacy, attention, sex.
Of course, I got what I craved too, the men and women I met with worshipped me. I offered an exotic escape from reality and they compensated me handsomely. Not only with money and lavish gifts, some took me to heights of physical pleasure and emotional freedom I simply could not replicate in real life.
I remembered how un-phased I’d been when challenged. ‘My husband has already checked-in’ I’d purr as I shrugged off suspicious hotel staff and made my way to the room.
Soon my actual husband will be arriving. He’ll have no idea that my ghost lives here, causing the laughter of well-dressed gentleman at the bar, slowly stripping off exquisite lingerie in front of the very bed we’ll sleep on tonight.
I never did tell him about my former life and sometimes, momentarily I forget it existed. I headed to the bar to wait. I hadn’t been to this hotel for over five years and although the decor had changed somewhat, familiar soft piano notes danced through the air, diminishing the passing years and sending me straight back in time.
I chose a royal blue velvet chair in the corner of the room, the perfect spot to people-watch. I ordered a glass of champagne and wondered how many other people’s ghosts roamed these walls. I glanced around for a distraction and noticed a handsome businessman drinking whiskey on the rocks, he was older with greying brown hair, sun-kissed skin and a wedding ring. This environment made me crave a secret lover. I remembered the feeling of wearing decadent lingerie underneath my carefully chosen clothes. I imagined undressing for the businessman, slowly unbuttoning my blouse revealing the soft white skin he’d soon devour.
‘Champagne, what are we celebrating?’ My husband announced interrupting my thoughts. He was fifteen minutes early. I forced a smile and stood to kiss him, disappointed to be back in reality. ‘Nice hotel, right?’ ‘Yes, you chose well...’ I sat back in my chair, catching the eye of the businessman as I did. He must’ve felt my gaze. ‘Perhaps in another lifetime’ I thought to myself.
In the extract above I am writing from the fictional perspective of my life in five years time, married and visiting a hotel I used to work in. Although the scenario is from my imagination, the core of what I am writing comes from lived experience. After finding this extract, I opened up my first and second drafts for a trip down memory lane. Firstly, I thought it was very well-written which was a nice surprise! When I fell out of love with it, I felt it was absolute rubbish and was ashamed I'd been sharing it with agents. But I also realised that although I didn't want to resurrect it, writing it was not wasted time, it was in fact incredibly valuable. It allowed me to get my own life out the way to make room for fiction. I will always undoubtedly weave my own experiences into my writing, but I am no longer bound by the closest inspiration to me as I have hopefully got most of that out of my system.
Vyshinsky: “Why did you write the poem?”
Rostov: “It demanded to be written. I simply happened to be sitting at the particular desk on the particular morning when it chose to make its demands.”
This quote is from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, a beautiful, playful book which I would highly recommend. This particular quote stuck with me because I often feel the same when I am writing. When warming up for a longer piece or writing extracts I rarely have any idea of what is about to happen, it just floods out. My mood often dictates whether it is dark, playful or erotic, (mostly all three) but other than that it just sort of breathes itself into existence.
I was reading this book when I visited Rome last summer, when I saw Saint Jerome by Caravaggio in the Borghese Gallery for the first time. I won't bore you with the facts behind this painting, but what I felt on my first uneducated impression was that it depicted someone writing their stream of unedited consciousness. As this was so in tune with my own narrative I bought a small print of this painting and now use it as inspiration to write 'whatever demands to be written' and see whether anything beautiful is born.
Sharing my writing always feels revealing and risky, so if you enjoy it, let me know.