Thursday morning, but it could be Saturday. Who knows any more? The only definite is that this story is not about renovating bathrooms and tiling.
The shower helps for a while.
He turns up the heat to barely bearable, the pain is his escape now, but it doesn’t work like it used to.
There are too many memories, all trying to get out at once.
Towel wrapped around his waist, Ben clamps his hands around the rim of the sink. The steam obscures his reflection, but an eye manages to peer back.
His head relaxes below his shoulders.
He look around his bathroom.
The contrast in colors to how he feels is always an amusing observation.
Yellow takes him back summers as a teenager.
Messing about with friends.
Indigo and ash balance everything out.
He’s allowed to be a boy so long as she remembers he’s still a man.
The phone rings.
He answers. Time to come in again.
Another day, another job.
Flying hundreds of times before hasn’t prepared him for today’s turbulence. It never does.
Each one of those flights had a crying baby sitting two rows in from of him. This time he tears into his airline-supplied bread roll.
Crumbs scatter across his stomach.
Ben’s attention blurs reality for a second and he imagines he’s head butting the drop-down tray in front of him.
The good news is he hasn’t reached that point yet.
The bad news is he isn’t far off.
A smooth landing leads to rough baggage reclaim.
As usual, other people are the problem.
Everyone gets in the way. Bumping, grabbing, running and shouting.
Before completely losing himself in the airport’s architecture, Ben makes a pit-stop in the restroom.
This place is fancy, he’s thinking. So grand, in fact, that people would most likely rather wait until they get home to pee.
No one wants to defile the grouting.
The restroom is quiet and it’s beautiful.
Flooring that’s inspired by the half-moon, a pattern that repeats throughout. Created to blur the lines between the past and the future.
Pendant lights hanging from the ceiling illuminate the evidence of past fights. Designed by Aino and Altar Aalto, they’re perforated along the bottom edge to create a seductive glow across the basin.
Ben takes a moment to sit in the chair built by Pierre Jeanneret. He’s only come across it three times before in his life.
Most people walk by without giving this masterpiece a second thought.
Made from cane, it was birthed into existence in India in 1956.
The bathroom’s a calming mid-century vista with dark walnut encasing the ceramics and black taps from Dornbracht.
He rotates it a frictionless quarter-turn, letting the cool water escape onto his warm hands.
Smoother than Casanova.
Singing Happy Birthday twice over, he makes sure to get the thumbs. In these unpredictable times you can’t be too sure, wherever you find yourself.
The taxi’s warm and sticky, the driver warmer and stickier but at least he’s quiet.
Ben asks to be let out a block away from the safe house, he walks the rest of the way.
Children kick a soccer ball in the street, blissfully unaware of what’s happening around them and so it should be.
Ben arrives at the address he memorized back at base. The outside is plain, typical of the area around him.
No one would suspect a thing.
A red door with a brass knocker is in front of him. He lifts the knocker and lets gravity do the rest, three time should do the trick.
It swings open and he expects an 80 year old butler to greet him.
Welcome, we’re glad you’re here. The voice from behind the door has no face.
Thanks for inviting me.
Please, after you.
The corner Ben’s mouth tenses. Neither a smile nor discomfort but somewhere in between.
The stairs are creaky with two fades patches on each step.
Shoes are scattered in the hallway, coats hung at the rack and wires hugging the skirting board but the house is quiet.
The voice that opened the door overtakes him on the right.
She’s clad in jeans, a white tank top and trainers with a tick on them. The hair is shoulder length, brown and straight.
His new acquaintance guides him to the table in the kitchen where a man is waiting. The muscles on his face and shoulders are tight as he leans over his laptop.
Is this him?
I hope so or this postman must be very confused.
Madeline explains the trouble she’s having reaching her source in the Moroccan Embassy.
A suspicious male has been following the informant each time they arrange to meet.
Two weeks ago she had to catapult herself onto a moving bus heading West to the middle of nowhere.
