Paul walked down the wooden stairs and headed toward the
deck window to look out, to find out where he even was. He didn’t remember
getting there. The street and trees past the parking lot appeared vaguely familiar;
he could now guess general vicinity at least—probably downtown.
He turned back around unconcerned. The apartment was plenty
nice. He could also assume he hadn’t been kidnapped by a serial killer. He started to wander, canvassing the place
when it struck him, he had never woken up in the wrong place—something entirely
un-demographic, maybe a roach invested affordable housing unit. No, women (Paul learned to generalize) kept their places as a palace, as some sort of absurd Disney Land with white couches and fake, decorative items. Why was this an epiphany,
because Paul hated that type of junk or because he was made insecure by it,
probably neither. It just seemed to be the way things were.
Recently, Paul tried to wake up in the wrong places more
and more often. A few weeks ago he slept in a Motel 6 off of the highway in a
non-existent town in Oklahoma. The clerk in the window at 1:00 AM barely exchanged
a single word with him, instead opting to use a calculator pressed against the
window to advertise the going one-night rate. When Paul got to his room, he realized
the attendant had profiled him from the cigarette tucked in between his ear and
his cap. A smoking room. Worse, the door was the closest one to the interstate.
Nothing like careening eighteen wheelers as a sleep aid.
In the morning, Paul drove the wrong direction toward a Waffle House, expecting something to be waiting for him there, more than likely
a good breakfast. He walked in and sat down at the restaurant’s equivalent of
the bar in a stool chair, a black man sat down the way from him with a
newspaper propped up against the sugar jar and with his phone out playing
music (Paul was aware some Waffle House’s had jukeboxes, but he had never
encountered an actual DJ in one).
Paul’s waitress made heartbreaking green eye contact with him every time the two interacted, Paul overly appreciative of every slight service,
saying thank you over and over, each time somehow significant. When Paul cashed
out, he noted a piece of paper posted on the register.
Buy 1 Get One Chocolate Milk Free
never mentioned the free chocolate milk.”
sorry. Do you like chocolate milk? I can get you one,” she said, already
“No, no,” he grinned foolishly.
Paul tipped the entire amount of the meal and left.