On a recent Tuesday night, a middle-aged bottle-blond, wearing rhinestone-studded skinny jeans and a tiger-print halter top, came in and rented a room. She was with a bulky, slow-moving man who never looked up from his cell as she and I conducted our business. After I gave her two keys, she batted at her companion’s phone, hooked her arm through his, and tugged him toward the elevator.
A couple of minutes later, my desk phone rang. The couple was not satisfied with the room I’d given them. Apparently it was very important to them to have a microwave and a mini-fridge. I explained I’d given them the last smoking room I had. They decided to get a refund and try their luck elsewhere.
The pair was not particularly difficult or remarkable, so I didn’t even tweet about them on Tuesday night.
On my next shift, though – on Wednesday night – that same woman appeared in the lobby at about two o’clock in the morning. She was wearing a different halter top (this one leather, with fringes) but the same jeans. She asked me if I’d seen the man she was with the night before. I hadn’t. She said, “Good,” but she didn’t actually look happy about my answer. She walked out the front door.
I checked the register and found her name among the guests. She had obtained one of the rooms that had a fridge and microwave at 11:37 on Wednesday morning – just as soon as the housekeepers had finished cleaning it, I imagined.
Within fifteen minutes, she returned with a man. I didn’t get a good look at him because they didn’t need to register and they were moving fast, but his slight build told me it was not the man she’d been with the night before. The gentleman was in uniform and I caught the glint of a law enforcement badge on his chest. I wondered if she was going to give a statement of some kind in her room. (About a domestic with her boyfriend, perhaps.) That often happens at the paranormal hotel.
There was something about their body language as they whisked through the lobby, though, that made me wonder.
I tweeted (in a string of tweets about the police presence at the hotel):
1st cop: woman avoiding the guy who was with her last night brought a cop back to hotel … not sure it’s an official visit
I watched them via the security cameras as they moved through the hotel. When they tumbled out of the elevator on the fourth floor, they paused under the camera to grope each other a bit. She broke away from the clinch, tip-toed over to a door, and pressed her ear against the wood. She laughed, grabbed her companion’s hand and pulled him along the hall to her room.
Perhaps an hour later, the pair came back to the lobby. He was tucking in his shirt. She straightened his tie and kissed his cheek before sending him out with a pat on the ass. I was able to determine that his uniform was actually that of a security guard, and not a police officer. I was also able to see that he was quite young – fifteen, maybe twenty, years her junior.
Correction on 1st cop: not a cop; a security guard … but I was right about it being not official.
After he’d left, she asked if she could borrow my lighter, then invited me to come outside for a smoke. I joined her in the quiet night.
She was still looking for her “old man” (whom she alternately referred to as her ex.) She told me that she was hoping he was around, because she was trying to make him appreciate her more. She suspected he was checked into a different room at the hotel. She told me nothing had really happened with the guard; she just wanted her ex to think it had.
I made noises about how challenging maintaining a relationship can be. She said, “You got that right, Momma.”
The endearment surprised me. Some of our guests have called me “Sister” when I do something to please them, but this was my first “Momma.” Apparently the paranormal hotel is just one big happy family.
I asked her if she had any kids. She said she had two girls, 23 and 27. I said I had a girl about the same age as her eldest and a boy, ten years younger. She asked if I was married. I told her yes, for more than twenty years. She exclaimed, then gave me a high-five. I volunteered that there had been some stormy years early on. Then I said, “Now though there’s not much trouble; just the right amount of drama every now and then.”
She laughed an open, appreciative laugh and surprised me by grabbing me in a tight hug. She smelled like flowers, clean and fresh. I thought, she even wears a young girl’s perfume. Up close, I could see her crow’s feet were deeper than mine … but then she was also very tan. This was a woman who had never been afraid to worship the sun. “You’re all right, Momma,” she said, “You’re all right. I knew that last night. I hope you didn’t think we was hassling you. We was already having trouble by then, you know. And I know you just have to do your job, right?”
We finished our cigarettes. She wandered into the darkness to check the parking lot for evidence that her ex / old man was on the premises. I went to fold laundry.
Sometime around 4:30 am, she came looking for me because she needed a light again. This time when we went outside there was a faint gray glow in the sky, prompting an anxious bird to sing every few minutes. I lit a cigarette and handed her my lighter. After checking traffic levels on the street, and scanning the lot, she produced what looked like a slim cigar from the watch pocket of her jeans. She carefully straightened it out and lit up. The pungent sweet scent of marijuana bloomed on the still, cool air and I was reminded of a night-blooming flower called nicotiana alta that I used to grow.
After taking a deep pull, she half-offered it to me. I told her I was good as I stepped off a few paces.
“Oh, that’s right. You’re working. Should I put it out?”
“Not on my account. You’re a grown-up. I just don’t want my boss to smell it on me when he relieves me in the morning.”
“Yeah. That’s good. That’s why I came out here. I don’t want to stink up the room, you know?”
She sat on the hotel’s concrete picnic table checking her cell while she smoked her blunt. I patrolled the parking lot halfheartedly picking up garbage while I smoked my cigarette.
I was pushing trash into the flappy maw of the garbage can when she came over to me, holding out her cell. “Listen. The fucker is trying to piss me off.”
All I could hear through the speaker of her phone was some rustling and clunking and heavy breathing.
“He’s letting me know he’s with a woman.”
For a moment I remained confused, then the context she’d provided hit me, and I realized I was listening to someone having sex. “So, he’s, like, pretending to pocket-dial you?”
She nodded. “I’m betting that’s my kid he’s with too.”
“Your kid? You mean one of your daughters–”
“Not the good one. The good one has had the same old man for five years, and all three of her kids are his. This is the 23 year old. I don’t know why she likes to get with my boyfriends, but she does.”
I don’t remember what either of us said after that, or how the conversation came to an end. I think, maybe, I finished my cigarette which made her decide that she was done smoking for the time being too. I remember she said that she was plenty high and that she should get some sleep.
We went inside. She went upstairs. I made a fresh pot of coffee, then returned to my laptop, and my latest work in progress, behind the front desk.
You know, I hope, that I mean no disrespect when I write about these people.
I’m just telling you about life at:
Photo has been cropped to square.
note: This post may have been re-titled and/or edited from its original form,
for inclusion on The Paranormal Hotel homepage.