Main T.o.C. Door #1 Door #2 Door #3 Contest Gallery
Kelley White
Cheap Hotel, California, 1982

We were still couples then, newly married,
you and your sister, our brother-in-law.
We did not know the marriages would fail
in a little more than a dozen years. I do not
recall how we came to take the trip, how
we came to travel together, driving, it must
have been a rental car, south from San Francisco,
where you had Hong Kong relatives, to Los
Angeles, I do not know why we made the trip,
what destination. I remember we pulled over
to look at the ocean through coin-operated
binoculars, the kind of thing my father would
never pay to do. There is a picture of me,
looking as normal as I have ever looked, styled
hair, bright summer dress. I look worried,
perhaps it is annoyance at the camera, perhaps
I sensed the difficulties ahead. I think we saw
the Chinese Theater. You were, after all,
Chinese. And driving too late we turned
in at a hotel with a vacancy, one room for two
couples, the clerk grinning, and we could
see a little TV screen behind him, mounted
on the wall of his little room, black and white,
constantly shuffling scenes of empty rooms.
Your sister took the tiny room with the double
bed separate from the main room which was
red red red. Red plush bedspread, red faux
velvet chairs, toilet, sink, chipped shower
stall. You would not undress. I do not know
if our companions did in their little room
behind the door. You thought the bed might
be diseased, showed me stains, and when we lay
on our backs we saw the mirror, gold-flecked
and huge above us. You knew there was a camera
behind it. That we would be watched. Movies.
Sold. We’d be pornography. We’d never know
who might have seen us. You stayed awake.
Eyes white. Flat on your back. I curled toward you
on my side as I would curl later toward our new-born
son. I slept. I dreamed flesh moving
above us, never touching, just flesh, moving,
like the damned at the doors of hell.