One-Room Heart

My place is not a real hotel. It is something between a student dormitory and a private building. There are no typical tourists here, all the guests are renting their rooms for months or even years. Most of them are Chinese and Thai students, and the rest of us have come here from all over the world. To work, teach English, study Thai… Or (as the old American from the third floor once told me) to spend the last days in peace.

The hotel residents are all very different, but they do have something in common: they are all afraid of the hotel manager, an old short-haired Thai lady. And she really does look frightening, always standing or sitting behind the reception desk, scanning everything with her sharp eagle eyes. She notices everything and everyone, and she knows exactly who is a hotel guest and who is just a visitor. Every time my ex girlfriend stayed overnight, I had to pay 100 bahts. I thought it wasn’t fair, but I didn’t even think of arguing with her. I would just pay and walk away as fast as I could.

But very soon I realized that her stony face was just a mask, that there was a kind soul behind that tough appearance. At that time my ex was talking of moving in with me, and I asked how much an extra person would have to pay for a month. The manager frowned and asked: “Is that the same lady who was visiting you before?”

– Yes – I said, feeling like a little boy in front of the teacher.

She was just looking at me for some time. – In that case – she finally said – you don’t have to pay anything. I will register her as our guest and she will get another key. – Suddenly, she smiled, and her eyes looked warm for the first time. I smiled back, and run out to bring the good news to my girlfriend.

But “the same lady” changed her mind and broke up with me that very day. I couldn’t sleep at night, and the manager noticed my red eyes. – How are you? – she asked one morning, a few weeks later.

– Good, thank you. How are you? – I said and kept walking towards the stairs.

– I know it is hard now – she didn’t let me escape that easily, and I stopped and looked at her. – I know it is hard – she continued – but your heart will heal and you will be happy again. You have to divide your heart into four rooms. And when you meet another girl, give her only the key of the first room. And if she doesn’t break anything, let her come into the second room. And then, later, the third one. And then, much later, let her into the all four rooms. This way, your heart won’t be broken again.

– I can’t do that – I said. – My heart has just one room.

– Yes, I know – she said quietly, and I knew she really understood. Her eyes changed and her face softened, and I knew I was looking at the real her for the first time. The frightening manager had turned into a sad and lonely lady, and I knew she was just like me. I knew she had a one-room heart too.