The story so far:
It took me two hours to walk to the hotel and by the time I got there my legs were jelly, seconds away from crumbling beneath me. The area was deserted, a single pick-up truck parked by the lobby door. I hesitated wondering if I should find a more populated hotel, but with my luck the next hotel would be another 3 days walk and I was sure I wouldn’t make it without some kind of rest. I slowly opened the door hoping that I would find a big bulky woman behind the counter who was more interested in her pathetic situation than in mine. The lobby was oddly dark, the only light coming from the office. I rang the bell, the sound bouncing off the walls. I waited as no one approached. Maybe the owner of the truck was long gone, home with her family celebrating their survival. I rang it one more time out of consideration. I wanted to make sure no one was around before I grabbed a key.
There was still no answer. I looked around making sure no one was coming from a different direction and when all was clear (or silent is more like it), I went behind the counter and started searching for keys. They had to be hanging somewhere. I was so deep in my search I didn’t hear the footsteps approaching behind me or the click of the shot gun.
“Freeze,” a voice yelled. I turned around to find myself staring into the barrel, “who the hell are you and what the hell do you want?”
“I was just looking for a key to a room,” I said, trying to keep my fear under the radar.
“And you just decided to help yourself?” he said. As I got a glimpse into his eyes, I saw dread and panic. He was a short, petite man, no more than 5’4” and 150 pounds. His skinny arms stretch past the sleeve of his plaid button down shirt and his jeans were covered in dirt with holes at the knee as if he fell on the pavement and scratch them. I realized he wasn’t a terrible man just terrified and I calmed myself down despite the gun he had pointed in my face.
“I’m sorry,” I said, in my sweetest voice. I needed to charm him enough to give me a room, “I didn’t mean to take from you. I came from LA and I have been walking for 3 days straight. I was looking for a room to rest.”
“Where you headed?” he asked, lowering the gun enough to take a look at me. Part of me was saying to leave, to just find another place to sleep, but who was to say the next place would be any easier. People are afraid out there and I needed to be able to handle anything that came my way.
“I’m walking to New York to find my boyfriend.” I thought about Howard, hoping he had better luck than I was having at that moment.
“Walking? That’s a long walk.”
“I know. That’s why I need a room, to rest up. Look,” I pulled out some money, making sure not to show him all of it. I didn’t need to be robbed, “I have some money to pay.”
He looked at me and the dread I had first saw changed to sympathy. I knew at that point I had gotten to him. He lowered his gun and placed it on the counter as if to remind me that it was still there in case I later betrayed the trust he was giving me.
“Keep you money,” he said, “you might need it later.”