The building was an imposing sight of great deception. From the street it was all that the prospective tenant could ever dream, that is it was whatever the prospective tenant wanted it to be. Some referred to it as a halfway house or a transitional living facility. Its rooms were always full and its halls were always busy yet there always seemed to be new tenants checking in. In its entire existence there has never been a time in which the landlord has turned away a prospective tenant; he always welcomes them with a smile.

To the left there was a donut shop and to the right was a small market with fruit stands in front. In the center was a white security gate with a white doorknob and a doorbell to the right of white doorknob. About two feet above the white security gate with the white doorknob was a camera that pointed towards the entrance. If one were to stand close enough, one could see through the white security gate with the white doorknob and see white marble flooring just before a set of stairs clad with plush cream colored carpeting. Others that have stood and peered through the white security gate with the white doorknob have claimed to see black marble flooring just before a set of stairs clad with plush wine colored carpeting. Nonetheless, all have seen the marble flooring and the set of stairs clad with plush carpeting regardless of the particular colors.

The particular neighborhood in which the building with the white security gate with the white doorknob is located certainly leaves something to be desired. The smell of urine and feces permeates the area continuously. It is an area that is saturated with drugs, particularly crack cocaine and crystal meth. It is commonplace to see individuals under the influence pacing in front of and around the building with the white security gate and white doorknob. It is also commonplace to see someone with a megaphone standing nearby, usually yelling something about religion. It is a very busy place indeed; yet the building with the white security gate and white doorknob seems undisturbed. It is beautiful in spite of its hideous surroundings.

 Ti

Ti isn’t actually Ti Connors first name. However, he hated his first name so much that he took the first two letters of his middle name and made them into his first name. In fact one could say that there were many things about himself that Ti Connors hated, particularly things pertaining to his past. His hope was to make his past reside strictly in the past and move into a more pleasant and prosperous future. A series of tragic events combined with some rash and irresponsible decision making had led Ti Connors to this place in his life.

He had a fairly comfortable upbringing in a town of moderate size yet had been a rebel his entire life. His mother and stepfather did the best that they could in raising him yet had made some questionable parental decisions. One of which was to lock him in his room whenever he was being punished which could last for months at a time. His parents had installed a sliding lock on the outside of his door and would unlock it before school in the morning and before dinner at night. After said task was completed they would escort him up the stairs to his room and lock the door behind him. His parents told him the sliding lock on the outside of his door was necessary because of the first condition of his punishment; his vegetable only diet. Whenever he was being punished he would only be allowed to eat a bowl of his least favorite vegetables for dinner. His parents had gotten the idea from the principal of a Catholic school that he had attended briefly as a child. At that time, his parents would simply send him to bed without dinner. By the time morning would come he would complain to them that he felt faint because he hadn’t eaten.  The principal of the Catholic school that he attended briefly as a child believed in a strong hand of discipline towards children and suggested to his parents that rather than send him to bed without dinner it would be best to simple feed him a bowl of his least favorite vegetable so as he couldn’t complain of not being fed. His parents reasoned with him that because of this vegetable only diet that had come at the suggestion from the principal of the Catholic school that he attended briefly as a child that he couldn’t be trusted not to wander to the kitchen at night in search of food. Therefore, he spent most of his childhood locked in his room. It was during this time that he developed the ability to escape within his own mind from any situation.

Immediately after turning eighteen he joined the Air Force, primarily to get away from his parents but also to earn money for college as he had dreams of attending culinary school at that time. Initially his time in the Air Force was fulfilling- his time at boot camp and later at the Military Police Academy introduced him to people from all over the country. For the first time in his life he had true comradery and a sense of purpose. Shortly after graduating the Military Police Academy he found himself deployed to Iraq where he began taking medication for depression. His deployment had little to do with his depression however; for the depression had always been there, it was just the return of an old friend. He found himself consuming more and more alcohol until finally the military decided it would be cheaper just to discharge him rather than continuously send him to rehabilitation facilities.

