Sometimes I write just to write; to see if I can put into words what I was seeing in a way that brings others in to it. I don’t try to imbue it with some kind of meaning, I just try to capture the scene. I’ve been more intrigued by trying do engage in this kind of concrete writing since taking a class called Writing Close to the Earth with Jonathan Rogers. So, this is one of those just-to-write kind of posts…
I was somewhere in Ohio, and the storm that I had passed through had been the worst I’d ever seen. Torrential rain coupled with lightning that rivaled a strobe light at the local rave made driving impossible. For the first time I can remember, I was forced to pull over and wait it out.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Red Roof Inn just before midnight. The place was quiet and the night clerk yawned as he assigned me a room. “223. Best thing to do is just pull around back and go in there. Up the stairs and on the left.” I followed his directions, trying out several parking spots before settling on one that seemed to give me the straightest path to the door. The rain was still coming down, and I was resigned to getting wet. I grabbed the cat carrier and yanked it out of the seat, feeling the weight shift as the little black cat inside slid from one end to the other. “Sorry, Asha,” I said, pressing my face to the carrier door. She turned her back to me. I waded through the water in the parking lot, soaking my jeans to mid-shin. The clerk hadn’t mentioned the flooding.
Early the next day, the rain had stopped, and the streetlights glinted off oily puddles in the dark parking lot. I coaxed Asha back into her carrier, bribing her with treats and bits of food and headed out into the cool morning. I was trying to pile a suitcase, a litter box, a bouquet of flowers carefully wrapped in wet paper towels and several miscellaneous bags in the front seat when I heard a rapping. I stood up, and looked around. The parking lot was still empty, and all of the rooms on that side of the hotel were dark. I leaned back in to create a space for Asha, who was in her carrier, loudly explaining why she did not think any of this was a good idea, when the rapping came again. I straightened up and hit my head on the door-frame as I tried to catch a glimpse of the culprit.
On the second floor, just above where my car was parked, an old man had pulled back the curtain to his window and was looking at me. Despite the darkness I could see him clearly. His thick grey hair was tousled, as if he’d just crawled from the bed. He was naked from the waist up, and I briefly wondered if he was wearing pants when he rapped again. He wanted my full attention. My eyes met his and his eyebrows pressed together as he jabbed a finger at me. I looked at him, slightly perplexed, wondering what he could possibly want from me. I looked around the lot, and confirming it was empty, pointed to myself, raising my eyebrows. He jerked his head once, down, then up, and pointed at me again. Then he pointed at the car next to me. I was still confused, and he repeated his motions, adding a snarl this time. You. Car. I looked over at the old black El Camino parked next to mine, and suddenly I understood that he was concerned that I would ding his car as I loaded mine. I gave him two thumbs up and a wide grin to let him know the message had been received, and I was committed to protecting his car.
He stayed at that window, watching and scowling, as I finished moving stuff around in my car, loaded the cat in, and tucked the flowers behind her. I thought about taking my time finishing the packing just to see if he would stay there, but there was something slightly unsettling about being watched. I shut the passenger door and walked around the car with his eyes still on me. And then, just before I got into the car, I did what any 21st century person with a smartphone would do: I took a picture. The flash reflected against the empty window, and the light went on in the room. I jumped in my car, turned the key and headed on out before he could make it downstairs. I wasn’t sure what he was intending to do, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t planning to make a new friend. Plus, I still didn’t know if he was wearing pants.