Buildings Like Black Skeletons

Painting by Alessandro Andreuccetti

The buildings surrounding the hotel room were tall and black. Outside the window, the dark streets of Madrid glowed under city lights. Inside, a small lamp illuminated half the bedroom. The American sat across from the girl he checked in with. She stood up from their bed and walked to the minifridge. 

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“It hurts.”

She grabbed three shot bottles of vodka and a whisky glass.

“What else is in there?”


He walked to the window and cracked it open. The breeze was cool, and he shut it again.

“Come take a look at the view,” the man said.

“No, thank you.”


“It’s not worth it.”

The radiator kicked on and filled the room with a hum.

“I love you.” he said.

“I know.” she sighed, finishing her glass.

“I’m happy. Are you happy?”

“Yes. Where will we go next?”

“Anywhere you want, like I promised.”

“I don’t know what I want.” She stared at the floral carpet. “Can we just go home?”

“We don’t have a home.”

“We can make one.”

“Not anymore.”

“But maybe—What is that?”

The American lit a cigarette. “It’s the church bells. Three o’clock.”

“I hate that sound. How did it get so late? I feel so old. You won’t love me when I’m old.”

“I’ll always love you. Besides, it’s easier now.” He paused. “You know how hard it is with—”

“I don’t know anything,” she interrupted. “How could I? How could you?”

“Well, I know we don’t have to worry anymore. In fact, we should celebrate. You love to celebrate.” He reached into his weathered suitcase and retrieved a bottle of spiced rum.

They sat drinking and smiling vaguely at each other. Then came a commotion from outside. The woman got up to see what it was.

“Just a few teenagers causing trouble. Probably drunk. They should be in bed. It’s cold out there. They’re going to catch a cold.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the view.”

She looked back out the window at the tall buildings staggered down the street. “They look like black skeletons.”

“I’ve never seen one.” He took another drag.

“You might have.”

“Don’t be dark.”

“You could have at least come with me.”

“An operation like that? I would have worried. You know how I am when I worry.” He lit another cigarette. 

“I was worried. I am worried. It still hurts.”

“That’s just the air. It’s perfectly natural.”

“Can I have another drink?”

“Sure.” He cut an orange he found in the fridge and squeezed it into another glass of rum.

“What’s that?” she asked, returning to the bed.

“It’s my own creation.”

“Does it have a name?”


“Should we name it?”


She took a sip. “It tastes like licorice.”

“Well,” he said, “you asked for it. If you don’t like it, pour it down the goddamn drain.”

“No, I didn’t ask for this. But fine.” She threw the glass in the direction of the sink, and it shattered on the wall. “Are you happy?”

“Enough. You’re delirious. I’m taking you back tomorrow. They messed you up.”

“I’m fine,” she said. There’s nothing wrong with—” her eyelids started to flutter. “nothing wrong with me,” she recovered.

“No, I don’t think you’re fine. First thing in the morning, we’re going back.”

“Please don’t take me back. I’m sorry. I feel fine. I’m not going back.” She rose from the bed and started for the door.

The man began to give chase when something on the bed caught his eye. He called out to her, but she was gone.

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