At the conclusion of his time in the military he lived with his grandmother and began going to the local community college. A short time later he had grown bored and stopped attending classes. However, he felt guilty living with his grandmother and being unproductive so he took a job at a fast food establishment. He actually enjoyed the work for a short while; he was friends with the girls that worked there. A short time later however, he had grown bored and quit his job at the fast food place. He was searching for a purpose and couldn’t find one, he was searching for love and couldn’t find it, he was searching for a life and couldn’t find one. His thoughts became consumed with ending it all. He chased after sex wildly simply to feel something other than death inside. That too was to no avail.

He sensed that his grandmother had grown tired of his mulling around and accomplishing nothing of significance and knew that he either had to get on with ending his life or find something to do with his life immediately. On a whim, he decided to use the education benefits that the military service afforded him and enrolled at a culinary school in the city. Being a world famous chef was no longer his dream as it had been when he was eighteen, but it was an out and he would also be provided a monthly housing allowance whilst he was enrolled in classes so he pursued it and moved to the city.

 

Once in the city however, he realized his monthly housing allowance would not suffice for renting an apartment when all move in costs were factored in. So he opted to stay in low quality hotels. Crack hotels, or as they are called in the city, SRO hotels. Most of these hotels had a three week limit on residency due to tax laws so the fourth week of every month he would have to find a new hotel; which meant he would have to save money for rent for the last week of every month. He opted not to save the money and spent it and would spend the last week of every month living on the streets. This cycle continued, sometimes he would steal from grocery stores, sometimes he would pick pocket. For three weeks he lived as though he were on top of the world and for one week he lived as the scum of the earth. Then the three weeks became two and then one. He began buying prescription pills off of the street depleting his housing allowance even faster. His interest in school waned. He had grown bored.

 

He had served a few nights here and there in overnight lockup for trespassing when he would try to sleep on private property for the evening. He was arrested on one other occasion for stealing a man’s backpack from the couch of a nightclub. He had taken to cleaning himself up and going to bars and nightclubs not for the purpose of social interaction but because the inebriated guests served as easy targets for pick pocketing and pocket snatching. On a particular night, after accomplishing his usual thievery, he noticed a black backpack on the brown leather couch by the exit door. He quickly snatched the black backpack off of the brown leather couch and quickly left via the exit door. To his disappointment nothing of value was in the bag. However, for reasons unbeknownst to him, he went back to the same bar the next night in search of more easy targets. Unfortunately for him the black backpack that he had taken off of the brown leather couch before exiting quickly via the exit door the night before belonged to the bouncer whom recognized him. The bouncer decided to physically show his displeasure, beating Ti Connors quite severely, taking his shoes right off of his feet and dropping him off at the police station. Unfortunately for Ti Connors, in addition to being under arrest for theft he also happened to have a bag of prescription pills in his front right pocket.  He spent the weekend in jail and saw the judge on Monday morning. At this time he explained his current living situation to the judge and the judge opted not to send him to jail. Instead he sentenced him to twenty hours of community service, ordered that the value of the items within the backpack that he had stolen be reimbursed, and that he pay a fine. The judge, rather kindly in fact, also presented him with a list of homeless shelters and halfway houses that were of good reputation. Ti Connors eagerly accepted both the punishment and the list from the judge; for he wasn’t concerned about the monetary punishment in the least because in a matter of hours it would be the first of the month and his housing allowance would be deposited into his checking account. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about the list of residences the judge had presented him with however. He certainly wasn’t going to live in some filthy shelter and he had no interest in accepting charity. Nevertheless, he left the courthouse with a great sense of relief and wandered around town anxiously awaiting the clock to strike midnight.

