Blurry Images

Contributor: R.A. Conine

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She woke to a sort of fog. She had that sometimes. The world was blurred over, covered in an unnerving mist. It made her think of a particular old aunt who had milky cataracts, a woman long dead and gratefully so, from a childhood barely remembered. She wondered if the gauzy morning haze wasn’t some potent harbinger of her own future. She could see herself grown old and doddering, slowly going blind, a lifetime of scrabbling for hard cash wasted. She envisioned dying with the question “why” still framed by her wrinkled lips.
The air in the room was warm, musky. She shook her head and the fog cleared, as it always did. That future, if it was hers, was far away. For now there was sun and warmth, freedom and the road. There was shame too. It was always with her no matter how far away she ran. Along with everything else her old shadow bought to the table, shame was a cheap date. He always took her to places like this one, cheesy hotel rooms in dead end towns with names like Winnemucca, Nevada.
She threw aside the ancient paisley patterned coverlet, rose naked and dropped her feet over the edge of the bed. The carpet beneath her toes was threadbare and gritty. She shivered a little. She didn’t remember much. The night was a blur of roughened flesh, sweat and tequila. His beard was harsh and prickly. He laughed too much.
She couldn’t recall his face or name. She hoped he was gone. But he probably wasn’t. He’d left behind a soft-pack of Marlboro Reds, a faded “Dear Hunter” ball cap and a thumb-worn paperback book. He was a reader. That impressed her.
She rubbed her teeth with a finger, blinked the sleep away and stood. In rooms like this one, she had slept in a hundred or more, there was almost no space to move around. Step out of bed on the right and your tits would be pressed against the closet door. Get out on the left and your hips were flat against the wall. In this case, the left side contained a window covered by white linen curtains. Well, they weren’t actually white, not anymore. If she had to associate a color with dusty age, cigarette smoke, bad sex and booze, then it would be the color of those curtains, more or less.
She pulled them aside and peered through old glass fogged by years of accumulated automobile exhaust carried on the wind from the nearby interstate. She could hear of the rumble of the big trucks but she couldn’t see them. Beyond the window lay a magical verge of thick, brilliant greenery. The colors were as vivid as old Fuji Film images. A bush had clawed its way up the rough red bricks of the hotel wall. It seemed to be trying desperately to open the window and get in, to say hello, to ask for a cup of coffee perhaps. Beyond the leaves she saw grass blades packed so densely together that she doubted she would sink if standing atop them.
Her face was pressed so tight to the window that her breath was fogging the glass, dimming the beautiful vision in a way that made her sad. She pulled back her chin and considered inviting the plant to share her company. He’d have so many tales to tell of loud one-night stands and drunken gardeners who had tried to mow him down. He would probably make a fine traveling companion if permitted to dip his roots in wet soil for a while each night.
The door rattled in its frame and opened on complaining hinges. She didn’t turn immediately. She was reluctant to face him. She was nude. He was probably ungainly, at best. She tended to pick the low-hanging fruit. Her ex-boyfriend, who dubbed himself a “spiritual psychologist”, explained that it had “something to do with her sense of self-esteem”. This probably explained why she wanted to hit him, always, all the time.
“Hey,” he said in husky but altogether pleasant voice, “Gotcha some coffee from the diner down the street. Figured you could use a wake up.”
“Yeah,” she answered blithely. This one had manners. Maybe…
“Nice ass,” he commented.
Maybe not.
“The tat you got on your lower back; s’posed to be the sun rising over the moon, right?” He chuckled.
Surprisingly bright. He was a reader and a thinker. Maybe…
“Goddamn, girl. You ever gonna turn around so I can see them tits?”
No. He was none of those things. He was just another body, another traveler on the long sad road she walked.
She turned…

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Please visit my website to discover more of my work. I enjoy vignettes, horror, science fiction and combining the three into interesting soups with unexpected ingredients.
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