The hotel lobby was dark and quiet. It was 6 o’clock sharp when the old butler heard the ringing from the kitchen. He dried his palms with the sleep pants and passed off the lobby slowly to the door. The boy was standing outside, next to his leaned rucksack against the wall, feeling cold by the early morning breeze. The aged man opened the creaking English door and nodded, then he left it open and started to the corridor. Pulling his hands off his hoodie pockets, the boy grabbed the trolley handle and entered.

The noisy sound of the broken wheel of the bag echoed all over the hall. He saw a movement at the far end of the saloon in the dark. The lobby was spacious and divided into several parts by tea tables and seats all over. The boy sat on a wooden sofa across the counter and laid his blue-red rucksack on the painted wall. On the right was the reception area with no one around, next to a screen door with a big yard behind it full of willow trees under the up-coming sunlight. On the left side was an iron round stair going up to the second floor which seemed to be abandoned and then was a corridor with a standing mirror that was the access to the elevator and the restaurant.

The lobby was getting brighter, and the boy was watching the five round-watches hung at the head of the counter, telling the time of different cities around the world; three of them were out of order. There was a yawning sound coming from the end of the saloon, which was still dim and hidden in the shadow. The old butler came through the room, wearing a white shirt under a navy vest, pulling it in his trousers, using his all-time shaking hands. He went behind the round stair. Meanwhile, the receptionist got up of the bed and stretched his arms with a moaning sound. He was an overweight gray-haired man of 60s with three days beard and sunken eyes. He pulled his shirt and wore his black coat while stepping toward the reception, and saw the boy sitting there reading and whispering some words from his notebook.

A door opened on the left side of the reception, and a juvenile soldier came out of the parking lot. He stood beside the counter and laid his elbow next to the call bell and took off his green cap.

“When did you come back?” the receptionist asked.

“About 2, I guess,” the soldier answered.

“What was going on?”

“I didn’t get close, but I saw some scenes,”

The boy listened to the conversation as he repeated some sentences to himself. Then he got up and stepped alongside the soldier before the old man.

“Are the outlets in order?” asked the boy.

The soldier replied, “Yeah, go ahead,”

“Can I check your ID card, sir?” asked the receptionist.

As the boy continued talking to the man, the soldier stared at the boy’s long hair, yet not long enough to wear them.

“What’s your business here? Everything is closed,” asked the receptionist.

“It’s an international matter, not gonna get canceled,” responded the boy.

“Your room will be available at 2,” said the old man, smiling respectively to the boy.

The soldier was gazing at the boy’s trimmed cheek with a hostile glance.

“I thought I could have a nap,” replied the boy.

“What time is your international thing?” asked the soldier.

“It’s tomorrow morning, not far,” answered the boy, looking at his shaved hairs seemed like porcupine spines.

“You may stay in the lobby, sir,” said the receptionist, and walked toward his bed, which was visible now by the daylight coming through the room.

“So what was happening?” asked the boy. “Did you catch any action?”

“It was normal, just a gathering,” answered the soldier, putting his cap on.

“Right! I thought you were supposed to be there,” said the boy. “you know? Taking care of things?”

The soldier laughed. “It’s not like that,” he stated and began to roam about the place, arms crossed.

The boy relaxed in the same chair. All of his word lists were on a wooden table in front of him. He gave a glance and threw them on the table. His battery was dying. He plugged his phone and leaned his head back, watching the soldier marching in front of him.

When the boy woke up, the room was full of light. The soldier was gone, and a middle-aged man was sitting on a sofa opposite the screen door, jotting down something on a napkin. His yellow tie was shining, and his lobes were stretched down. The receptionist walked through the lobby from the corridor and bowed wordlessly to the man. The boy unplugged his phone and stepped to the counter.

“Is it ok to leave my stuff here?” asked the boy.

“It’s all right,” said the receptionist, drinking his black tea.

The boy reached out the door into the alley. Outside, the sun was sudden and a cold wind was blowing gently. He walked down the shady side on the curb edge and stepped toward the end of the street.

