Mr Lush opens his eyes and looks up at the ceiling of his suite at the Catoy. His head aches and he feels feverish. He slips into his green velvet house slippers with the large embroidered ‘L’ and drags himself to the bathroom. In the mirror, he sees the beast he has become: His eyes are glassy and his hair is greasy and dishevelled. While enjoying a long hot shower (after having taken a big sip of the Bloody Mary he so wisely ordered the previous evening to be delivered in the morning) he reflects on the previous evening’s events. His female companion had been an absolute riot. It had been a long time since Lush’s last attempts at flirting. Initially a little rusty, over time, Lush rekindled a forgotten sense of suavity and the blonde turned her body more and more in his direction. Conversation flipped between moments of superficial amusement and philosophical depth. The fact that Olivier (that poor Samaritan) was picked up by the Rubens cat soon after their introductions made the conversation run more smoothly. Luckily, Elisabeth – such was the name of this blonde apparition – had a small suite one floor above his own. This made the exit at the end of the third act – despite the hangover – more easily manageable.
Freshly showered and having dried himself with the hotel’s cashmere-soft towels, he slips into a dove-grey double-breasted suit, ties a burnt orange tie around his neck, and strides down the marble staircase to the breakfast room. By now, his headache has subsided and he playfully skips down the final few stairs. If he had managed to be a bit more of the Playboy he had always wanted to be at Eton, then perhaps these moments of sentimentality could perhaps have been avoided.
The bright light of his good mood quickly begins to flicker. As he takes his seat in the breakfast room, his calm is disturbed by the loud noise of laughter. At a table across from his, two patrons are holding up an all-too familiar letter and laughing. Mr Lush instantly recognises his (now former) cigarette friend and a common acquaintance from their schooldays. In response, he orders poached eggs with bacon and a glass of crémant. Not contained in his order, but present at the table nonetheless is a distinct sense of shame. Once the laughter has subsided, Mr Lush turns to face his accusers. The gentlemen have noticed him and are waving him over. He accepts their invitation and joins them, crémant in hand. He greets the gentlemen with a sweaty handshake, and chooses a chair with an unobstructed path to the emergency exit. As suspected, the gentlemen are not disposed to subtlety and ask with perfidious arrogance whether Lush is serious. They even have the audacity to ask which drug Lush was under the influence of when he had written this nonsense, even going so far as to request a tête-à-tête with his drug dealer. He ignores their questions and sinks deeper and deeper into his chair. Mr Lush has never been much of one for tirades. He has always (much to the annoyance of his still-wife) chosen the path of least resistance and withdrawn into his shell. What would Olivier do now?, he wonders, the laughter still ringing in his ears. Lush feels the site of a malicious pat on the back begin to burn with shame. He takes a final gulp of his crémant and says the following words with precision: I’m sorry to be leaving! I am expecting a pimp. I owe him quite a large sum of money. Having finished speaking (but not without allowing himself a second to enjoy his companions’ bafflement), he throws a cigarette into the corner of his mouth and stands up. He walks with the nonchalance and irresistible cool of an American gangster leaving the scene of a crime – Little Green Bag by George Baker playing in his mind – towards the smoking area. Ocelot Olivier, wearing a rather dashing double-breasted blazer, pink cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, toasts our hero’s arrival with a glass of champagne. DC/MM