 

It was now just after midnight, officially the first of the month, and his money had been deposited into his account as planned. Now he needed to find a hotel to stay in. After eighteen days on the street he was looking forward to an actual shower rather than the quick bathe in the restroom of Safeway that he had grown accustomed to. After sleeping on the streets for an extended period of time his entire body ached and was screaming in agony for the comfort of an actual bed albeit it be one beset with bed bugs. He had heard from a street acquaintance some time ago of a hotel that didn’t have a limit on guest staying time and offered weekly room service. After calling the hotel and speaking with an unusually alert and cheerful clerk given the time of night, he was told that there was a vacancy and to come by. So Ti Connors walked the seven blocks to where the hotel was located passing quite a few homeless individuals asleep on the curb as he walked. A surge of relief went through his body at the thought that he would not be joining them in laying on the cold urine stained pavement; for a few weeks at least.

 

He now stood looking at the white security gate with the white doorknob and proceeded to ring the doorbell located just to the right of the white doorknob. As he peered through the white security gate with the white doorknob he could just make out a black and white tile marble floor just before a set of stairs clad with plush black carpeting. He heard a loud buzz and gently tugged the white doorknob on the white security gate and stepped onto the black and white tile marble floor just before the set of stairs clad with plush black carpeting.

 

 Ethan

He began his ascent up the stairs clad with plush black carpeting. After a few steps the stairs began to groan under his weight and with each step the groaning seemed to intensify. About halfway up the stairs he could see that at the top and to the right there was a second gate and dim light poured out from behind it. Now at the top, he turned to the gate yet the light was no longer there. Through the darkness he could make out the gate in front of him. This one was black with a rusty colored doorknob on the left and to the right was a dark colored box that appeared to be an intercom yet had no buttons on it. Also on the right just above the black gate with the rusty colored doorknob was what appeared to be a second camera with a small red light flashing on it. After waiting for a few seconds he looked up at the camera and instantly heard a loud buzz. After realizing that the buzz was not the dark colored box that appeared to be an intercom but was in fact the door he turned the rusty colored doorknob on the black gate and stepped in and instantly tripped on a small set of steps in front of him that had escaped him in the darkness. As he was regaining his balance the light reappeared. Looking up from his feet he noticed a square of light with a man’s face in the center of it. Behind the man’s face he could see a black leather couch and just above a row of small televisions. The man’s face rose and he realized that the man had been sitting and was now standing. The man had olive skin, wore thin eyeglasses, had a shaved head and wore a black fleece jacket. He could not see the bottom half of the man, only the top. The man leaned forward in the light and rested his elbows on something; as he drew near to the man he realized that the man was in fact standing in a doorway that had two parts to it. The top was open, light poured out and the man leaned forward resting his elbows on a small counter that was atop the second part of the doorway which was closed and emitted no light. After looking curiously at him for a moment the man’s face suddenly broke out into a huge smile.

“Hello, my name is Ethan. You called a bit ago?”

The man had an accent. He didn’t look like an Ethan.

“Yeah about twenty minutes ago. Room still open?” Ti Connors was concerned that he had given the room away.

“Of course.” “Ethan’s” smile grew even wider.

He couldn’t figure out where “Ethan’s” accent was from but it sounded strange.

“Cool. So you said 250 a week right? Cause I want three weeks.”

“Yes, 250 a week, cash only.” “Ethan” stood up straight and reached to his left and placed a small piece of paper on the counter that was atop the second part of the doorway that emitted no light. “I will just need a picture ID please. The full amount is due up front as well.”

He handed “Ethan” his expired driver’s license and 760 dollars in cash. The man reached to his left and appeared to put the cash in a drawer without counting it. “I am sorry but I do not have any change tonight. We deposit all cash at the bank at nine. I will give you change in the morning if that is suitable.” The man smiled again. Ti Connors was wondering how on earth he knew that he was due change when he didn’t even count the money before reaching to the left and putting the cash in what appeared to be a drawer. “That’s fine.”

“Ethan” held up his driver’s license. “I must make a photo copy of your driver’s license. Hotel policy.” The man stepped from the doorway, turned to his left and disappeared. Ti Connors could see himself standing at the doorway on the screen of the third television on the row of small televisions located above the black leather couch. “Ethan” reappeared and handed him back his driver’s license and a single key.

