a triptych. You're part of an ensemble that makes up three quarters space and one quarter iron fist. If I could only see your hands. But as part of this mise-en-scene only a third of you is in my line of vision. On your knees, you are framed by the bathroom door which stands wide open, which itself is framed by the bedroom, whose window I watch you through. The final, or first frame. From the outside.
I only came out here to smoke a cigarette. I could smoke in my motel room. It's air-conditioned in there. I could lie on the bed and stare at the wall where the remnants of a squashed something have left a dark brown stain. I could contemplate. But I've contemplated too much already. Besides, I hate smoking indoors, recycling the blue powder puffs through my lungs. I don't really want this cigarette but it has become part of my ritual. One cigarette in every new motel. And a hole burnt through the map with the red hot tip. There are five holes in it now and it has a comforting smell to it. Five motels, five different towns, but none have piqued my curiosity like this one. Like you.
I guess you're kneeling at the bath. Or perhaps I should say tub. While on this cross-country tour of America I may aswell pick up some of the lingo. You are kneeling on the white tiled floor, facing the tub, and your arms are moving in a rhythmical sphere. I can only think you're washing something, scrubbing. Your shirt sleeves are rolled up and I see the muscles in your arms dance like there are bugs beneath the skin. I could watch this movement all night. But then you turn. Something has caught your attention, as though I made a sudden movement or knocked on the window. It is too late to duck. You have seen me. I watch you stand and walk towards me.
The map is a crushed up and disintegrating wad in my back pocket. It lives close to my body always. I really would be lost without it. Why does an opened map never fold back up properly? It's like a door that can never be closed, a path that can never be travelled more than once. Or something less poetic. When people pick up that I'm 'not from around here' they ask where I am going and where I have been. Visiting friends? Working? Sight-seeing? I say yes to whatever they suggest. I am everything and everyone to these strangers. I am whatever they want me to be. To be honest, I don't really know what I'm doing. I never asked. I just saved, scraped, stole enough money for escape and took the first opportunity that came along. Though if anyone were to ask what I was escaping from, I wouldn't exactly be able to put it into words. It would sound too much like a cliché. I am not missed. I know that much. I am not sought after. And nobody will have thought to read the obituaries.
When you open the door your face questions me, but you don't say a word. You are frowning but not in anger. The fleeting fear that this might be the last burn hole in the map leaves me and I say 'I think your bath is overflowing'. You rush back inside and I follow.
'It won't stop,' you say. And at first I think you mean the water. You are not American. You speak in English but your accent is thick with the dregs of something East European. It's almost as if you were expecting me. You don't ask why I was watching you. I feel as though this whole scene were set up for me, an invitation, to be part of something bigger. Bigger than my lack of reason for being here in the first place. Or perhaps this is the reason. It could be, I think to myself. Why not?
I close the door quietly behind me. Something tells me that we mustn't draw attention to ourselves. See? Already I refer to us as 'we'. Already we've both become something else. Something double. I no longer feel like a fraction of a thing. It only took a moment to create a perfect number.
I see the problem. Without a word you grab her arms and I take her ankles and together we haul the girl out of the bath. I turn off the taps and pull out the plug. The water is cold and pink. Blood slides from the lacerations like oil. It smears the skin, it keeps on sliding. Onto the tiles, onto our clothes, our hands. You run your fingers through your hair and leave a smudge of red on your forehead. 'It just won't stop.' There is a lot of blood here. I haven't seen so much blood since Kelly was bitten in the face by Sandy. Her lip just split in two. Although her cheeks were punctured, it was that lip, burst like a cherry, that made me feel faint. There's always a lot of blood in the soft parts. The lips, the anus, the inside of the nose. They bleed so easily.
I grab the towel from the rail. It might have been a white fluffy thing once, soft as something young with eyes still closed. Now it is rough to the touch and a little yellow-stained. As I press it to the wounds it soaks up the blood like a sponge, mimics the dead girl with its flashes of hard white and moist red. You gasp, 'What are you doing?' and yank the towel from my hands. 'Look at it. Look.' Your voice trembles. 'We can't leave the towels like this.' What are you thinking? I grab it back out of your hands and spread it over the girl's face. I'm sick of her glazed eyes looking at me. Accusing. I crawl over to you, feel the wetness of blood soak into the knees of my jeans. I take your face in my hands and gently kiss you. Your eyes are wet with tears. Your lips are dry with the heat. 'It's okay,' I say, and you nod, like a child. I want to chastise you, but you meant no harm. 'I'm here now. Everything will be okay.' I rock you slightly and hold you close. You put your arms around me and sob into my shoulder. Everything is going to be fine.