I am the abstract carpet with head-spinning lines off the elevator on the eighth floor. I am door after door that look the same, the first attempts replying to my key card with an obstinate red blink until one of them lets us in. I am the smell that wafts when the door opens. It’s not clean. It’s not dirty. It’s somewhere in between and it is me and it isn’t and it’s all the ones who came before me.
I am the clinking when the mini-fridge opens to the bottles and bottles that help to numb the—it used to be heartache, but it’s been numb so long that I’ve forgotten. I am the flimsy plastic cups that crush if you squeeze too tight and the liquor sloshing out to mingle with other substance stains on a sofa that exists but not for comfort.
I am the bed a thousand strangers have lain on that somehow feels less foreign than his fumbling drunken hands. I am the creaking of the headboard and the knocking on the wall and the involuntary neighbour who didn’t ask for this. I am the picture on the wall that looks like something and like nothing while it waits and I wait for him to finish.
I am the metallic click of the door snapping shut with a finality and a futility and the sound of heavy footsteps receding in the hall. I am the shards of ice clattering from a machine that can only make cold. I am the mouthful of cotton duvet that stifles my sobs as I choke on my shame.
I am the slow spurt of water, reluctant, always too hot and always too cold. I am three hairs stuck to the shower wall in different coloured shapes and lengths that are so far from home they’ll never be un-lost. I am the soap that doesn’t lather and the towel that doesn’t dry and all the other things that fail their purpose with an air of indifference.
I am heavy ugly curtains with a pull-chain that catches and snags, always partly open, or always not-quite-closed. I am the too-bright shaft of sunlight breaking through the gap, the head-throbbing of a morning full of regret. I am the deafening silence of an empty rented room with too many hours until checkout and still not enough hours and still too many.
This flash fiction was first published by Reckon Review in December, 2021.
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