Neon.

She folded her clothes and pushed them into the duffel bag. It was a men’s bag, but who would complain? She knew she should burn them not pack them, but she couldn’t bear it, not again. She’d cut her hair short and be done with it. Clothes are a reflection of who you are to the world, but she wasn’t anybody. Her outfits mashed together, never matching. She wanted a cigarette. He had kept some in the side table beneath the old digital clock and the phone. 

She brushed the lamp in her hurry, almost knocking it over. She opened the drawer and found a few rolling loose on Gideon’s Bible. It was a King James Edition. She laughed. It wasn’t enough for a King to write the history books, he had to write the damned bible too. She snatched up a few cigarettes, stuck one in her mouth, and put the other in the breast pocket of her flannel.

The air was cool outside the motel. She didn’t bother locking the door. Not like she had the key anyways, but she wouldn’t have locked it even if she had. It was dark this far out of the city, dark enough that she could see a few stars brave enough to peek through the night. The air was thick with a cool mist. It sent a chill down her spine and she rolled down her sleeves. She took a match from her back pocket, folded the book in on itself and pulled a flame. She held the match to her cigarette and took a drag. There were three cars in the parking lot. She had become perceptive of things like that. You had to be, if you wanted to survive out here. 

The first car was a station wagon, forest green, with fake wood paneling on the side. It reminded her of her mother, always driving, just her and her dog squished into the back. She’d never called anywhere home but the back of that car. When her mother finally sold it she mourned it like a death.

The next was some rusted out old Ford. She wasn’t sure if the car was supposed to be that low or if there was a problem with it. Maybe the suspension was bad, or the tires were too flat. The front windshield of the car was full of paper wrappers, all pushed to the passenger side. She bet there was a pillow and blanket in the back, just in case. It’s owner must’ve liked having a bed and a room as much as she had.

The last car was a pickup truck, dark as pitch and high off the ground. It belonged to the owner, a small man in his 60’s. She’d smiled at him as she’d booked the room, and he smiled back. She’d liked him. He knew better than to ask any questions. You rent a room this far out and you’ve got to have a reason, and everyone thinks they need to know it. 

He was bold opening a motel out here in the middle of nowhere in the desert. It was just far enough out from the city to warrant a stop. She felt like an outsider. She was thinking about who the customers must’ve been, but then she realized she was one of them.

She saw headlights on the highway. Her call had gone through; and the promise kept. She didn’t have long to herself now, and it would be a long drive away from here. She didn’t like having to talk for that long. She hoped the driver would have the common courtesy to keep quiet. After that she could be alone whenever she liked, so she’d bear it. She always did.

She had almost finished her cigarette and wondered if she’d have time for another. No, better not to waste it and save it for when it mattered. She had better just enjoy this one. She listened to the hum of the neon sign, felt the light on her face. Was it actually warming her, or was she just imagining it? It had started to drizzle.

The Buick pulled up to her. The woman in the front seat didn’t open the door, didn’t tell her to get in, didn’t even roll down her window. She might get her wish after all. A puddle had formed right in front of the car door. She noticed she had been standing in a ditch. She went around to the trunk and put her bag in. There wasn’t anything else there besides the spare which looked older than the car. She walked back to the passenger door, and thought about sitting in back. She decided against it.

She’d finished her cigarette just in time, and dropped it outside the car. She opened the door and said hello. Her lipstick-stained cigarette rolled into a crack in the sidewalk. She stepped through the puddle, uncaring about the water on her boots, and into the old Buick. The wheel spun and she was a ghost once more. Only the neon hum remained.


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