“Thank you, sorry for the delay. There are seven floors in the hotel and your room is on the third floor number thirty. Simply walk up two floors and as you reach the top of the steps on the third floor your room will be directly in front of you. There are two restrooms on each floor, no sinks, just lavatories. There is also a communal shower room that is cleaned twice daily and is open twenty four hours a day. As you are checking in on a Friday, your weekly room service will be Friday mornings at ten o’clock.  You will also find four sets of towels waiting for you in your room; they will be replaced at room service.”

He paused and smiled again. Gray blue eyes seemed to twinkle behind his thin eyeglasses.  “I hope you find your stay suitable. If you have any concerns, feel free to stop by and see me. I reside within the hotel therefore I am always available.”

Ti Connors thanked him and turned to the right towards the right to the set of stairs. The stairs were dark but he could see a light emitting nearby. There were four straight steps, then two crooked steps, six straight steps, then room number twenty directly in front of him at the top of the stairs to the dimly lit second floor.  He turned to the right and continued up the steps; up the four straight steps, then the two crooked steps, the six straight steps, and stopped at the top of the stairs.  The pink door with scratched golden numbers of room thirty was directly in front of him on the dimly lit third floor. He stepped up to the pink door with scratched golden numbers and glanced quickly down the hall to his left. It was a fairly long hallway with dim lights throughout; he noticed that there were rooms on each side of the hall. Odd numbered rooms were located on the left and even numbered rooms were located on the right. He guessed that there were about sixteen rooms to the left and down the hall from room thirty and about halfway down the hall were three bright lights. The lights weren’t exactly bright but were brighter than the lights that illuminated the dimly lit hallway. Ti Connors concluded that the three lights must be the two restrooms and the communal shower that the man had spoken of. At the very end of the hall was a door marked ‘Fire Escape’. To the right of the scratched numbers of room thirty was a much shorter hallway; about twenty five feet long. At the end of this hallway was also a door marked ‘Fire Escape’. On the left side of this hallway were only two rooms, neither of which had scratched golden numbers on them and both pink doors were completely bare. To the right of two bare pink doors just behind where he stood was a set of stairs that led to the upper floors of the hotel. After surveying all of this, he inserted the key into the lock and opened the door while also feeling for the light switch which he quickly found on the left side. Ti Connors flipped the light switch that was located on the left side and stepped inside the room letting the pink door with the scratched golden numbers close behind him.

 

At first glance, the room certainly appeared to be more well- kept than any of the rooms that he had rented in the past in this particular city. The white paint on the walls was brilliant and flawless as though a coat had recently been applied and the short length dark blue carpeting was free of any debris. Directly to the right of where he stood about a foot and a half away was a full sized bed that touched the eastern wall and was dressed with a pale blue comforter and two matching pillows. Atop the bed folded neatly in a row were four large white bath towels with four small white face towels atop each of them. At the foot of the bed toward the right against the wall was a small sink with a five tiered cherry colored storage shelf above it and in front of the small sink was a ten gallon laundry detergent bucket that contained no laundry detergent. He concluded that the bucket must be a make shift trash bin. To the left of the sink attached to the wall was a heavily scratched three foot lengthwise mirror and to the left of the heavily scratched three foot lengthwise mirror was a single pink padded chair. To the left of the single pink padded chair about six inches away touching the western wall and facing towards the western wall was a cherry colored armoire with four large drawers and atop the armoire was a scratched small black television set. To the left of the cherry colored armoire and scratched small black television set was a small window and in front of the small window was a small pink coffee table. Above the small pink coffee table were four white clothing hooks glued to the wall and to the left of the four white clothing hooks was the pink door of room thirty.

