by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012
Just south of downtown, 1959 two-story concrete block and drywall motor inn, motor lodge, motor hotel, motel, painted gray, gray day, gray street, scabrous teenage hookers with blackened teeth, only ever taken advantage of, disadvantaged, angry, in need of 20 dollars, wearing short shorts, swaying hips like a cartoon of some predator’s dream of what a woman should be.
While she lies on the bed, being paid for, businessman’s found himself absorbed in a new game by himself in the motel room bathroom.
When they were new, these motor hotels were quaint suburban getaways, and now they’re inner-city vice boxes. Down the street, the Gator Lodge and Golden Ox Lounge, the American Eagle Hotel (God Bless America) [sic], the City Center Motel, the Mt. Vernon Motor Lodge (Adults Only), the Joe.
Variations on the same theme up and down this half mile of Philips Highway. When yesterday’s suburban postcard homes-away-from-home become today’s anonymous inner-Floridian-city expendably interchangeable concrete block pox boxes with one palm tree by the small cheap neon sign and palmetto bushes in the blasted parking lot, everything here becomes faded, sad, wilted, mocking, heat-stricken, old, old, aged, like Levi-Strauss wrote that American cities aged in years like other much older towns aged in centuries.
Businessman finds himself absorbed in his own new game in the motel room bathroom. The weapon he holds is a can of Raid Ant & Roach Killer (Plus Germ-Killing Power!) and his enemies are the dozens of gnats swarming around the toilet and the sink and the bathtub. His weapon he finds beneath the sink; the gnats he finds everywhere. He sprays one and sees it go down. He sprays another. Then another. Next thing he knows, he finds himself in a real-life reminder of some video game he must have once played. He’s taking them out, left and right, and the gnats go down, one dead carcass after another. Businessman forgets about the hooker who has by now fallen asleep on the hard flat mattress. For now, for these few moments, his only world is taking down these gnats, one by one, then washing their little gnat corpses down the dirty sink, and he thinks about the billions-of-years-path of the molecules of their stupid little bodies and what their stupid poisoned little bodies will break down to in the city’s sewers and wherever they go after that. Maybe someone in Japan will drink one of these gnat molecules in a saucer of heated rice wine 137 years from now. Yes. He’s sure of it. Just like in John Donne’s Flea. Of which he’s never heard. Yet thus are we all connected. And then everything depends on it. Everything depends.