Day Sixty-Six: Motel Excerpt

by Tom Noonan

Our motel was saturated with the imposing smell of chlorine.  The pool at its center was an original shade of green, fenced in with rusted links, and bookended by two palm trees that looked as if they’d been fashioned from stockpiles of infected driftwood.  The fumes that sat above the water were carried across the parking lot, sneaking into our rooms through the small spaces between door and frame, sticking to everything in their reach.  We kept all of our clothes sealed in numbered travel bags, making sure they wouldn’t reek when we were finally able to travel off site.

The rooming assignments were based on experience, for the most part, freshman paired of with freshman, captains given their own singles.  I was the only exception, being paired off with a Drew Starks, a senior who, by his own admission, was only on the traveling roster because he had survived cuts for four years and left the coaches little choice.  Drew hadn’t logged an inning or a single stat, and he drank more than he worked out, but there was always a reason to keep him around.  His freshman year it had been injuries, so they kept him as a practice player, putting him out in the field to plug up holes for controlled scrimmages.  The next two years, he said, they’d tried to get him to quit, relegating him to the 5 am individuals schedule every week, making him do extra conditioning, telling him straight up he was never going to get a fair shake, but they never cut him.  “They don’t even look me in the eye anymore,” Drew told me in our room.  “They send me texts and e-mails, but I can’t remember the last time I talked to any of the coaches directly, actually looked them in the eye like a human.  But I’ll always be there, and that’s the best thing I can do.  Just be there, making them ignore me, knowing they’re actively doing it, that they think about it.  It gets to them, I’m pretty sure, you know?  Having to bring me down here, that I made it this far.  I fucking love that.”

Other than the smell, the room felt blank enough to be comfortable.  Motel rooms that have a design to them, some sort of theme, always bother me, and won’t let me sleep.  It’s like sleeping in someone else’s house, the restlessness of all that, wondering if you can sleep in, what you should be helping with.  The bland rooms are always easier, transitory, capable of handling your projections, becoming what you want.  Give me a TV, a bed, and a linoleum-drenched bathroom, and I’ll do the rest.

For the first hour in the room, we searched for the remote before calling the front desk.  “Can you bring up a remote to room 211?”

“Sorry, sir,” the other end hummed, “we don’t have any.”

“Are there any empty rooms?  We could just get another”

“No, there are no remotes at the motel.  They’ve all been stolen.  There are controls on the TV.”

“Stolen?”

“I’m sorry sir.”

“All of them, like, at once?”

“Sir, there are controls on the TV.  Can I help you with anything else, or will that be all?”

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