Quanah, 2.C.5, 600 words

The train each morning disgorges into the underground rock station, aside tile and rubber platform, pressing out the air inhaled from the hotel and exhaled down there in a momentary vacuum quickly relieved by air, slumping from the trundled open car doors, exhaled overnight by chap-eyed passengers, itself drawn mostly away again by the departing train like a dry ponytail of sour sighs. Behind the glass baffle of evening, draining into the center of nothing, the assumed evacuated center of a reginal diadem metered with dull stones in rising and falling mounts of ambitious gold lace, though too fragile to don, a viscous inhaling sound chokes. Pockets of air slurp and gasp open. Just after dark the station respires with another train. In a familiar room Connie awakens bound into a meticulously made bed. Sweat unifies her with smock, with sheet. Darkness in the room folds into the creeping of night light, diminishing neither, nor intermixing wan, nor independent. Her nearby feet together crop up like buttes. The bed spreading out, chairs, table, sideboard pinning in all are visible in the half dark. Nothing is against the rigor of the room except her feet in taut wrinkles of pale hibiscus, of white stems and plastic thread for quilting. She struggles against the bed, escaping and spoiling it. Her eyes ring with deeper darkness. Her face shadowy upon itself, is crept across by moonlight diffusing the shadows. A leaf of breath from the room slips ‘neath the door to sway out over the atrium. The dark is long after moonrise. No train runs to hurry for. Though they happen upon her in differing shades of light, perhaps insinuating drawn curtains, perhaps coy sheers bringing shade company to shadow, or awash in homogenized half-light, the nagging silence of unmade beds adsorbs texture and space from her perception. Connie strips the soiled linens and gives over to the rite of installing a fresh set, aligning, smoothing, buffing, and tracing out imperfections and dimples across the mattress. She lays her hands across long pleats and folds and draws them down and outward. The thin quilt she shakes in the air with a windy flick falls across the mattress pressing to its shape. It seems to protest, bloused in puffed approximation, but relents with a snort. Her housekeeping trolley is in the alcove by the doors. Her feet drag across carpet, then concrete. The trolley and her apron and hairpins are deposited in the hollow under the hotel. The metal doors to the housekeeping warren lock behind her. Liberated in the tabernacle of her ritual Connie cruises the same circuits as her days, though, without master key or trolley her physics are unbalanced and depth restricted. Connective tissues tighten, become more specific. The endless stretches draw in devoid of people. Distant windows through which the cloud-dampened sun lured her in loop all days close down in late night lividity. Seeming to rise gently like a dinner plate, the inscribed glyphs on the lobby and corridor carpet oddly becomes more distinct further out beyond the great orbits of concrete pillars. Disparate lamplit arrangements of furniture bob in the dim pure land. Connie wanders among these lounges hanging at distinctly misregistered altitudes in the shadowy cliffs. Her transit from one to the next, looking back through burnt-out space to the last, is cloaked in the mysterious confusion of time passing over sleep. Lamplight from behind casts her shadow such that each step appears to fall away into darkness. Locked doors and the night drawing on circles her down to only the lowest tray of the atrium narrows.

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