It was around now that the newsflash about the weather came back to me. Perhaps I had also read something in the morning newspaper, but it had been written in Spanish so it didn’t seem as real as if it were printed in my own language. But there was something very real about the wind that was increasingly buffeting me, the growing rumble of thunder, and what might now be euphemistically described as a heavy shower.
I had to laugh at the irony of having paid for the best hotel room I’d had in a year, while wringing out the excess water from my jeans to lighten the load on my legs. Walking methodically through every block in the quarter for the second time, I’d by now lost my enthusiasm for cheerful whistling. The wind, which drove the slanting rain, drowned out all other sounds including my initially polite requests to a higher power for a moonlit night and a sense of direction. I strange ripping sound tore across the sky.
Well into the second hour, I begrudgingly admitted my incompetence, and that I was no longer having a good time. It was impossible to find anyone to help solve my conundrum as the entire population had fled the streets. Badly parked cars suggested they had been hastily abandoned. Faces glimpsed at me from behind twitched curtains. As I strode balefully down the deserted streets, I felt rather like the lead character in the movie Carrie when she leaves the High School Prom after the incident with the bucket of pig’s blood. With nobody listening, I began to berate myself. Quite loudly – as it happens – as my voice was difficult to pick up over the howling wind. The rain could be quite fairly described as ‘crashing down’.
Eventually, I started entering hotels on the rather flimsy evidence that despite bearing no resemblance to the one I sought – they were still hotels. In Hotel España, I even asked for my room key despite the lobby being clearly laid-out differently – and constructed from different materials – to the one I had known all those hours ago. I finally left when they meekly explained that if I wasn’t Señor Duarte, they couldn’t give me his room. They were sympathetic, but quite firm.
I left that hotel at around two in the morning. My exit was illuminated by a flash of lightning.
Sometime later, Hotel Italia loomed up before me. It seemed familiar. It was familiar. It was mine. On some pro-Spanish whim, it seemed I’d spent much of the night tracking down its Iberian equivalent.
Mildly hysterical, I related my ordeal to the night porter who silently observed the pool of water gathering around my feet. My nonsensical spiel almost convinced him that I was a passing lunatic rather than a guest. Eventually, he placed the key on the counter before stepping back to maximise the distance between us.