It’s three a.m. and as her child lays beside her, she writes. She writes in a notepad that isn’t a notepad. It’s the very last page in a bible that she found in the nightstand. What she writes with is no pen but an eyeliner pencil on its last legs. When she runs the tip across the paper it hardly gets the words out. But desperate are those words scrawled in cursive. And it’s desperation that muffles her sobs.
The room is a sponge for the piss-yellow light of that hideous, buzzing lamp. The popcorn ceiling ripples with brown water stains. The walls peel with paper meant for nowhere but places like this. The carpet emanates the odor of liquor and feces and semen and regrets and forgotten outcasts. It surrounds that only bed and those who lay in it.
It surrounds her purse, open on the nightstand with the empty bottle of Benadryl. Her purse which releases that distinct fragrance and shades the certain demise of two twenty dollar bills. Those are the only bills she has. The only money besides what she had used for tonight in this stinking, horrendous place.
And centering this horrendous place are those words she writes to form some crude poetry. The first line regards the child which sleeps beside her, his gently sloping, blanketed frame the only peaceful thing within these four walls. But her words are not about this peace. They are about getting him to school when the sun rises. About assuring him that waking up in a hotel in a shitty part of town is normal. That wearing the same thing he wore yesterday is normal. That having a weak mother is normal.
A good bridge is those two twenty dollar bills.
As she continues, she reflects on the past hour. How it began with her naked in the bathroom. With her bruised and anemic frame doused in flickering light and posted in that maddeningly clean mirror. It forces her hand to write about love. What it’s done to her. How the kind with lust attached to it has only brought destruction.
But the breed of love she has for the child has kept her alive.
She takes a breath to chew on the pencil with her chipped incisor.
A tear falls onto the page, greying the word love. It makes her write about the man who should’ve been good and could’ve been good but wasn’t. A sour truth which summons a smoldering hate. This hate is so loud it should wake the child or the people staying next door or above or below.
Hate can hardly stay quiet.
And so, one last line finishes the page.
I want to wake even though I haven’t slept, she writes. I want this crack to heal with no scar. I want to forget all of these words I’ve written.
Zachary Toombs is an author and artist from upstate New York with works in various venues. His novel, Night’s Grasp, was published this past September and is available on his website zacharytoombs.com and on Amazon.