 

It was nearly one o’clock in the morning but after having been on the streets for such an extended period of time Ti Connors didn’t want to wait until morning to take a shower. Even though he had no hygiene supplies whatsoever with him, he stripped off his clothes, grabbed a white towel from the row and wrapped it around his waist. He sat on the side of the bed with the pale blue comforter to remove his shoes and socks. As he had been wearing the same pair of socks for at least a week, he shuddered to think of the horrible condition of his poor feet. After getting past the offensive odor he discovered that his feet were wrinkled and blistered. His toenails looked as though he could scale a large tree with very little effort. This made him think of a documentary that he had once seen on the sloth. He yawned quietly. With the small white face towel in his left hand and the single key in his right hand he opened the pink door of room thirty and stepped into the hallway. Glancing at the scratched golden numbers on the pink door he inserted the key into the lock and locked the door. He then turned to his left and began making his way down the hallway towards the three bright lights observing the complete silence of the hallway as he walked. As he passed by the rooms on the right and on the left he looked at the space between the bottom of the door and the floor of each room and saw no light. He made a note to make this a quick shower to minimize the noise that he made. As he reached the first light he saw that it was indeed a restroom; a pink door that was wide open with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling displayed a room about three feet in length and width with white and pink tile wall, white tile flooring, and a single white toilet with a small window located directly behind it. On the right side of the wall by the toilet was a shiny stainless steel dispenser. “No sink, just a lavatory.” To the right of this room was the second light that displayed a second restroom identical to the first and to the right of this room was the third light that displayed the communal shower room. Directly in front of the open pink door just inside of the room was a second pink door that was closed. To the right of closed pink door were two steps that matched the gray tile flooring of the communal shower. Atop the two steps to the right was a single white clothing hook attached to the wall and a small gray trash bin just under it. Atop the two steps and to the left was a gray shower curtain pulled back to display a fairly spacious shower with white tile walls. Ti Connors turned on the shower and after fiddling momentarily with the knob adjusted the water temperature to his favorite setting: scalding hot. He hung the small white face towel on the shower rod, removed the white bath towel from his waist, hung the towel on the single white clothing hook attached to the wall, and after quickly checking the water temperature with his hand stepped into the shower and pulled the gray curtain closed while simultaneously cursing himself for not having shower shoes. The water felt like heaven.

 

Even though he didn’t have any soap, the hot water felt as though it was cleansing him of the filth and despair of life living on the streets. A part of him felt like he could stand there letting the hot water rain down upon him forever. For some odd reason, ever since childhood he had always managed to do his deepest reflection in a hot shower. Perhaps because he was in complete solitude and the hot water was the only thing on earth that truly made him feel relaxed; nonetheless he would often actually sit on the floor of the shower and let the hot water rain down upon his head and reflect. Given that he was utilizing a communal shower however, he opted not to sit on the floor of this one. He adjusted the nozzle so that the water fell directly on his head and face and escaped into his thoughts while still being aware that he should finish up soon as he wanted to keep this shower under five minutes so as not to disturb the other tenants for too long. The reflection of this moment was what it often was and that was of course his future and what his purpose for living was. He knew that he had no desires to be a chef; cooking for pretentious “foodies” who obsessed over all the things that they could shove in their mouths all the while people around the world continue to die from starvation every day. He was at a loss. He certainly didn’t want…

 

