Dated. Faded. Dull. The hotel room, though clean, desperately needs an update. Carved, shag carpet. Once-modernist, flocked wallpaper. Matching coverlets spread over twin Formica beds. And red. So many shades of red – scarlet, crimson, burgundy. The room glowers, sullen and ruddy.
Across from the beds, an old television cart holds a large tube-style black-and-white TV. The set is switched on, and an old film flickers. Images of staircases cover the screen. Crossing and intersecting each other at impossible angles, each seems to have its own dimensional reality, similar to an M.C. Escher work. A woman, with tumbling long hair, dressed in long, dark gown descends one of the staircases. As I watch, my sense of origin slips. For a breath, for a moment – I am that woman, caught in a flickering black-and-white world, descending a shadowed staircase within a repeating landscape of tilting, dim-lit staircases. I clutch a handful of gown, lift it up to avoid tripping on the hem. I hear the soft tread of my slippers on the unyielding stone steps. I feel the weight of my hair.
Noise. A saving, sudden sound, and I am yanked back, find myself standing within the red room, staring at the television. During my brief…absence?… a repairman has entered. He has set his toolbox on the sunset, shag carpet at the foot of one bed, spread his tools across the other bed’s coverlet.
“Those old movies give me the heebie jeebies,” he says. “Especially the monster ones – vampires and werewolves.” He catches my eye and shudders dramatically. “Good thing you’ve got company…” He jerks his head approvingly toward the far wall and continues sorting his tools.
From that further, narrow wall, where there is neither door, nor window, a steady stream of people begins to enter. The small space is soon crowded with bodies and chatter. The last to arrive is a life-sized cartoon-style Popeye, complete with pipe, flexing bulging biceps and chewing spinach.
All the while, the television’s grainy images continue to flicker and snow.
— C.Birde, 6/17