John does not live anywhere, in specific. The railroad hotels he prefers and fancies vary from town to town. The rooms are strange, yet familiar. The only things that are the same are his trunk open at the foot of the bed and the variety of his own small items that anchor him to himself. Yet, each contains the essential elements that differ mainly in the forms of scrolled or inlaid woodwork, the painting on the china, the pattern of the wallpaper, the design woven into the thick carpets, the samples of cloth presented in the quilts.
Prolific, he always asks for a room with a desk. Often unable to sleep lying down, he always asks for a room with a comfortable chair. There is always a bed with a high headboard above him with parquet or carved spirals and rolls. The footboard always matches it, in dark old wood, oiled to a smooth richness. Mahogany is his favourite.
There is always a washstand with a large leaded mirror, often oval, that sometimes tilts on pivots. On this is set an ewer of water and matching bowl. John taps it with his nail and lays out his toiletries - his soap and razor, his cream and toilette water, the brush and comb, his toothglass, toothbrush and silk floss. There are towels provided, but John also carries his own should they prove to be of inadequate quality - fine linen with openwork at the lower edge. He is scrupulously clean and bathes each day, though it is regarded as an eccentricity that borders on the fanatical. If he must be diseased, he will not be repugnant.
There is an armoire for his clothing and he fills it upon arrival, hanging the fine woollen suits, the linen shirts, the silk waistcoats, his ties, all tidily to prevent wrinkles. If the trip has rumpled them beyond this, he hires a woman to iron them. He folds his other garments in the drawers beneath it.
John likes the bed, the smooth slightly starched white linen, the pillows at his back, at his head. He always asks for extra pillows as well. And he likes the weight of thick woollen blankets, of heavy wool-stuffed quilts, especially in winter, even in fever. They comfort him, let him almost imagine he is being held as they wrap around his body.
The windows open to cool the room in summer, and then he likes to lean out and look into the night. In winter the transom folds open under its fancy mouldings to allow heat and warmth into the room. Sometimes there is a fire right in the room, but that is rare.
There is a light he leaves burning on the table with the wick turned down low. Sometimes, in Denver for instance, there is gas laid on and the light is brighter, softer, warmer. But that is rare also.
John does not live anywhere, in specific. The hotels now all seem the same, but unfamiliar, without warmth or features. The headboards are smooth and artificial, only perhaps two feet high and there are no footboards at all. There is no wood, china, patterned wallpaper. The carpets seem sealed to the floor and are shaved short, though not exactly shaved, and they are not woollen either.
Nor are the blankets, which are also thin, or the quilts. He is not sure what the quilts are made of, but it feels... sharper somehow. And all the bedding is so oddly light. It took him a long time to get used to it, and he is glad he has his own heavy blanket from his trunk still.
Chairs are always provided now, and a desk, but the latter is the same strange hard smooth substance as the headboard, and the chest of drawers. There is no armoire, but open rails on which to hang his fine clothes. There are mirrors everywhere, but they appear to be attached to the walls.
The washstand has been replaced by an entire room for ablutions, and unlike everything else in this time, the towels are thick, rich and plentiful - a pleasure to use. John is enthusiastic about the washroom. He may have a bath as often as he wants - a warm bath, a cooling bath. He believes he can almost use it to treat his fever if he needs to do so. In the trunk he now carries potions and substances for bubbles, for his hair, to make it softer, curlier. There are so many soaps and mixtures, smells and lotions he had been overwhelmed, but now he has his favourites.
There is no one now to hire to iron his clothes, but the management will lend him an iron if he requests it. He has never been domestic, but he has learned to press his shirts, his pants as needed. It has become almost restful.
It seems there is no longer such an architectural feature as a transom. And sometimes the windows do not open either, but there is an inexplicable wash of cool air with a very distinctive smell. There are no fires now, but though the rooms are never cold, there is never the play of flames and the heat on his cheeks as he sits before it, or the way in which his trousers warmed and then touched his cooler shins when he shifted positions.
There are more lamps now, if he can call them lamps. He only has to move a tiny lever on the wall and everything is washed in even white light. Or perhaps a small screw on a bedside lamp to pool light around oneself alone. In the washroom is a different lamp, set in the ceiling, that does warm him, as if it were a shard of the sun.
Everything is different than in his previous life, now every hotel is the same as any other - indistinguishable. And the only thing that reminds him he is himself, irreplaceable, is his trunk at the foot of the bed and his own things laid out on the hard flat artificial surfaces.Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 1017
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