Three sharp knocks on the pink door that led to the communal shower followed immediately by thunderous, continuous banging on the same door. His heart leapt into his throat; for it had startled him. Figuring that he exceeded his self-imposed five minute shower limit to prevent disturbing the other tenants for too long, he quickly turned the knob and after some fiddling the water turned off. The thunderous, continuous banging on the door continued. He felt a twinge of fear at the assertiveness of the knocking. Wishing that he had worn clothes to the communal shower instead of just a towel, he quickly wrapped the white towel around his waist, grabbed the room key from the floor just underneath the single white clothing hook, and grabbed the small white face towel from the shower rod. BAM BAM BAM BAM. The thunderous knocking continued. He quickly descended the two steps onto the gray tile flooring and reached for the doorknob to the pink door. BAM BAM BAM BAM. The force of the thunderous knocking could be felt through the door. He timidly opened the door, prepared to begin apologizing profusely to the clearly disturbed tenant for being inconsiderate enough to take a shower at one o’clock in the morning. The door was now fully open, and he stood behind it peaking around, mouth open ready to play peacemaker except no one was standing there. Ti Connors stepped out from behind the door and timidly poked his head through the doorway into the hall looking left to no avail then to the right with still no avail. The hall was completely empty. He turned and looked behind him, remembering the closed pink door at the bottom of the two steps that led to the shower. Timidly still, he opened this door and found a small closet with six white shelves filled with various cleaning supplies. He turned around and peaked out into the hallway again and seeing nothing; it was still completely silent in the hallway. He stepped out of the communal shower room hesitantly and walked the two feet to the two lights of the two restrooms that had no sinks, just toilets figuring that maybe someone had been knocking on the wall. After all the restroom was so close to the communal shower room that someone banging assertively on the wall of the restroom could sound as though they were knocking assertively on the door to the communal shower. Both restrooms were empty. He knew that there was no way someone could have walked away and been out of sight that quickly. After all, the thunderous knocking was still occurring even as he turned the doorknob to open the door. Alas, there was no other explanation. Perhaps someone in one of the even numbered rooms close to the shower had done the knocking and walked back to their room quickly, questioning their initial decision to knock so assertively; for all they knew he could be a 300 pound ex- convict looking for a fight. That must be it. Someone lost their temper but chickened out at the thought of face to face confrontation. Satisfied with this explanation he began to quickly walk down the silent hallway towards the scratched golden numbers on the pink door of room thirty. He was still a little jumpy and also hadn’t had time to dry off so the hallway felt freezing. As he reached the door he raised his key to insert it into the lock but couldn’t feel the lock. He looked down to where the lock was. The door was bare. There was no lock, no doorknob. He stepped back, confused, and looked at the golden scratched numbers that read thirty then looked down again to where the lock and doorknob should be. Still bare. BANG. He nearly jumped to the ceiling. As he looked to the left toward the end of the hallway the third light that displayed the communal shower room was dark- for the door slamming shut is what had made the loud noise. And…it couldn’t be. He felt his heart leap even further. Where the light had once poured out now stood a charcoal black mangy dog that was without question as tall as a thoroughbred, had eyes that resembled two blood moons, large, jagged teeth that were on full display and was emitting a growl that pierced the entire hallway.

He stood frozen as his mind tried to process what his eyes were witnessing. The charcoal black mangy dog that was without question as tall as a thoroughbred continued to emit a piercing growl, baring his large, jagged teeth as he began to move slowly from the spot that once displayed the third light from the communal shower and towards where Ti Connors stood. As he began to understand the dire nature of the situation he snapped out of his temporary stupor. He looked back at the pink door with the scratched golden numbers. Still bare. No lock, no doorknob. The dog was now about hallway up the hall, moving slowly as if savoring the moment but continuing to emit the piercing growl without a single pause or hesitation. He feared attempting to run down the six straight, two crooked, and four straight steps to the second floor because what if he were to make it to the second floor only to discover that the hall was deserted as it had been when he arrived and there wasn’t a soul in sight to help him? What if any sudden movement on his part caused the dog who was moving slowly up the hall as if savoring the moment to break into to a run? What if he couldn’t outrun the dog? Why didn’t any of the other guests peek out of their rooms to see what the noise was? He was certain that they could hear it; in fact he would wager that the growl that the charcoal black mangy dog was emitting was audible even on the street outside of the hotel as the sound, even low in pitch, was as loud as a fire alarm in volume. The dog drew nearer and was now about five feet away from where he stood in front of the scratched golden numbers of the pink door of room thirty. It seemed as if someone had suddenly pressed a mute button and stopped all sound in the hallway for the hall was now silent; so much so that he could hear his heart thumping rapidly in his chest. For the mangy, charcoal black dog was still baring it’s large, white jagged teeth in an angry snarl but no growl was emitting from its lips. He understood now why the dog had moved so slowly up the hall. As it moved to within inches of him, as its face moved close to his neck and he could feel its hot, not warm, but hot breath he could see that the two large eyes that resembled blood moons contained no pupils. Where its nose should have been where just two nostrils that resembled that of a snake and these nostrils moved upward as the dog’s eyes met his. The large jagged white teeth parted, saliva as white as snow flowed out of the dog’s mouth and a tongue that seemed to be as long as a sword poured out. In that moment, for some unknown reason, the words of the smiling man with the gray blue eyes behind thin eyeglasses, a shaved head and olive skin named “Ethan” entered into his mind. I hope you find your stay suitable.

