The motel room was horror movie chic, down to the flickering flourescent spilling from the bathroom. He kicked its door shut and the light show crept onto the carpet through the crack underneath. Like lightning bug signals. Morse code on a June night: time, temperature, where to fuck. Standing in for a meadow was industrial carpeting and the bugs were just husks and wings of moths lost on their way to the moon, clogging the light cover with their dreams and dulling the glow of their fake salvation.
The bed creaked. The chair stunk of pomade and sweat.
Maybe if enough moths lost their way, or the motel loosened up its smoking rules -“They're all non-smoking, so leave the door open, okay?” - the light would eventually die and ten generations later, their descendants would never stray from the path.
The knob squeaked when he changed his mind. Popping the cover off the light with both hands, temporarily blind, he dumped the remains half in the floor, half in the trashcan. Lost souls made a last ditch attempt, a cloud half-inhaled as it curled upward, again yearning stupidly for the bulb. The square of plexiglass was harder going on than coming off and his palm left a hairline crack sending it home. Bathroom door wide open, he kicked down the prop on the room door and fished in his shirt pocket for a cigarette, scanning for weaklings. All he saw were two trucks and the fog coming together, hanging low on the parking lot and keeping the heat close.
LIQUOR stuttered like a dream in red letters, blurred and half a block away. The cigarette was devoured before he blinked.
The butt sailed in a fiery arc, a penny tossed in a well, and brought the sound of footsteps on the concrete walk.
He tucked his hands in his armpits and stared into the bathroom, the linoleum forever yellow in the overhead.
Woman's voice – or girl's. He didn't look at her on purpose and didn't look at her face for sure, but her red shoes stripped of sequins screamed “I wanna go home.”
No you don't, he didn't say. Run from tornados, balloons, and all flashing lights. There is no home. He didn't say anything about the moths knowing best to make a break for it, even if just to burn in a dingy bulb off highway 50.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
He fished in his pocket to buy time, deciding which side of the wagon he was going to dive off. Deciding who he was going to be. Behind her the store light matched his heartbeat, and damned if it wasn't halo then horns then halo then horns around her blonde head.
Wrestling with the pack of cigarettes, he stepped back, out of the doorway and out of her path. “Yeah.” She was pretty and plain in the strobe. He lit a cigarette and offered it. “I'm Joe.”
The door slammed shut behind them, leaving the sign cold, tethered to its pole.