I hadn’t been sleeping well and couldn’t pay attention in crowds so I’d skipped most of the conference. Plus, I was developing a serious migraine that was part too much exposure, too little water and part an endless clench and grind of my teeth from trying to manage myself in this group. By the time I arrived I was soaking wet. The rain soothed me; my head, my burning shoulders, the internal fever but now my sneakers sloshed. My feet squeaked as I walked towards the entrance of the hotel.
“Forgot your umbrella?” the doorman asked.
“Yes, I always do.”
“There’s a bathroom to the left with paper towels,” he gestured. “At least you can wipe your face.”
He was an older black man in a proper uniform: black and gold bellhop attire complete with cap. Obsequious out of force. I nodded and kept past him. Something in my head split. I had enjoyed the walk. I wasn’t wearing much makeup so nothing smeared and I liked my hair patted flat against my skull; no frizz that way. Humidity created bulk and anxiety created turmoil that wanted me to rip volume off. Can’t explain the drive to diminish myself any more than I can explain how I got from the house to here in a linear fashion. It took me an hour and forty minutes to complete a sixty minute walk. I could, I was thinking as I wrung the bottom of my dress out in the public toilet, tell you how many cracks were growing up the side of the yellow paned rambler that gripped me for several minutes, or how many cats slinked along the fences. (Four: one gray, two brown, one black with white paws and neck tuffs). The direction of the wind and further than that, where the lightning might start given the distance between the rumble of thunder and streak, how the rain started tepidly before rushing and when and what temperature it was when it hit.
My legs were lined with bumps. I didn’t have a jacket or change of clothes.The AC was full. Also there was tension in the air. Also, something in my head screamed.
“I should leave.”
You just got here.
“But I should leave again.”
I used my phone to call an Uber. Mind you, I hesitated. The rain had slowed and I was already wet. As I watched the app buffer, I walked back towards the door man.
“You need an umbrella to borrow?”
Meekly, I nodded.
“Or a car?”
“Just an umbrella.”
The man produced a cheap black umbrella from the stand and there was no discussion of returning it. A gaze exchanged, not amicable or stern, just a pardon of sorts. I didn’t have any cash except two dollars and wasn’t sure what was appropriate so I did nothing instead. Lingering, I canceled the Uber. Something in my head split.
“I will tip you when I get back with more money.” I pulled out the two dollars: crumpled, tried to smooth it.
“Thank you but no need. Just bring the umbrella back with you later.”
He didn’t take the money or even look at it. I was afraid I insulted him. And then several black dots appeared before my eyes like the picture was changing on a movie screen to the next scene. The way it does when film starts to burn but smaller, nearly imperceptible unless you were looking in the right direction.