 

                                                                Welcome

 

He awoke with a start and with a song that he had never heard before playing in his mind. He was staring at the stained white ceiling that was illuminated by a halogen bulb. Sitting up, he discovered that he was covered in sweat with just a large white bath towel wrapped around his waist. Wondering why he had been laying on the bed sideways, he remained seated thinking about the charcoal black mangy dog that was as tall as a thoroughbred. He could feel the dampness of the pale blue comforter beneath him. Inside the room with the pink door and scratched golden numbers it was freezing yet he was sweating as though he had just participated in a marathon. He turned and looked at the damp spot where his back had been. To the right of where he had been laying where three large white towels each with a small white face towel atop all folded neatly. To the right of those three was a single white face towel that was also folded neatly. Was it a dream? Clearly it must have been. When did he fall asleep? Did he actually walk down the hall to the left of the pink door with the scratched golden numbers that was room thirty and take a shower? Did he hear assertive banging on the door of the communal shower and open it only to discover that no one was there? Had he then walked back down the hall towards room thirty only to discover that the lock and doorknob were no longer there? Had he actually heard the BANG and turned to see the large charcoal black mangy dog that was without question as tall as a thoroughbred and had eyes that resembled blood moons standing where the third light had been? Then, did that dog actually approach him with a piercing growl low in pitch but loud as a fire alarm in volume? And did the growling seem to mute as the dog reached him? What about the nostrils and the tongue that was as long as a sword? Ti Connors jumped to his feet. The doorknob and lock were on the door-on the inside at least. Abandoning reasoning that stated if a doorknob was on one side of the door it had to be on the other side as well, he opened the door. The lock and doorknob were indeed present and the pink door with the scratched golden numbers wasn’t bare. He peeked to the left down the hallway that was now bright with sunlight that poured in from windows along the hall. The hallway was empty and quiet. It was a dream. Deciding not to attempt to answer the other questions he began to put on his clothes that he had been wearing for at least a week and his green fleece lined jacket that had seen better days. Seeing as he had gotten paid so late, all of the smoke shops had been closed and he desperately needed cigarettes. He grabbed the single gold key to room thirty and departed. At the third straight step he backtracked and headed down the hall towards the restroom. The light was off now so he turned it on and closed the door. A few seconds later he walked back down the hall towards the stairs- six straight steps, two crooked, four straight and he was on the second floor. Turning to his left to the stairs that led to the first floor he stopped and peeked down the hallway of the second floor. Empty and quiet. Six straight steps, two crooked, four straight and he was on the first floor with the door with two parts directly in front of him. The second part of the doorway beneath the small counter was still closed and emitting no light and the top was open. The black leather couch was fully visible as were the row of small surveillance televisions. “Ethan” was nowhere to be seen. Ti Connors heard a vacuum whirring down the hall somewhere, perhaps in one of the rooms. “Ethan” must be conducting room service. He pulled his cheap prepaid phone out of his back left pocket. The battery must be low because the phone was powered off. Turning it on he noted the time displayed on the screen. 9:43AM. The phone beeped and powered back down on its own. He turned sharply left and walked down the small set of stairs that he had tripped over the previous night towards the black gate with the rust doorknob that was now propped wide open. Going through the gate he turned left and walked down the large set of stairs with the plush black carpeting and stepped on to the black and white marble tile floor. As one had to be buzzed in order to open the white gate with the white doorknob from the outside, he correctly assumed that one must turn the white doorknob and lock at the same time to open the white gate from the inside. He did so, the white gate closed behind him and he turned left and went about finding a smoke shop. In that time, he never once questioned if the restroom to the left and down the hall on the third floor seemed familiar to him. As if he had seen it the night before on his way to the third light that was the communal shower.

