The Labyrinth of a Roadside Hotel
I’d never had a Black Manhattan before, in fact, I’d never even heard of a Black Manhattan before that cool August night in the year before the Great Pause. In spite of this lack of familiarity, I’d had an onslaught of the things while sitting alone at a semi-upscale bar to cap off my girlfriend’s business trip before returning to the hotel at the edge of Nashville to polish off what must have been the equivalent of the Federal Reserve in booze that she’d stowed away inside the fridge before she herself returned.
It was another series of frivolous, paid conferences to supplement her career, a series of arduous, drill-sergeant-like lectures on the over-prescribing of pharmaceuticals to college undergrads. Myself, a blue-collar, let-me-gauge-your-worth-by-the-callouses-on-your-hands type, couldn’t have felt more uninvolved or irrelevant to the trip. With her, however, being a licensed counselor at a university back home, the entire hotel room was filled with opened and unopened textbooks, case studies, reports, pamphlets, and the entire gauntlet of illegible note-taking that she’d been leaving like breadcrumbs everywhere since she was still a graduate student living in the apartment next to mine. I knew that nobody else at the conference was as involved or devoted as she was, but half-assing anything at all in life wasn’t possible for her. In other words, I had three days and nights to myself in an unfamiliar town in a hotel that a painter’s salary and six years of student loans could afford.
Needless to say, I spent most of the nights mildly indulging at any number of the bars located within a walking radius of the hotel. That is, until the final day of her conference had come and gone, and she’d come back with the absolute face of death while I lay in an inebriated mess atop her personal library on the queen-sized bed. She didn’t care that I was drunk, in fact, she was as intoxicated as I was, as distant from the immediate reality and her own motor control as I was even though she hadn’t had the first sip of anything but boredom. Tedious, horrible, intoxicating boredom.
Naturally, after three long days of meetings, charged events, bad catered food, and an overwhelming sense of being trapped, she started drinking as well. We started off with the six pack in the fridge before graduating to a bottle of merlot she’d ironically gotten as a gift for attending the conference before hitting the hard liquor I’d stowed away for the final night of our stay. We turned in not long after that, a pile of useless expunged stress on a bed too messy and filled with work to be used for anything recreational.
I woke up at around two that morning, no more than an hour or so after we’d passed out. My head already felt like a railroad tunnel had been blasted from front to back and my bladder had so much liquid in it that the contents could probably be ruled over by Poseidon himself. Without making the slightest disturbance, I slipped out of the bed and onto the floor in a coiled, drunken mass. Back to my feet I rose, staggering through the small bedroom and towards the closed bathroom door. I opened it and shuffled into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me before sensing a heavy, cold breeze.
I turned to shut the window, only, there were no windows in the bathroom. There were no windows where I was, either. I wandered around, looking for the toilet, not realizing that I was wondering around the centralized courtyard where dozens of hotel rooms faced. By the time I realized where I was, I was still far too intoxicated to know what to do about it. I couldn’t remember the number of my room, and, with inhibitions diminished, I set to knocking on doors, hoping that I’d find the right one.
It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be awake. It certainly never occurred to me that nobody would ever open their hotel door to a man wearing nothing his underwear at 3am. I continued knocking until the sun peered over the horizon and, with it, my girlfriend left the room to find a then-sobering-up version of me slumped against the wall. I was two rooms down from ours, a fact that I was quick to bring up as she pulled me to my feet and marched me back to our room to finish packing up.