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.