Giant star rises in the east to greet the girl buried underneath the heavy duvet. Her arm is draped across the stomach of her onetime lover, rising and falling slowly. Golden light dances on the ceiling above her, refracted beams from the curtain swaying to the beat of the ceiling fan.
She quietly rises up and swings her feet to the edge of the bed, finding her ground. On her way to relieve herself, she stops to admire her onetime lover, who has red hair – which reminds her of her little sister – and a scar that runs from left temple to chin. Good. She thinks. To be here last night.
She watches herself in the mirror, foggy from the steam of the shower. In between brushing her teeth, she sings to herself. Hums as she gargles mouthwash. Water pressure. She thinks. Is subpar in hotels. She shakes her hair out unto her back, admires the way water droplets perch atop her freckled shoulders. She lets the towel slip to the tile floor beneath her feet and leaves it there as she exits the bathroom. Waiting.
She can’t decide between the history channel and entertainment news. It’s been a thirty minute battle between the two, and the remote has taken the beating. But it’s not like it’s her remote, and it’s not like it’s her TV. She is free to do whatever she wants in this hotel, though she is limited to the space of her one bedroom suite. One man’s weekend business trip rendezvous is another girl’s playground. She thinks.
She settles on entertainment news. A blonde woman is describing a fight between a notorious reality star and her well-to-do mother. She sits cross-legged and listens to details of the fight in anticipation.
I should call Mom. She thinks. Let her know I’m okay. She reaches for the landline, traces patterns across the display of numbers. Punches methodically. Dial one! Says operator. Dial two! She nestles the phone between her ear and her shoulder, weaves the cord through her fingertips and steps towards the window.
The phone rings four times before she hears a small click, and static pours in from 2,403 miles away.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice. Muffled cries of baby.
“Hey! I’m calling for Mom.”
The other line drops something on the floor.
“Oh my God, hold on. Stay on the phone!” Hushed demands across the country. Calls for attention. Probably of the husband. Good man. She thinks. Good smile.
“What’s up? Just put Mom on the phone.”
A pause. She imagines her little sister handing off her little daughter to a highchair. She imagines little sister rushing up the stairs.
“Where are you? We’ve been trying to get a hold of you for weeks.”
“Ohio? Who are you staying with?”
“I’m staying at a hotel. Is Mom there?”
Little sister is quiet.
“Which hotel? Are you sure you’re o-”
She hooks the phone back onto its home on the wall.
Alright, she splurged on room service. She never orders room service, because she hates the clutter of silver plates and folded napkins. But dammit, this hotel has this beautifully boozy menu; dessert comes with wine and the sandwich bread is toasted. So yeah, she splurged. Now she lies on her stomach and forks haphazardly at the piece of cake on the silver plate. The TV is still on. She stopped watching hours ago.
A dark sheet of clouds looms over Ohio. A young girl stares dreamily out the window of the room she is cleaning, watching fat drops of rain race down from the sky. She holds a wet mop steady behind her in one hand. She shakes herself out of her bored stupor and drags herself down the hall to the next room. “Cleaning! Are you occupied?”
She raps on the door. The hallway is silent. The girl sighs and stares into the keyhole. She raps more urgently, fiddles with the door handle. She calls out once more. She presses her ear to the door and listens carefully. She imagines she hears the muffled sounds of a shower, and a woman singing softly. She raps once more.
Nobody answers. She moves on.
She steps out of the shower. She does not bother drying herself; the towel still lies in a damp this morning. It’s time to go to sleep. She thinks. I am tired. She rummages through the pile of clothes in the corner of the bedroom. Pulls out a phone and detangles earbuds, carefully places one in each ear, and presses play. A familiar tune spills out and fills the empty room.
Somewhere, a long time ago and a long time from now, she is dancing to this song. Vibrant lights swim around her body, turning her fingertips pink and gold, and they carry her to the ceiling. She rests there for a while, looking down at the universe below. She sees her Mother sunbathing in their old backyard in Columbus. Across the galaxy, little sister makes anxious phone calls to relatives and friends. A boy she dated in high school waves to her and begs for her to come down to meet him. She politely declines. She is made of starlight, an enigma of the cosmos. Dessert wine! Red hair! She defies gravity.
She cannot lift herself off the floor.
“Goodbye,” She sings. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. Softer, and softer. “Goodnight.”