Hotel MIR has just opened exclusively to tourists. Until recently, it was used only for official purposes and state visitors. Sure enough, from my room, I would have had a clear shot at the American Embassy — or vice versa, of course.
In the hotel entrance, I encountered a group of women who seemed rather excited about something. They were all dressed up, a bit over the top for 2 pm. There were quite a few of them. Some were dressed rather well, others less so. They had their hair lovingly piled up into huge towers and were running back and forth, some wearing freshly ironed dresses, and others running back to their rooms to retrieve things they’d forgotten. I tried to find out what the fuss was about. A beauty contest? Not young and beautiful enough. True, we do know how special the melancholic Russian Girl is, in all her wonderful simplicity. The cashier effect. But these girls weren’t quite right. Their dresses were uninspired, and although they’d clearly put in quite some effort, their self-made hairstyles failed to convince. Appalling lipstick, nervous airs.
When I later inquired at the reception, I was told: “Yyeeesss, yyeeesss, Miss, Miss.”
“Miss Meyl! Meyl!”
“Oh. Male. They’re men.”
“No no no, Meyl — letter — Miss Potshda — Miss Post Office.’
The Postal Service Beauty Pageant. I was satisfied that Russia was exactly as I wanted it to be: sad and simple.
My room was furnished with a single piece of furniture surrounding the whole room. It served various purposes, starting as a bed, then becoming a make-up table, a group of seats, and, finally, a cupboard. With the carpet, the wallpaper, and the curtains, the room offered an endlessly nuanced variety of shades of brown, broken only by the occasional blue dot on the wallpaper. The one thing that did add some interest and beauty to the room’s rather monochrome color scheme was the fact that the patterns and stains on the seats and wallpaper clashed in every respect. The bed was made with loving severity. The linen was embroidered with the logo Hotel MIR. The bedsheets were perfectly ironed, with clearly visible creases in all the right places, making it all the easier to notice that they were coming apart at the seams.
The first thing I did was lie down on the bed by the open window. It’s not very difficult to get into the mood of “Now I’m so far away and alone, how melancholic, I should write a book.” All you need to do is open the window, let the wind play with the curtains, lie on a hotel bed in the afternoon and look at the ceiling.
At five o’clock, I was woken up by church bells. They played for quite a long period of time. Beautiful. It lasted for at least ten minutes, a perfect snooze function. At some point, I got suspicious, for it was just too bizarrely beautiful. I looked at the church and saw a man high up in the tower, playing the bells with sticks, with much stamina and verve. Picture many bells in various sizes, and a man dancing back and forth between the bells, beating them with large drumsticks.
The phone rang, and a young woman asked me to come to room 217 on the second floor, where I was supposed to pay for my entire stay in advance. I tried to respond with a sassy reply to make clear how impertinent I found her request, but then decided that I shouldn’t take myself and my ways so seriously. So I went to room 217 on the second floor, and found a young girl in a turquoise t-shirt sitting in a hotel room that had been reconfigured as a travel agency. She sits there every afternoon, looking from the TV set to the trees outside the window and back again. Underneath the table lamp was a fishbowl with a little turtle, for whom the clerk had lovingly arranged an underwater plastic nature reserve. I looked at the turtle and smiled. Outside, the bells were tolling again.
Hotel MIR Moscow
9 B. Devyatinskiy Pereulok
Moscow, Russia, 121099
Tel +7 495 290-9150