No Sign of StoppingAlmasi Hines
It was the sound of rain that woke him, not the thunder. Raindrops were spraying the window sill. A small puddle had formed on the motel room carpet. He rubbed his eyelids with the heels of his fists. He had been having a terrible dream, although he couldn’t recall what it was about. He stayed like that for a bit. Just lying there, listening to the rain and thunder. After awhile, he sat up. He walked over to the window. He stood there in the puddle. His socks were quickly soaked. He didn’t mind. He hoisted the window higher. The voices of customers wafted in from the Chinese restaurant next door. The phone rang. He walked to the nightstand and picked it up. “Hello?” he said. There was no answer. “Hello?” he said again. Still no answer. Then, whoever was on the other end hung up. The man placed the phone back in the cradle. He stood, thinking over the phone call. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. He walked back to the foot of the bed. The man picked up the bottle of Jim Beam. It was half-empty. He held it midair. He sat it back down. He grabbed the ice bucket on the dresser.
He walked to the nightstand. He fumbled through the stacks of paper and takeout receipts until he found his key card. He didn’t want to get locked out again. The girl who worked night manager could be a real bitch. The last time he’d locked himself out, she’d looked at him with such contempt – like he was a mangy, street dog – before prying herself away from the small television on the reception desk.
As soon as he got to the door, the phone rang. He hesitated. The phone rang twice more, then stopped. The man left without putting on his sneakers.
His door opened to a walkway overlooking the parking lot. His room was on the second floor. It was raining harder now. Raindrops bounced like pebbles against the hoods of the vehicles below. In some spots, where the rain gutters needed repair, the rain cascaded like tiny waterfalls onto the walkway.
The man walked towards the ice machine. His wet socks slapped against the concrete. When he returned, there was a girl leaning against the railing outside his door. She was redheaded and barefoot. She wore cut-off blue jeans and a pink tube top. She was skinny, like one of those girls on the TV model shows. She had her back to him. But he could see she was smoking. Gray smoke streamed from her mouth. In her other hand, resting against her hip, was a bottle.
She turned towards him when he approached. The light wasn’t so good, most of the bulbs in the walkway had burnt out, but he could see that she was young. He could also see the tenseness in her face of someone who’d experienced more than their share of hard times.
“Hey,” she said.
He nodded, but didn’t say anything. He walked past her. He could hear the phone ringing inside his room. He reached into his pocket for his key card.
“I like it like this,” the girl said, “when it rains. I like to stand outside and look up. Feels like flying.”
The man looked at her. He didn’t know what to say. He just smiled and nodded. He put his card in the slot and pulled it out. The signal flashed red. He pushed it in again.
“Ain’t you gonna’ say nothin’?” the girl said.
The man stopped. The phone was still ringing. He turned his head towards the girl. She was looking straight at him now. Her head was cocked at a strange angle, like she was watching something peculiar. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know you were talking to me.”
“Who else I’d be talkin’ to?” the girl said. She waved her open palm like she was holding an invisible tray, showing the man that there was no one else around.
“You got some ice there?” the girl asked. The man nodded. Inside his motel room, the phone stopped ringing.
“Guess we can have a party then,” the girl said. “Want to share a drink?”
He didn’t, really. He had his own whiskey.
The man looked down at his wet socks. “Alright,” he said. “One second.” He pulled his key card from the door. It flashed green. He opened it and walked inside. He had meant to grab some cups and meet the girl outside, but when he turned around, she was already entering his room. He knew that any woman that would walk into a strange man’s motel room was not the type of woman you wanted to keep company with, but he was too lonesome to send her away.
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