(Originally published in Swill Issue 7.)
The blare of a horn startles Nora out of her half-sleep. It’s coming from outside the window to the left of her bed, from the parking lot of the Newark Airport Best Western. The hotel is a good fifteen-minute drive from the airport. The reception area, where Nora waited behind a woman clutching a sleeping child while her husband argued with the old Indian lady behind the counter, smelled like a combination of curry and formaldehyde. On her way up to her fourth floor room she’d hit the wrong elevator button, disembarked one floor above her own, and found the halls piled with rolls of pink insulation and all the doors flung open, rooms lit bright and bare. There was something garish, something disquieting about all those gaping rooms, that made her turn her back and count, silently in her head, the seconds, the numbers ticking by – two, three, four, five – as she waited for the elevator to return.