2:41 AM. It begins. Your mellisonant tones fill my room like honey dripping from my hotel bedcovers. Are you wishing me goodnight or is something actually wrong? Meinen damen und herren, something something something, lots of spit, something something something, probably the intro to Cabaret. Then you speak to me in the tongue of my motherland, and like the good American I am, my ears perk up in monolingual despair. This is the fire brigade, you tell me. Ah, why didn’t you say so earlier?
2:42 AM. You summon me to scramble, but how quickly, well, you leave that up to me. Judging by the gentle lullaby of your voice, I stay braless but grab my phone, because like any good millennial, I have priorities. A compromise I believe you’ll understand in time. You lull me into a relaxing stupor in French, Spanish, and finally, Italian. It repeats. Meinen damen und herren.
I think to myself, this is what the 40s must’ve been like.
The self-loathing emerges.
2:48 AM. Into the empty hallway I spur myself, cardiganed and scarved, eye make-up only slightly smudged. I am alone. Suddenly, a disheveled Bill Bryson comes along and I think to myself, finally! A man to rescue me! I cease all thought, basking in the glow of the patriarchy, and allow him to locate the fire escape as he raises up his arms in what can only be disgust and cries out something to me in German. I’m not ready for my savior to have proof of my idiocy, so I mutter things like “Wo ist die…” and “Ughhh.” I can never seem to remember any nouns, despite my need to be the convincing culturalite that I am.
2:52 AM. We come into the hotel lobby, 4th and 5th in line of your summoned troops. The staff has no idea what is going on, and we alert them to their immediate danger and need to be on your side. At least, I assume. Again, nouns. As your soldiers file in, you make their ranks undeniably clear. Some men come adorned in shined shoes, tucked-in shirts, and briefcases. Others clearly lead the rear and remain undeniably self-conscious, discalced and in boxers. All of a sudden I understand the reveille you sang to me earlier in the night, “Please leave immediately. But if you’re sensible, dress up, and pack your shit.”
3:07 AM. Scanning the internet in the hotel lobby because not even you seem to give a fuck. I run across an anecdote on being a foreign female journalist in India. Stares, saris, and sexual assault. As I have nowhere to go but this velvet circular couch, I think to myself, I wonder if this is like that. The self-loathing continues.
3:09 AM. There’s a strange beeping noise. Please don’t be a bomb, please don’t be a bomb, please don’t be a bomb. It stops. It always stops. You always manage to find the most intricate ways of reminding me that my life is not that exciting.
3:09 AM. I get a strange, stirring sense that the revolution has ignited. The summoned troops seem discontented. The questions you raised are not being answered, and only I and a few blonde others get the privilege of sitting on this red velvet.
3:13 AM. I fumble with my Michel Thomas tracks. Now would be a good time to learn some nouns, as I have a newfound energy in the face of imminent death. I glance around, seeing if anyone has registered my idiocy, and notice the smiling police officer. What potion have you forced on him? It’s 3 in the morning, and he’s German. This does not compute.
3:17 AM. Your attackers have arrived. Men in black and yellow saunter to the desk, here for the counterattack. They strangely carry no weapons. Made clear by their chit chat and blank expressions, they don’t consider you a threat, and apparently you should do the same.
3:20 AM. Their lack of might inspires us. One barefooted man inches toward the elevator. Your siren call stopped long ago, and I suspect he’s had enough of this cold, tile floor. This brave soul disregards your command and pushes the button. Escape! The first wave will no longer be under your midnight dictatorship.
3:21 AM. I lead the second.
3:21 AM. America.