Andrew Roe

This Is What It’s Like

It was his first time in a motel. He’d done some­thing, some­thing that had been com­ing a long time, and now he was in a motel, stay­ing at the Val‑u Rite 4U Motel #14, part of an anony­mous clus­ter of cheap lodg­ing and fast food places, right off the free­way, just past Bakersfield. The clerk did­n’t look up, just took his Visa and slid the key, which was­n’t a key but a white plas­tic card, toward him with­out say­ing a word.

The bed, the TV, the dress­er. All like so. There was a met­al stand where you could put a suit­case but he didn’t have one. He turned on the bath­room light. Sink, toi­let, show­er. Cracks and mul­ti­ple dis­col­orations. The toi­let paper roll almost emp­ty. He’d have to call about that. His stom­ach was not well.

He sat on the bed, because that’s what you do in a motel, right? The car­pet was rough­ly oat­meal col­ored. He was glad he was wear­ing shoes.

The remote didn’t work. He’d have to call about that too.

This is what it’s like, he thought. This is what it’s like to stay in a motel. After all these years.

But now that he was here, he didn’t feel dif­fer­ent, he didn’t feel changed. He imag­ined the front desk phone ring­ing and ring­ing and the clerk just sit­ting there, not answer­ing, let­ting it ring.

He stood up and switched on the TV the old way. The sound blast­ed back at him. He low­ered the vol­ume and found an old sit­com he remem­bered from when he was a kid. A show he’d loved, watch­ing it with his mom every week, one of the few things they looked for­ward to.

The show seemed so dumb now. Nothing was fun­ny. The peo­ple looked ugly and fuzzy and fucked up, looked like beings from anoth­er plan­et. What were they think­ing when they made this show? It was poison.

He walked over to the cur­tain. Inhaled the dust. Moved his face to the win­dow glass, almost touch­ing but not quite. Only two oth­er cars in the park­ing lot besides his. The sky out­side was dull and gray. Vacant. Tired. He tried not to think about the sky. And he tried not to think about what was behind, only ahead.

The voic­es on the TV laughed and laughed, the sound like daggers.