“The cleaning cart is parked outside his room; door left ajar. Inside, the sunlight that pours in through the window blinds and floods the room. It is the kind of light that erases contours, as if every atom had been separated then assembled back together in a rush; the leftover particles still float in the air. Under the luminous blanket of dust, over the freshly laid linen, Méche’s body lies abandoned, back towards the entrance. Her right leg hangs over the bed, the sandal barely hanging on her foot; the other is already on the floor. She is holding a clean pillow cover in one hand and dirty sheets in the other. Her vulnerability is disconcerting. The faint rhythm of her breathing replaces the initial silence, making him aware of his own. He finds it impossible to will his own breathing out of his mind and into his body. Now his heart is pounding and he gasps for air. The walls resonate with the drumming in his chest, Cornel thinks. She must not wake up and find him leering. Suddenly her vulnerability feels more like a trap.
The sunlight is blocked for a brief second; a cloud maybe. Enough to snap Cornel from his trance. He heads to the washroom, very slowly, and closes the door. After pacing back and forth for a while, he stares in the mirror and drops his head, smiling. Then he turns on the tap, just a little, to avoid making noise, and washes his hands and face. She has not been to the washroom yet; his dirty towels are still on the floor. After a quick change of clothes – pair of blue jeans and a gray hoodie – Cornel sits on the toilet and wonders. A couple of minutes into his indecision there is a sound: a gentle thump. Her other sandal hitting the floor? Whatever it was, she is up now; he can hear her move. He gets up too, walks to the door and stares nervously at the knob. As expected, Méche grabs it on the other side. He grabs it too, stopping her from turning it. After jerking it a few times she gives up. Either she thought it was locked and gave up or she realized there was someone on the other side. Whatever the case, he hears the room door closing, then silence. Cornel exits into an empty bedroom, not sure if relieved or regretful, not sure of what. Hurriedly, he picks up his toiletry bag and small transistor radio, throws them in the gym bag with the rest of his belongings, then rushes outside.
Safely back in the motel lobby, Cornel hands his laundry to Luke. “I’ll give this to my wife right away. It should be ready in about an hour or so. If you wanna kill some time, go check out the caverns just pass Peach Springs. They’re worth a visit,” says Luke nodding rapidly.
“I might do that. Thanks brother! I’ll see you later.”
Cornel gets in his car and pulls out a map from the glove compartment. After studying it for a bit he gives up and throws it on the passenger seat. With his hands on the wheel he stares out the side window, looking for encouragement, but finds none. Eventually he drops his head and rests it against the soft leather between his thumbs. A few minutes later, he starts the car, backs out of the parking lot, and drives to the back of the motel where there is shade, and parks again. He turns on his trusty transistor radio – folk – rolls down the window, lights up another cigarette, and reclines his seat all the way down. The last image he sees before closing his eyelids is the smoke over him, swinging to the music just before catching the current out the window.
She lies naked on his bed the same way he found her in his room. Her skin looks soft and powdered. Before he touches her he makes sure his hands are clean. But there’s that smell of rubber gloves under his nails he just can’t get rid off. So he scrubs, and scrubs, and drives, down the highway, with his broken naked leg pressed against hers, wrapping lasciviously around hers, an apothecary snake, wrapping the gas pedal, faster and faster. Pop! Her sandal! A tire! They roll off the road. In the tumble, his broken leg bone stabs her in the stomach. Bloodied on the side of the road she gives birth to his son, to whom he pledges his remorse, to whom he pleads her forgiveness. Too late! He turns off the tap after washing the blood off his hands and face, then glides back onto the bedroom, clean, scarless, tall. She is gone. The bed is made. The sheets are fresh. Any evidence of past dreams, gone.
She lies naked on his bed the same way he found her in his room. He dares not touch her. From afar, he admires the valley of her spine, the fecundity of her thighs, the lush roundness of her buttocks. The phone rings. She wakes up and finds him leering.
She lies naked on his bed the same way he found her in his room. He hides under the bed and watches her other sandal fall on the floor by his head, her feet hanging inches from ground. She is sitting on the edge of the bed giggling on the phone. He whispers something on the other side and he can tell she is biting her lip. He rolls out from under the bed, but she is gone.
She lies naked on his bed…
Candice lies naked on his bed, holding Taye’s teddy bear in her arms. He covers her with fresh linen sheets. A child… no, a woman sings gently behind the washroom door. I dream a highway back to you. Oh, I dream a highway back to you love. A winding ribbon with a band of gold. A silver vision come and bless my soul. I dream a highway back to you.”*
*Lyrics from Gillian Welch’s, “I Dream a Highway.”