 

As he walked down the street he passed a small market with a fruit stand out front that was just to the right of the hotel. Just the right of the small market with the fruit stand out front was a Mexican restaurant with two open glass doors that revealed a rather large dining area with small aged wooden tables and matching small wooden benches throughout. He could see the cashier at the far end of the dining room with the small aged wooden tables and benches and behind the cashier behind a pass through window he could see the cook. Ti Connors was hungry but was more in the mood for coffee and donuts or a breakfast sandwich. He made a mental note to stop off and get something to eat on the way back to the hotel. The mission of the day after cigarettes and food was to go back to the hotel, gather the few sets of clothes in his possession as well as his school chef whites and find a nearby Laundromat. Classes at the culinary institute resumed on Monday and he didn’t want to go to school with dirty chef whites. To the right of the Mexican restaurant and to the left of the sidewalk was a large courtyard with benches throughout. Toward the rear of the courtyard facing the street were 2 sets of stairs that led to a tunnel that led to the train system. Some cities call this a subway but this city doesn’t. Continuing past the courtyard with benches throughout he stopped when reaching the crosswalk. As always the street was busy. Behind him in the courtyard he could see a short man with a megaphone speaking enthusiastically about something in Spanish. He looked straight ahead before remembering that there was a small smoke shop just across the street that also happened to have a McDonalds just to the right of it. He turned in the crosswalk facing his destination and waiting for the light to change so that he could cross. Just to his right was a large electric city bus making its stop as at least four dozen people crowded the area; some getting on and others getting off. The light was now yellow. A second large electric bus continued to plow through the intersection and proceeded to stop behind the first bus even though it was clear that both could not fit in the same area. The result was that half of the second large electric bus blocked off the crosswalk and irritated pedestrians walked into the street to get around it. Shaking his head, Ti Connors crossed the street and made his way into the smoke shop passing many interesting characters and strong vapors of urine and feces along the way. After dealing with a rather rude and quick tempered merchant with long hair tied in a ponytail and with an accent that was either Middle Eastern or South American, he bought his cigarettes and made his way next door to the McDonalds. He opted for three sausage Mcmuffins, three hash browns and a large coffee all for a grand total of just over nine dollars. He hated using his debit card in the city due to his fear of shady merchants but had no more cash. As he handed the cashier his card, he reminded himself to stop and get more cash. With any luck he’d be able to pay for another week at the hotel and not have to live on the streets at all this month. That would be a welcomed change. Glancing around the dining room and taking note of the large population of homeless occupying said dining room he opted to take his meal back to the hotel. So he exited. Back to the right to the stop light, turning left and waiting in the cross walk, another pile up of large electric buses resulting in him having to walk into the street to make it get around the buses and make it across the street. Then a left, pass the large courtyard with the benches throughout, pass the Mexican restaurant, past the small market with the fruit stand out front and stopping at….The white gate with the red doorknob. Ti Connors would have sworn that the doorknob had been white but figured he had been mistaken. Up close the white gate appeared more yellow than white because it was so filthy. Shoving his bag of food under his left arm and placing his large coffee in his left hand, he reached out with his right index finger to press the doorbell that was located to the right of the red doorknob. The door buzzed before he rang. He figured “Ethan” must have seen him on the camera that was located above the “white” gate and to the left. He pulled open the door… and stepped onto the white marble flooring located just before the plush wine colored carpeting. As he stared at the tall set of stairs in front of him he turned to close the “white” gate with the red doorknob behind him. However, the gate was already closed and the red doorknob as well as the lock were non-existent. The gate was completely bare. As he turned towards the tall set of stairs he looked upward and saw the black security gate still propped open; and to the left of it, on the wall space that remained, the word ‘Welcome’ was sprawled in what he could only assume was dripping red paint.

Published by Montrell Carter