The street was tranquil. A few cars were passing now and then. There was no pedestrian nearby, and just the sound of singing sparrows broke the silence. The sounds were arising from the big gardens on the right side. The boy was watching the entrances, which were guarded by electric cameras and tied circles of barbed wire on top. Tall and lush trees were visible, rose behind the iron bars. In front of each tall gate and under a line of colorous flags, was a small-green warden booth with a young soldier inside carrying a riffle. Two soldiers were standing outside the boxes, walking carelessly back and forth before the gates, and the flags were waving above them. Others were inside, watching the empty street.

The boy reached the end of the street and turned left. He walked past some decrepit buildings designed with turquoise tile and took some photos.

The cafe was loud and crowded and split into two parts. On the left was a rustic gathering table, surrounded by a large number of university students. Girls were yelling, and boys were laughing. On the other side, small round tables have placed unplanned all across. The boy went directly to the right and pulled his hands off his hoodie pocket. He looked around. There was a coat tree on the corner of the counter, and three young guys were behind the bar, serving cafe and swinging with blues music. The walls were full of frames with graphic posters of singers and movies. There was only one customer on the right. He was sited near the window, exhaling the smoke of his cigarette.

“Come on! Metallica? still?” said someone from the back.

The boy stood up. They hugged and sat on the table.

“I thought I came soon,” said the boy.

“How long you been here?” asked the friend.

“Just now,”

“I mean in Tehran,”

“I arrived soon; I slept in the lobby for two hours,”

“How was the trip?”

“Great! they broke my luggage wheel,”

“How come?”

“And the top handle ripped,”

“Now you’re in Tehran,” said the friend and laughed.

“So, you live in this area?” asked the boy.

“Ali?” someone shouted from behind the counter.

“What do you want?” asked Ali.

“Tea is fine,”

Ali walked to the kitchen. The discussion was more heated on the other side, and the music sound was faded out. They were discussing the last night’s gathering. Some girl’s scarfs had fallen on their shoulders. Their backpacks had laid on the cement floor. The boy stared at the full ashtray on the table close to the window, which was empty now, and then to a poster above, with the same logo on his hoodie. After a while, Ali came back from the kitchen with a glass of tee on a round saucer. He was wearing an apron on his turtleneck sweater.

“I used to, but after I got rejected I couldn’t afford here,”

He sat on the table.

“Is it like the highest place in town, right?” asked the boy.

Ali smiled and said, “No we’re not even near it,”

The boy was looking at the ceiling, full of hanging lights.

“So you ready for the exam?” asked Ali

“I don’t know; I feel like I forgot everything,”

“Yeah, that happens,”

“You went to one of those buildings in the street below?”

“Yeah, the one with the white iron bars,”

“I thought it would be crowded like some pictures I saw,”

“Not in this time of year,” answered Ali,

The boy held his hands around the tee glass, which was still hot.

“What’s going on with other guys, do you see them around?” asked Ali.

“Not much,”

“You just need to step out your home to see everyone in that city,”

The boy smiled, “Yeah, that still happens,” He said.

Ali pointed to a guitar that was on a stand and placed next to a tiny bookshelf.

“Do you wanna play?” asked Ali.

“I heard I can’t take it with me,” stated the boy.

“I bought it from a guy who was leaving,”

“you keep it here?”

“Sure, yeah,” said Ali, pulling out a cigarette from the pack, “Have one,”

“It’s been five months,” said the boy, picking up the cigarette pack.

“Good for you, since when?” asked Ali, lighting up his cigarette.

“After the university,” said the boy.

“You’re gonna need it there,” said Ali, laughing and exhaling the smoke of his first drag.

“I hear that a lot,” said the boy, pulling out a cigarette of the pack.

“How long are you staying? asked Ali

“I may stay awhile; I don’t know,”

Ali got up again and went to the other side. After greeting everyone around the table, he sat with them and got in the talking. The boy drank his tee slowly. He pulled out his handsfree, and untangle its wire, looking at Ali’s cigarette, sited on the ashtray, sucking its skin.

When the boy entered the lobby, two middle-aged ladies were standing before the counter. They were circled by travel bags, lying on the floor. The boy pulled out his phone and sat on the same seat and grabbed his broken rucksack from the ground. When the old butler called him for the keys, the boy touched the “Purchase” green icon under the ticket information and saved the file.

A young writer from Iran. (www.danialamari.com)