Friday, August 5, 2005

A Night at the Louisville Inn (p. 8)

A Night at the Louisville Inn
J. Tyler Mortimer

I have the body of an old man.

*You sure you don’t mind?*
“No, it’s fine.”
*It’s fine, or it’d be cool?*
“It’d be cool, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
*I just don’t want you to be upset, that’s all*
“It’s fine, really.”
*Ok, then, I’ll see you in a couple hours or so.*
“Yeah, that’s great.”

I shouldn’t be this tired.

He walked out of the room and to the elevators. He punched the down button and when the doors opened he stepped on to ride to the lobby. With his satchel slung over his shoulder he walked towards the pedway to the convention center, merging with other dreary-eyed meaningless professionals.

From the metal folding chair somewhere ambiguously in the middle of a field of filled folding chairs, he watched the dichromatic PowerPoint presentation someone mindlessly strung together. He looked around at the heads bobbing in understanding, and wondered if these people were really learning anything, or if they were just nodding out of politeness.

In what was surely a portal of time, he emerged from the conference room two hours later, with nothing more to his person except the wrinkles of being two hours older.

When did it turn into this?

*You sure you don’t mind?*
“Sarah, you’re already here.”
*I don’t have to stop, I could keep going.*
“That’s nonsense, you’re passing through, just stop.”
*But I don’t have to stay there, I mean—*
“I want you to come by. I want you to stay the night. I just might need to sleep, that’s all.”
*I know.*
“I mean, I have to get up early tomorrow too, and I won’t be leaving until late.”
*I know.*
“I’m just not looking forward to the drive tomorrow night, that’s all.”
*I don’t have to stay.*
“I’ll see you in a couple of minutes.”

I’m too young to feel this old. Other people my age don’t feel like this.

His knees ached as he stepped up the stairs to the café.

Why is my body failing?

He pulled out the ten year projections because he was sitting alone, and didn’t want to look alone, so he thought his papers would make him look accompanied, or, at least, busy. And as he tapped his chest and took three pills from out of the bottles in his bag, his weaker mind poked through and began to nag him more intensely.

What if you’re not here in ten years?
Stop that.
You know it’s likely.
Stop that.
Don’t lie to yourself.
Not now, not here.
You can’t ignore me forever.
No one’s ignoring you. No one could ignore you.

*I’m outside the hotel, where are you?*
“I’ll come down and get you.”

He pushed open the door and saw her standing there, adorable, and beautiful, and achingly perfect, but not in a boring cover-model kind of way: no, perfect in an eye-of-the-beholder kind of way. She smiled at him like the middle school kid who came to the dance alone and finally saw someone she knew. They wrapped together, twisted, and rested their foreheads, eyes closed, on each other’s.

“It’s been too long.”
“I know.”
“We shouldn’t keep doing this.”
“I know.”
“I’m too tired of this.”

I’m too tired, period.

“I could transfer schools. And then we’d only be apart when you go on these trips.”

“I’ll quit.”

She smiled and looked at him, and lovingly smacked his shoulder with her hand.

“You can’t quit. One of us has to have a job.”
“I don’t care. I’ll quit.”
“Honey, we need the money.”
“I don’t care. I’m too tired.”
“It’ll get better.”
“No, I mean tired-tired.”
“Oh. Did you not sleep well last night?”
“I slept fine. I slept fine, that’s the thing.”
“Not long enough?”
“I don’t know, maybe, I mean, I used to do just fine.”
“You’re not sixteen anymore honey.”
“Yeah, but I’m not fifty either.”
“I’m sure it’s just the conference, that has to be draining.”

I’m sure it’s just the conference.

They walked, hand in hand, around the city for a while. It started to get dark, and he was starting to get short of breath, so they headed back to the hotel.

“What floor did they put you on?”
“Just the second,” he said, as they stepped onto the elevator.

They got close to his room, and he turned her around, then pushed his hands into her hips and backed her into the door. He slid one hand up the back of her shirt, and pressing his lips into hers, he slid the key into the door. She dropped her bag in the doorway and he kicked it in with his foot while the door swung closed and locked. A noiseless blue light from the muted TV showed them where the space on the floor was between the bed and the dresser, and they fell into it; and with heavy sighs and deft fingers, he slipped off her pants while she reached in his. Between the checking of his breath and the gasping of hers, they pulled off each other’s clothes, and the over-zealous air conditioner began to freeze their sweat.

And with a frightened sense of reality, he realized where he was.

I cannot be this tired.
You’re an old man.
I’m not an old man.
You’re an old, old man.
I shouldn’t be this tired.
Why don’t you go to sleep already.
“Honey, are you ok?”

Tell her not tonight. Tell her we’ll do it the next time we see her.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You seem tired.”
You’re exhausted.
I’m exhausted.

“Cause if you’re too tired, it’s ok, we don’t have to—”
“No, I want to.”
The spirit is willing, old man, the spirit is willing—
“God, I want to be here so bad.”
“You are here.”
“God, I want to be here so bad.”
“Honey what’s wrong?
Tell her you’re weak, and tired.
“Do you want to go to sleep? It’s ok, you have a lot to do tomorrow.”
“So do you.”
“I just have to drive, that’s all.”

“When’s the next time I’ll see you?” he asked, looking into the darkened mass beneath him, breathing and squeezing him.

“Well,” she said, biting her lip, “I have to finish three more weeks at school, and then I go back to my parents’ for a few days if you’re there.”

“I’m in Seattle in three weeks.”
“...and then I leave to Italy for the summer.”
“So not until the before the fall semester.”
“God, I want to be here so bad.”
“Why do you keep saying that?”
It’s ok to admit that you’re too weak. She’ll understand.
Don’t let me go to sleep.
But you’re tired old man.
“We should go to sleep, you look exhausted.”
“I’m not exhausted.”
We’re exhausted.
“It’s ok, I don’t mind.”
“I don’t want to go to sleep.”

“Honey, you’re tired, you’ve had a busy week. And I have a lot of driving to do tomorrow, I should sleep too,” she said, pushing him up.

He sat there, naked, while she went over to her bag and pulled out something to sleep in. In a voice, shallow, tense, and wrought with fear, he asked her to come back and lie with him. He asked her to come and be naked with him, and not to let him sleep, and not to let him be tired. And she, sympathetically, told him she loved him, but that if he needed rest, then it was wiser that he get rest.

“I don’t want to be this,” he said, lifting his body off the floor, “I’m not ready for this part.”
She turned back to him, and gently put her hand on his chest.
“The doctor said that when you need rest, you’ll need rest.”
“I’m not ready for this.”
“There will be other days—”
“—I want there to be other days.”

In the darkness of the room she prepared herself to go to sleep; in the darkness of his mind he did the same.

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