He wants to show you his office, then his desk, then his bedroom, then his neatly organized papers, then his college thesis, then his degree in history, then his dick.
“Just don’t write about me,” he says.
You laugh. “Why? You gonna sue me?”
“Yeah, maybe,” he says.
After that he wants to show you his feelings and he wants to take you shopping and you remember his breath on the back of your neck and how much his eyes lit up when you said you want to be dominated.
He texts you twice that night. Then four times the next morning. He calls you three times and leaves two voicemails. You ignore him for a bit but he gets more aggressive. You ask him to leave you alone. You tell him it’s not going to work. He refuses and for the next eight months he texts you and keeps tabs on your social media and even though you block him he still knows.
He knows about your birthday and he knows about your speeding ticket and your little joys or sorrows. You don’t want him in your life but there he is, sometimes several times a night.
“I gave them a fuckin’ tip and this is what they do!” she yells at three in the morning.
“What’s wrong?” you ask.
It seems easier to ignore her but if you do it gets worse so you sit up in the hotel bed and watch her throw her things around in panic.
“They stole my fuckin’ moisturizer!” she shouts.
She’s referring to the cleaning staff that she left sweet notes and cash for every morning before you left your room for the day. They wrote back with drawn smiley faces and written appreciation. Last night’s was a note wishing you a safe trip home.
“Mom,” you say, “no one stole your moisturizer. It’s somewhere around here.”
You don’t sleep another hour and you don’t get to avoid the bubbling stress in your stomach. Climbing out of bed you help her look but she’s right about it not being on the counter or in any of the bags.
“They fuckin’ stole it!” she sighs. “God damn it.”
You stumble into the bathroom and sit on the toilet—this is weirdly peaceful for you—and just as you look up you see the small bottle of drug store brand moisturizer next to the sink.
“Mom, it’s next to the sink.”
“No it’s not!” she shouts.
Without hesitation or respect for your privacy she opens the door and sees the bottle instantly.
“Oh!” she smiles.
She grabs it and closes the door.
But you’ve done too much work, your friends say. There’s no way you’ll be just like her. You’re in the same room as your mother and interactions with her are like interactions with a flash future mirror. It’s hard not to feel just like her.
“If you write about me I’m gonna sue your ass,” she says when you come out of the bathroom.
She sits on the chair she read the newspaper in every morning. Every morning at six o’clock with all the lights on, engaged and eager to talk to you about Obama and the Barber/McSally race. You slept through the conversations each time.
But what she said about suing you is not just a threat so you take out the part about her alcoholic father and her blackout insecurities. You take out the part where she says it’s your fault and you take out that other part where she protected an abuser just because he is family.
According to some the stiff carpet in all hotels is infested with bugs, come, and the skin flakes of dead people. This particular hotel is nicer than any of the other ones you stayed at before because it houses lonely men who make a lot of money.
He gives you the free breakfast card with free mimosas and made-to-order omelettes but you are too nervous to eat there.
He didn’t know you liked to write until after you started sleeping together and when he finds out he scratches his hairy chest and twists his wedding ring.
“If you write about me, I’ll sue you,” he says.
And though he laughs, and though you laugh, it’s not particularly funny. Like, what is he going to get out of you? It also isn’t the first time someone has threatened you with this. But hotels are still the best. You dance like some barefooted free spirit in a folk music video. You spin around in the large living room with two couches and the television blaring a station in a language you don’t understand. Someone knocks on the door.
He left a couple hours earlier to catch his flight and checkout is not for another few hours. There is no time to cover up and the door opens. You display your black bra and black panties proudly. A flat-footed stance with your arms curled up around your chest to pretend to be at least a little surprised—pretend to be at least a little modest.
“Oh! I’m sorry. I thought—well, I saw—“
What she means to say is she saw you come in late with a man who looks like your grandfather and she saw you get a Diet Coke from the vending machine because room service is too expensive—that’s where they get you, he says—and she saw you kiss him goodbye and now she sees the cash spread out on the table.
She closes the door and you didn’t have to say anything but after eleven you are fully clothed in that dress that doesn’t make anyone look fully clothed and you pass her leaning on her cart with the brooms and the tissues sticking out of it.
Your eyes and her eyes stay locked through your march down the hall and at the elevator you look away to push the button. You could look back because you know she’s still watching you but you just want to leave. The front desk is now watching you and the guy who greets people at the door is watching you too.
Lindsey Kugler is the author of the book HERE (University of Hell Press). She is an alumna of the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s Writing Certificate Program and lives in Portland, Oregon.