A business trip took me away for a few days. The company had paid for me to stay in a budget hotel in a trading estate at the edge of the city. I walked there from the station as it got dark, past the warehouses, along the canal.

I checked in using a computer screen in the reception. There was no-one there, the computer gave me my key card, and I went upstairs in the lift, slowly.

I walked to the end of the corridor, its walls darkened by decades of greasy handmarks, with one of the fluorescent strips strobing, it’s pinging the only sound, turned left and found my room. The key card made a light flash green and the sound of my lock opening echoed in the corridor.

I went into the room, which felt preserved as an example of a 1990s bedroom. The bedsheets were crisp and tight across the mattress, which made no sound as I sat on it. I stood back up and opened the curtains. It was dark outside, but there was one room in the building opposite with its lights still on. As I went to sit back down and think of how to spend my evening, I saw that there was a figure in the room opposite.

The figure came back to the window and spotted me. We stared at each other across the grassless wasteground for a while, wondering why the other was up at this hour. I felt a little less alone, at least there was somebody else away from home and sleepless. In a show of solidarity, I raised my hand to this person. They did the same back to me. I turned and went to bed, contented by this meeting of fellow travellers.

In the morning, I headed out to my appointment. I walked past the building where my companion was last night. It was an office building, yet to be let, completely empty, finished in mirrored glass.


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