Smokin’ Me Out
Rafael walked up the motel stairs, mentally preparing himself for the smell. Every time he went to see his dad, he had no choice but to breathe through his mouth. The oppressive omnipresent cigarette smoke made breathing through the nose impossible. The closer the door approached, the deeper he inhaled.
“What’s up boss? Thought I’d have to put an APB out on your ass.” John said as he stood shirtless in the doorway.
“You don’t have those connections any more.” Rafael said as he walked into the room.
Room 218 never changes. In the far right corner, sit twenty books stacked in no discernible order. The far left is the home to various articles of clothing, CDs, and even more books. The closer you get to the door, the worse it gets. Various food items, coolers, bear cans, more books, and more papers occupy the near left corner. The computer desk is engulfed top to bottom in papers, folders, DVDs, etc. How John is able to sit at his desk and actually be productive, is a question Raphael will never be able to answer. Consequentially, Rafael is assured of where his “organizational” skills originate from. The room looked the usual.
“What brings you up here?”
“I had to pick up my car from Nalley.” Rafael said. As he sat in a free chair, John plopped down on the bed.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Don’t know. It just cut off the other day. Wouldn’t turn over.”
John reached over onto the nightstand and grabbed a pack of cigarettes. He began to tap the pack into his palm as he thought.
“How long you had it, again?”
“Since last October.”
He stopped the tapping, and pulled out a square.
“Hmm. Could be the starter. Maybe the spark plugs.”
Lighter touched filter. Rafael subtly took a deep breath through his nose, and began to breathe gently through his mouth.
“Yeah whatever. I don’t know what it is. I’m not mechanical. That’s their job.”
“I keep forgetting you ain’t good for much.”
“Just food and chicks.”
“Momma says I’m becoming more and more like you everyday.”
“Scares the shit out of you doesn’t it?”
“Got me ready to jump off a tall building.”
Both men laughed. The bond between John and Raphael is quite unique. John doesn’t try to be a “father,” so Rafael doesn’t bitch about him not being there. They talk as if they’re old friends. Very rarely will they have a father and son chat. Rafael likes it that way, and senses John does as well.
* * *
Half an hour into the smoke session and Rafael had hung in there. He occasionally sneaks a quick breath through his nose, however, they are few and far between. The breathing gymnastics never prevent him from enjoying the conversation.
“Been fishing lately?” Rafael said as he saw a fishing pole sitting in the corner.
“Been meaning to for about two years.”
“Waiting on a Federal mandate? The rapture?”
“I’ve been working seven days a week, 10 hours a day for the last two months.”
“Stop. All you do is sit in the office and read. You might get what? One person checking in a night?”
“Like I said, I’ve been working my ass off. Mr. Patel don’t pay me enough for this shit.”
Raphael rubbed his eyes and yawned. He was running low on air. His ability to hold a conversation while showing no signs of the torment his body was going through is borderline preternatural.
“Whatever. It’s not like you’re cleaning rooms or anything.”
John inspected an empty pack of cigarettes. Undaunted, he waked to the bathroom area.
“Actually, I have been helping Laverne lately.” He got a fresh pack and began tapping it in his palm.
“About a month ago, we lost our cleaning staff.”
“Everyone except Laverne.” He said as smoke bogeyed from his lungs. “There were two chicks and a guy. One day they just came into Mr. Patel’s office and said they quit. Old boy damn near had a aneurysm.”
“He figured you’d have to pick up the slack.”
“You may be young, but I will pick you up and dump you on your ass.”
Rafael just laughed it off. It wasn’t an official visit until John threatened him with deadly force. Raphael’s throat was the consistency of sandpaper. He sheepishly eyed the water fountain, knowing that it would produce no permanent relief.
“What I can’t understand is how you can clean up other people’s room, yet live amongst this.” Raphael said as he held his arms out.
“Cleanliness doesn’t equal order. I can go to any place in this room and find whatever I need, with minimal effort. What messes me up, is when Laverne comes in and starts straightening shit up.”
“She’s brave enough to come in here?”
“Shit. This ain’t nothing. You should have been here yesterday.”
“What happened yesterday?”
* * *
It was about8:00Wednesday night, and Tim was on the desk at the time. I didn’t come on until around10:00. Anyway, so he comes out the bathroom and sees the alarm ringing for 215. It goes off whenever someone dials 911. So Tim goes to check on the guy. Well, by that time, the ambulance is already pulling into the complex. I guess Tim was taking a burrito shit or something. Anyway, he figures everything is copasetic and goes back to the office.
