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Hotel California, Doha – Killing Time : 2 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 16/01/2021

The ruckus in the corridor this morning was workmen fixing something in the risers. I could see them through the peephole, there were three of them. What was ‘Kate’, opposite, making of this? (Perpetually on her door, the DO NOT DISTURB sign was being violated.)

Photo: Maksim Goncharenok

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of her when they were handing out breakfast bags. Thin and smiling, the yoga type, older than me, she was on her own. Next door to her are a couple, young and quite happy to keep to themselves. I assume this judging only from their leftovers which have included several empty wine bottles. Yes, LARGE. I’m not usually the neighbour from Hell. Now, I’m Miss Marple.

In the afternoon, long past when the lunch bags have been cleared, I open the door and look left and right into the hall. No one’s about except for a security guard sat slumped over in a high-backed wheelie chair. In the lift lobby, for five straight days now, I’ve been watching him, checking on him, at odd and even hours. It looks like the same guy 24-7, but from this distance, it’s unclear. What does, Jack, alias ‘Hercule Poirot’, my partner in crime make of it?

Sometimes the chair is empty. Was the man gone for a break —you know, the biological kind? His meals would be in the wheelie, that much we knew. Do you hear me, Hercule? Was he gone for a walk, maybe to another floor? Shall we make a break for it? — Run to the end and back? I’m ready to swap places for a few hours, if he is. “Dream on Marple,” says my more level-headed Poirot.

Tony was gone now, good for him. He tested negative last night after staying up until they eventually knocked at 1:40. No one to chat with room-to-room anymore; nor to commiserate together with over unhappy meals. He’d gone for a steak dinner, he said, first thing. To be fair, the vegetarian Jack persuaded them to make for me for lunch was decent. As was the grilled salmon last night. Or my taste buds have adjusted. (Which confirms, it’s not just my marbles, I’m losing.) And they’re big on quantity. Which doesn’t help, however, with the restricted movement.

Was it Housekeeping?
Room service?
Being over fed?

Traffic outside milling around us in constant swirls; Trump’s ongoing political suicide on CNN (also 24-7, same as our security man)—and raging Covid (the reason we’re here)—all add to this feeling forgotten. Being a weekend doesn’t help either. No Teams meetings or Zoom calls our days don’t feel official, just incremental. Completely cut off we may as well be dead in here. Murdered in our bed. Was it Housekeeping? Room service? Being over fed?

Forced to be recluses, the slightest sound makes us jump. What’s that now? Arrived downstairs and on the app. Should we investigate?

“It’s fine,” my Poirot says. Just Talabat —Thank God for Thai food — It’s from the Bangkok line of the Orient Express.

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