Soundtrack: Hot Chip “I Feel Better”
Story: Wild Arcana
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Kri collected her suitcase from Disa’s apartment then hailed a cab that drove her to a small hotel next to the train tracks. Her father would kill her if he found out where she was. Though she had the funds for a room at a five-star hotel, she thought it only appropriate to stay in a place that looked exactly how she felt.
The forty-something-ish brunette behind the plastic window of the registration desk had a body like a nymph in a Renaissance painting but lacked any spritely charm. A chubby boy sat beside her, playing with a Nintendo DS and whining about how hungry he was.
The brunette ignored him, totaling Kri’s bill with a cheap-looking bejeweled calculator while smoking a Jade cigarette. After Kri paid for a night’s stay with cash, the brunette put the money in a metal lockbox and gave her a sugary smile as she pressed a room key in Kri’s hand. “Here you go, baby doll. You take care now. Night night.” She waved at Kri through the plastic as if she was the Queen of England then turned back to the mini TV airing a game show at a boisterous volume. Dismissed.
Kri shuffled to room 10, where she locked the door, turned on all the lights and sank down on the edge of the bed. The dingy wallpaper, with all its dark curling, twisting vines, looked like thousands of tiny eyes, watching her. She felt the mattress springs beneath her and wondered how many people loved, lost, and sought approval and affection on this very bed. She sighed, empathizing.
Several long minutes ticked by before Kri pushed herself to her feet and entered the bathroom with the half-broken light and the mirror missing a corner. She changed out of her clothes and stepped into the shower with the staccato spray that did nothing to wash away the evening. She wanted nothing more than to curl up on the tiled floor and cry until there was no more pain in the crater where her heart used to be. But the tears just wouldn’t come; Kri had reached a new low that sadness couldn’t reach. Never had she felt more alone and yet, when she touched her abdomen, which seemed to grow more every day, she was struck by the realization she was now never alone—a thought both comforting and terrifying.
After her shower, she slipped into a red silk robe that ended just above her knees. The back of it depicted a series of black birds flying over a forest of cherry blossom trees. She combed her damp black hair and opened the curtain, staring listlessly at the tracks. All she had to do now was wait.
It didn’t take long for her moment to arrive. The floor trembled and windows and picture frames rattled from the force of the oncoming train. Kri stepped closer to the open curtains, dropping her comb on the floor with one hand on her robe’s sash. The train neared, and her grip tightened.
Then, just before the engine passed, Kri tugged at the sash and peeled off her robe, letting the garment fall to the well-worn rug.
The train streaked past, beating a tattoo of bright windows, dark windows. She could barely make out the shapes of people sitting inside the cars but wondered how well they could see her, on display like an Amsterdam prostitute. This moment was her confession, her chance to bare the secret she hid from everyone she loved because she loved them.
She had come to love her secret, too. She touched her pregnant stomach and scratched her nails lightly against her bare skin, a gesture meant to soothe both her and the child she carried. Stroking her abdomen in this secret, guilt-free environment, she wondered what the baby would be like. Would he or she be artsy like Fab or more business-minded like her? She pictured a serious-eyed son with a dry sense of humor, running a company by day and writing T.S. Eliot-esque poetry with hundreds of footnotes by night. She pictured a daughter with funky barrettes in her hair, perpetually switching between law school and art school in between traveling the world. She pictured these possibilities and nearly wept.
Here, now, she granted herself the permission to unburden herself and be honest. The shame and sadness fell away with every passing car, and she became someone else, someone who wasn’t heartbroken, someone who could be happy, someone who hadn’t lost everything.
When the train disappeared into the night, Kri slid her arms back into the robe but left it open as she lay back on the bed, her head resting on a shapeless pillow beneath a watercolor of the seaside. She fingered the cigarette-burned hole in the pillowcase and listened to the faucet dripping in the bathroom, her body aching with longing and craving comfort from the one person she needed the most.
Fab had always been her escape, a beautiful departure from her reality. It wasn’t until then did she consider that were he a part of her real life, she’d never have to differentiate between the two.