“ This place is too elitist,” she sighed, putting her bag down as they entered the hotel room.
“ Really? You got that from the check-in at the reception?” he said, “Well, you made the bookings for this place.”
“I didn’t know then. It’s not like people add this as a comment on online reviews. People who come here must be the elite anyway.”
“Ah nice, we are elite. I like that.”
“No no.. I feel quite uncomfortable. Guilty, you know. The people I work with.. The socially and economically disadvantaged ones whose welfare I work for.. they could never afford one meal in a place like this in their lives..”
“Sweetheart, there is no reason to feel guilty. You deserve a break. Can you just focus on yourself for now? And talking of meals, I am starving! Let’s please check out lunch.. Ooh, and desserts!”
“I wish I could be more like you. Focusing on the little pleasures. On myself.”
“Do I sense some sarcasm?”
“Of course not. Let’s go eat.”
She watched herself in the giant mirrors as they descended the steps to reach the restaurant.
“I should have at least combed my hair again,” she said, self- consciously regarding her image in the mirror, framed by giant teak woodwork on all sides.
“You look just beautiful,” he kissed her on the forehead, and held her hand tighter.
As they entered the restaurant, she gasped- it was massive, ornate and sophisticated. The high windows let in day-light in a way that made the whole massive room glow with a golden light, bouncing off the warm coloured wood.
“Oh good, not too crowded,” she said.
He led her to a table by the window- overlooking the sea, and threw his head back on the chair as he watched the waves crashing onto the shore.
She sat upright on the edge of her chair, and looked around the room- an old couple who maintained a practiced stoic expression, a young couple who were making no attempt to rein in public displays of affection- the woman was donning an obscenely big and shiny engagement ring, a family of four with two teenagers who were all eating in a kind of sullen silence..
“Is this island supposed to be white-people only?” she said with an air of impatience.
“What are you talking about? You’re not white.”
She did not respond because the soup arrived.
“Oh look. Actually don’t look. You’ll have to turn your head. A black man just walked in.”
“He’s handsome,” she smiled slyly at her boyfriend.
“I know you’re not going anywhere.”
She watched the new entrant- in a largely empty restaurant, he chose a corner that was hidden from view from the rest of the diners- by a faux partition. He walked quickly over as if he did not want to be seen by anyone at all.
“ Oh my God. He seems so uncomfortable. Like he would almost rather be invisible.”
The same thing happened for another two days. Sitting at their favourite table by the window, she would notice the black gentleman inconspicuously make his way to the hidden table.
“That’s it. He’s a paid guest at this hotel- this isn’t fair. Why should he have to hide himself? I will speak to him.”
“Never mind. Just can you excuse me for a minute please?”
She walked over behind the faux-partition.
“Hello. I am sorry to interrupt your meal. Can I please speak with you?”
He offered her a seat.
“Thanks. I know we haven’t met before. But I would really like it if you would join me and my boyfriend for a meal by the window table.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it. I hope you don’t mind, but I do prefer it this way.”
“Why do you sit here, hidden from view?”
“Well these are sophisticated people here at this hotel. But still, I do draw a lot of attention and stares. I prefer to avoid that.”
“This is so unfair. You have paid for all the facilities here. You have as much right to this public space as the others.”
“Then you don’t need to just accept this. It will take courage, but do this. Not just for yourself, but for others like you.”
“Look lady, you seem nice. I’m sorry I cannot join you and your boyfriend for lunch.”
She got up, and walked back to her table, a little disappointed but also with adrenaline rushing through her. She had given it a shot, for something she believed in.
A few minutes later, the black gentleman passed by their table, and dropped off an envelope. The boyfriend looked completely dazed and then ecstatic. He went running after the gentleman, and she saw him speak to him like an excited little boy. The gentleman seemed patient but weary.
She opened the envelope- it was 2 passes to the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Can you believe who we just met?” the boyfriend panted as he got back.
“Who is he?”
“He is only the Formula one world champion! How can you not know? I always tell you, you should watch sports with me. He said you spoke with him? What did you speak about?”
“Oh no.. no no..
I thought he was shy…. You know, because he was the only black man here… in this elite white-dominated setting…I thought he was a target of racism…”
He threw up his hands, and looked heavenward, “Well, not until 15 minutes back.”
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