Couch, 3.C.1, 1000 words

Jack takes a room for Connie in a low-slung motel. The eave and sky are identical blue. He departs, driving back the direction they came, or on in the same direction. She will die here, of as natural cause as any. What the man, Jack, had called suicide by motel, a dignified, passive, tidal resignation, is the glacial equivalent of being smothered by slowly accumulating dust, or asymptotically starving to death, ingesting just enough to live and just enough toxic preservatives to keep the body intact, for someone might eventually burble into the wiped-out world and hope to find another human form in its lifelike context. The notion of suicide by motel is vaguely misleading. This motel is the same as the others. This is the same room. This is not a distinct, specialized motel creeping with knife-wielding savages. She’d been entertaining submission to these shadowy slashers ably dicing her into unrecognizable oblivion just as she crossed the threshold of the parking lot. Asphalt rolls hill and fold in dull billowed sheets. Near the intersection of two vast roadways back in Roxana was a motel, elegantly: Roxana Motel. Isolated from both roads by great bottomless swales and crested horizons of more and more asphalt, the Roxana Motel seemed a dependable portal to transmit her life into purgatory. Dust storms and unsavory devils in denim peeked above the horizon. She smelled their acrid chemical breath in her breaths and the must of plastic quilting penetrating her mouth and threading into her lungs. She’d been relishing that sort of swift penance. Deliberate lounging toward demise is achy and phlegmatic. Fold her up in a sheet, twirl the loose ends; describe this her. She is whisper light. She lies back against a squat mound of pillows. Superficial desiccation creeps as though spidery fissures are splitting in secluded dry plastic crackles. It is the form of a person, a woman, but the odor of age, a collected odor quilted by cigarette smoke. The smoke odor wilts into melancholy burrowed in worn twill upholsteries. The vista of the room, from the room, the contents of the room, the pathways in the building of rooms, are constants to her life. This bed, its nightstand, this table, the luggage bench, these two club chairs, the one window, its air conditioner, the oilcloth drapes, the stiff chair at this low dresser is inevitable. She doesn’t leave. She has a constant feeling of coming home to an empty, smothered apartment. From one instant to the next the sun seems to have dawned and thrown itself well above the horizon. Not a thing in the room is evocative of anything. The possible is narrowed to a point, at first with the promise of peace and stasis, then out of necessity, and finally because anything different had ceased to exist. Yes. She had seen this printed painting in this etoliated mauve quarter-round frame, always dulled by dust-hazed glass. Three skew fence posts diminish with loose fit planks, some fallen from their mortises into tall straw-colored grass tufts. A pattern of insinuated worm trails and bug holes is composed in a few elected stretches of wood. A dark vertical blemish like an exclamation mark crowned with a thin line for a split, a check in the wood, and then an assortment of lighter spots, all generally the same size but slightly different in shape, though not so different, are arrayed in a mess, a mess if there is a first time for seeing it, but the mess is always recognizable, a group of four in a top-tapered quadrilateral, next, just right of them, a group of three, like a center point and two marking a seventy degree angle, turn the corner downward to another quadrilateral, tapered now to the right. It is the only painting she’d ever seen. It is evocative of everything. Evocation is not quite right, bilocation, resurfacing into every event in every life, presumably hers, presumably Jacky’s, all at once. That pointless pattern of points on a rural fence post that never existed has accompanied every longing second. In the emptied-out world the limitless terrain is clearer, such that it disappears, or crystallizes, and what has struggled to wander about in the past, wandering there still, bunches up toward it. She reflects in the flatness, the collapse. The time this place occupies is irrelevant. Voices are muffled in the air conditioning sound. The vistas, contents, and pathways that over their ubiquitous existence churned with activity and life still shiver over the faded underlay. A figure wanders the room. It must resemble Connie. That spectral Connie creates jittery scenes around this flesh Connie using the stock furniture, the permanent stage set. Her movement blocks what details lie beyond. The layering is too concrete to be memory. This passive Connie strikes hopeful corpse poses on the bed. She recedes to be forgotten but regardless is not foreknown by that relic of her. She observes that more vigorous etheric Connie striding about unpacking her overnight bag, folding her smocks, washing her face, and dragging a comb through her waxy, dim hair. The removed, distant running faucet lures that peaceful bedtime Connie like a waterfall hidden in a thicket. Her immaterial body breezes murk over the quilt and sheet next to this Connie. From one instant to the next the sun seems to have dawned and thrown itself well above the horizon. In the sun Jacky sits fully dressed, his shoes laced, hair fragrant with boy oils. He had awaken while this Connie slept. The sharp pains of her longing have left her dry body. In his peaceful half smile reposes the perfect shape of her failures as a human mother. The long-shadow pain of her regret dulls the sad, empty gaze as he watches that Connie putting her things together to leave. Voices rise and fall through the walls. The sweet taste of his hair, that balsam soft sweat on his skin is distant and apocryphal. She recalls he had grown sour-smelling.

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