So there I am, a couple of nights back, in my little cubicle, light on, rubbing myself down after a lovely hot shower. Probably not humming.
The cleaning lady, doubtless a black-clad toothless crone, switches out the lights in the main part without checking the cubicles and locks the door, hastening home to her fisherman husband, after a long minimally-waged day minimally cleaning.
I emerge, fragrant and energised, into pitch black. I do not call out “hello… Is anyone there?”- it is all too obvious there is no-one. I try the door. It is not very substantial but nor does it appear likely to yield. I take stock. It is a large tiled room, a row of basins set in a marble surface down one wall with windows built high up. They don’t look like they open anyway. The room is empty other than a mop in a big square bucket on wheels. Outside, the silent, deserted marina falls slowly to sleep.
Without much hope I bash on the door and now I do shout out “hello?… Is anyone there?”, still knowing the answer. My knuckles hurt. I take the mop up and use the handle on the door for a while. I wonder about sleeping on the tiles using my backpack as a pillow. The air is damp and chilly. I look in the cubicles: the windows are small and open in a limited vertical tilt. At the back is one final circular window 3 m up: it looks like it might open, hinged in the middle, and just about accommodate my bulky newly-showered body. I eye the window and reflect on something somebody once told me: that so long as your head fits, you can get the rest of yourself through any aperture. It seems unlikely.
I wheel the mop bucket over beneath the window and with great care balance on top of it, imagining the scene if it skidded out from under me, I hit my head on the hard tiles and the following day they found my body in a pool of blood inexplicably lying on the floor of an empty locked room, the bucket on its wheels innocently stationed distant from me – like the riddle about the man found hanging in the locked room empty save for a small pool of water. The key-holding crone would have some explaining to do.
The window does open and clambering through it is an unappealing but not impossible prospect. Outside, beyond two palms and a small road I see the security gate, convivially lit up, overcrowded with three people sharing a glass of ouzo. I hear laughter. On tiptoe on my unstable perch, I call out “Kalispéra” loudly and repeatedly in a not-very-salutation-like way.
One of the ouzo- drinkers is the cleaning-lady who it turns out is rather an attractive young woman and not at all at home cooking for her wrinkled husband, preferring the company of the bored, muscular security guards.
She does apologise, though, as she liberates me.
Apologies to anyone, which probably includes me, who does not like use of the historical present. I was writing this a few days ago when suddenly my fingers are insisting on this ugly tense, as if I am on Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In our Time’ or something…