When I came on, he told me that the guy had called an ambulance earlier in the night. So after about an hour, I went to go check on him. I got to his room, peek through the window, and see him sitting on his bed. Didn’t look like anything was bothering him. So I’m like, “looks all right to me,” and went back down to the office. Well, the next morning the guy checks out. And of course we gotta get the room cleaned. So I decided to clean this one by myself. I think Laverne was down on the first floor. Anyway, I go up to the room, put my key in the door, and opened it.
“Holy fucking shit.”
There was blood all over that damn room. The entire room was soaked in it. Looked like a pint of blood on the bed, bloody footprints leading from the bathroom to the bedroom, bloody hand prints over the night stand TV, drawer, sink, walls, chairs, and table. In the sink there was even more blood. In the bathroom? Big fucking pool of blood in front of the toilet. There were bloody smudges on the toilet, the wall next to the toilet, the shower curtains, and on the tub. I had never seen that much blood before in one place in my life. The only thing I can think of is dude is a hemophiliac, fell off the toilet, and busted his head on the tub.
* * *
Rafael busted out laughing.
“Yep. That’s what Tim did when I told him.” John said as he lit another cigarette.
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I got a couple of questions. Ok? First off? What are you doing that would make you fall off of a toilet in the first place? Second, how do you fall off a toilet? Third, if dude is a hemophiliac how did he spill that much blood and still live?”
“Had to have been a new kind of drunk. Or on PCP. Or a nutjob.”
“But still. How do you cause that much damage? When your drunk and lose your balance, you fall slow. Not fast enough to crack your head open.”
“Lisa said he had stitches above his eye when he checked out. I bet anything that he busted those stitches open.”
“Shit. Ya’ll had to clean that?”
“Did we? When Laverne saw all that blood, I mean she got sick. Real sick. Never seen a sista actually turn green before.”
Rafael began to laugh, which was really a hacking cough disguised as a laugh.
“I know she was hating work that day.”
“Shit, you don’t know the half. The blood on the bed was soaked all the way through to the mattress. Had to throw the damn thing away.”
“How could you even stand it?”
“Didn’t have no choice. Had to get it clean. That was money lost. Shit, I think we had about four big bottles of bleach. Couple of thick brushes. We had to scrub our asses off. Laverne was cussing so damn much. I didn’t know she could put together such combinations. ‘Sonofabitch bastard. Motherfucking goddamn fucking nasty ass shit. Fucking motherfucker.’ It was something to hear, jack.”
“Ya’ll even had them white clean up suits on and everything?”
“Yep, had to go the medical supply store.”
“How long did it take to clean it all up.”
John took a deep puff and looked up at the ceiling.
“Shit it must’ve taken us about four damn hours.”
“Ain’t no way all that blood can come from one body, and that dude is still alive. He probably killed his wife or something.”
“If he did, he damn sure got away with it. Cause the evidence is gone. I took a bunch of pictures just in case, though.”
“You guys let a murderer slip right through your grasp.” Rafael said as he took his glasses off to rub his eyes. He was starting to get a slight pain right between his eyes.
“All we were thinking about was getting that damn room clean.”
“I would not want that job.”
“Shit. That ain’t the half of it. You hang around here long enough, you run into some strange shit. There was another time when a guy called an ambulance.”
“What is it about this place?”
“Strange-osity, son. And tons of it. Anyway, so after the ambulance arrives, I go down to check on it. Before I get to the room, I bump into Darryl and Barney. They happen to be near the motel when the ambulance comes in, so they come through just to see what’s what.
So when I roll up on them, they giggling like school girls. I’m like “What’s so funny? Dude OK?” Darryl then drops it on me. Homeboy called the ambulance, complaining about stomach pains and how it felt like his stomach was gonna explode at any minute. EMTs get there to examine him, when dude tells them he shoved three D cell batteries up his ass and super glued his asshole shut. He also glued his dick hole shut.
“I guess that makes 1002 uses for super glue.” Rafael said.
“What happened to him? Did they get them out.”
“Man, I could not tell you. I had put that shit out of my mind until five minutes ago. Batteries up the ass deserve no follow up. ”
“Can’t find fault with that. Anyway, guess I should apologize. You should get hazard pay. Or weirdness pay, one.” Rafael said as the headache intensified.
“You wouldn’t believe some of the nasty shit people do in rooms. This guy one day-”
* * *
Three hours had passed, and the smell of fresh air was a distant memory for Rafael. The headache was almost unbearable, and his eyes were barely open. It was finally time to cut bait and leave the gas chamber. As usual, Raphael stayed longer than he had intended. Very often, pain is life.
“I’m glad you came by.” John said as Rafael got up to leave.
Both he and John knew it would probably be another month or two before they saw each other, if not more. Somehow it was worth the pain, to trip out with his old man.
“I’ll give you a call next week, probably.” Rafael repeated a line given to him on many an occasion. Often there would be no call. Rafael was probably not going to call this time either. Both knew that and were cool with it.