“You don’t understand,” I told her, “I –”
She leaned back and stated, “Oh girl, I understand.” Her eyes moved from the top of my head to my midriff (which was all she could see with the bar in her way) then they came back to mine. “You’re lookin’ for a thrill. You’re lookin’ for adventure.”
“I’m not. I’m –”
She threw her hands up. “You think I don’t know it when I see it? Do I look like a woman who ain’t been around? Do I look like a woman who feels like hirin’ and trainin’ and learnin’ to put up with the new shit a new waitress is gonna feed me and then when she realizes that she wants her old life back she ups and leaves and then I have to hire and train and learn to put up with new shit again?”
“I wouldn’t give you… um…”
“Everyone shovels shit and I don’t like the taste of it from my kind. I already know I really don’t like the taste of it from yours.”
I again didn’t know what to say because it was dawning that she was discriminating against me.
“Not to be rude or anything,” I said softly, “but you don’t really know me. You don’t know what kind I am.”
“Right,” she replied and there was derision heavy in her word.
“You don’t,” I asserted.
“Girl –” she started but I leaned forward and I did it for a reason.
I leaned forward because I needed her to hear me. I leaned forward because I’d been searching for Carnal a long time. I’d been searching for Bubba’s a long time. I needed to be there and to be there I needed that job.
“Right,” I repeated. “You think I’m some kind of lost woman like out of a book, travelling the globe on some idiot journey to find myself?” I asked and before she could answer, I continued, “Thinking I can go out there and find good food and experience interesting places while soul searching, wearing fabulous clothes and being gorgeous and making everyone I run into love me and, in the end, find a fantastic man who’s really good at sex and adores me beyond reason?” I shook my head. “Well, I’m not. I know who I am and I know what I want and I know that isn’t it because that doesn’t exist. I also know what I’m looking for and I know I found it right here.”
“Listen –” she began.
“No, you listen to me,” I interrupted her. “All my life, or as long as I can remember, I thought something special was going to happen to me. I just had this feeling, deep in my bones. I didn’t know what it was but it was going to be beautiful, spectacular, huge.” I leaned in further. “All… my… life.” I shook my head again and put my hand on the bar. “It didn’t. I waited and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it still didn’t happen. I tried to make it happen and it still didn’t happen. Now I know it isn’t going to. It’s never going to happen because there isn’t anything special out there to happen.”
I sucked in breath, she opened her mouth but I kept talking.
“I had a husband. I had a home. I had a job. I had friends. Then I found out my husband was sleeping with my best friend. Not an affair, they’d been doing it for five years. When the cat was out of the bag, they decided to be together for real. He divorced me and I couldn’t afford the house on my own so we sold it. Then, all of a sudden, after ten years of being with someone, I was alone. They got the friends who always thought behind my back they were perfect together. They all knew. For five years. And no one told me.”
“Fuckin’ shit, woman,” Jim-Billy muttered.
“Yeah,” I said to Jim-Billy and looked back at the blonde. “But, you know, after the shock of it wore off, I didn’t care. I swear. I didn’t. Because all of a sudden I realized that I had a shit marriage to a shit guy and I had a shit best friend and all sorts of other shit friends besides. And all that time I was living in a house I didn’t want, it was too darned big and it was too darned everything. A house should be a home, not a house. And that house was in a town I didn’t like because every house looked the same and every woman dressed the same and every man played around the same and every car was shiny and new and there was no personality anywhere. And in that town I had a job I didn’t much care about even though it paid me good money.” My voice dropped and I told her, “I realized I didn’t have anything special. All of a sudden I realized that life didn’t have anything special in store for me.” I took in a breath and finished, “And I’m okay with that. I don’t want special anymore. I waited and I tried to make it happen and it didn’t. So be it. Now, I want to live someplace that is just a place. I want a job where I can do a good job while I’m doing it and then I can go home to a place that’s a home and just be home. I don’t want anything. I’m done wanting. I’ve been wanting and yearning for forty-two years. The only thing I want is peace.”
“You think you’ll find peace in a Harley bar?” Jim-Billy asked what was possibly a pertinent question and I looked at him.
“I think I can get to work on time, do a good job, feel good about myself because I worked hard and did my best and go home and not think about a Harley bar. I can think about myself or what I have a taste to eat for dinner or what might be good on TV. Then I’ll go to sleep not thinking about anything and get up and get to work on time again.” I turned to the blonde. “That’s what I think. I’m not looking for a thrill. I’m not looking for adventure. I’m looking for nothing special because I can be content with that. That’s what I’m looking for. Can you give me that?”
The blonde said nothing just looked me in the eyes. Her face was blank and no less hard and it stayed blank and hard for a long time.
Then she said, “I’m Krystal. I’ll get you an application.”
* * * * *
I stood at the window of my hotel room holding the curtains back with a hand and staring at the pool.
Carnal Hotel wasn’t much to write home about. A long block of building, two stories, all the doors facing the front, fourteen on top, fourteen on bottom. I was on the bottom in number thirteen. The rooms were clean, mine had a king-sized bed and a TV that had to have been purchased fifteen years ago was suspended from the wall. The low four-drawer dresser and nightstands stuck out of the wall and had no legs. The closet had two extra pillows and an extra blanket. The bathtub and kitchen sink had rust stains but even so, they were clean too. The whole of it was below average but it would do.