The driver was paid in full but that was good beer money, this can’t happen again.
US government officials believe an attack on a senior diplomat is imminent.
Getting to our informant is critical, Ben.
The next four hours is planning.
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
As the sun balances on the horizon, they call it quits and Ben is offered a shower, food and a bed for the night.
An orange towel lies on the top of a chair in the bedroom.
Not his go-to color but he’s nothing if not an open-minded assassin.
Madeline shuts the door behind her as she leaves. Following her isn’t an option allowed by social etiquette so he waits for now.
Five minutes pass. He swiftly makes for the bathroom.
Entering, a large window turns into a canvas to show off the last of the sunset.
Back inside, and five plants line the gangway to the shower.
Four of them are your typical houseplants. Ones that would survive through one Ben’s tours in Iraq without a drop of water.
But the fifth, well… It’s one magnificent beast.
Ben happily spends hours in the Saturday midday sun shoveling his emotions into a hole he plans on forgetting the location of.
But, for now, he’s willing to open Pandora’s Box
The fifth plant is closer to a tree and it fills him with joy.
Look close enough and he can see Howler Monkeys and Harpy Eagles in the canopy. Listen hard enough and the frogs are at the microphones doing karaoke.
The fifth plant is a fiddle-leaf tree that sits within the fig family, it’s a native West African species that now finds itself under a shower head.
He turns the rainforest’s rain on which catches the leaves that will one day be used to wrap Lembas Bread in a remake of Lord of the Rings.
It’s a primal sound that echos in his ears.
Ben doesn’t notice the tiles underfoot until his eyes open, he spends his normal six and a half minutes showering time studying them.
What the hell are they called?
The pattern is rare.
Psychedelic in nature but not quite Damask. This is a trip for him.
In the end he settles for psychedamask.
86 degrees outside means the next night to meet.
There’s an atmosphere in the room that only grows as the countdown continues.
Ben packs his things and begins the journey into town.
He’ll draw the informant to the Jama El f’na Market and then towards Hotel Rouge around the corner where the stalker will be dispatched.
Alleyways line the road leading to the market.
Two eyes mean he can’t watch each one at the same time, an observation that spirals into reality within seconds.
The sound of being attacked always precedes the physicality. Footsteps through the darkness alert him this time.
Internal alarm bells sound too slowly though and Ben finds himself on the floor.
His brain takes two seconds to catch up but the realization arrives quickly when calibration is complete.
No time for panic.
Twist and up.
Always stay on your feet, that’s the training.
This guy’s just a henchman.
He doesn’t stand a chance.
Ben dodges, ducks and dives.
He feels good.
When his training kicks in, he doesn’t need to think and that’s when he excels.
A swift blow takes his opponent to the ground.
How did you know I was coming?
Gurgling, bloody laughter rises through the alleyway.
Ben’s heard it before. Hysterics from a man that knows more than him, this time he’s certain it’s because there’s a mole from within his organisation.
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More heavy footsteps.
They’re getting faster.
He sidesteps into the house on his right as they veer the corner.
The door opens with a single twist of the handle and he shuffles inside.
Sharp left takes him into the bathroom on the ground floor.
Cushioning the door, he locks himself inside and puts his ear to the window. His first chance to see his surrounding.
The lights are already on. Bad for the environment, good for Ben.
His attention, previously on his attackers, now focuses on the tiles in front of him.
900×900 pearlescent shimmers delight him and a dangerous smile accelerates across his face.
His fake ID could’ve used some of that when he was a teenager.
Certainly would’ve saved him a few arguments.
Ben’s cheeks lie on subway tiling that goes unnoticed exclusively by those who ride the subway.
They’re dismissed with the tilt of a head and the rise of a nose but, when they’re not being choked in carcinogens that make cigarettes look like children’s toys, their aesthetic is clean and timeless.
As the door crashes down behind him, so do his daydreams.