I am worn out now, a staggering exhaustion at the end of a day on the road. All the
motels in town are sporting “no vacancy” signs. I park my motorcycle to look around and settle
on a strip of lawn at the well-shadowed end of a pricey hotel parking lot. I go back and retrieve
my bike, throttling hard when I return to the hotel entrance, coasting in silence down the
length of the parking lot and into an empty spot beside a hulking dumpster.
I roll out my sleeping bag in the shadow behind the dumpster. I pull off my boots, slide
them onto the handlebar grips and lay my jacket over them. I push a tent pole into the ground
and use it to drape mosquito netting over the mouth of the sleeping bag. I slip out of my jeans
and into the sleeping bag, pulling the mosquito netting around me. The sky is clear, the night
still. Warm now and weary, I quickly fall asleep.
At dawn I am shocked awake by the hydraulic growl of a garbage truck lifting the
dumpster above me and stopping. I roll away from what feels like danger and scramble out of
my sleeping bad. I stagger to my feet and lock eyes with the driver. Each of us is surprised.
He shakes his head as he might with a teenager, then re-engages the lift. He hoists the
dumpster up over the cab, a rush and clatter, garbage aroma and dust. Then he swings the
dumpster out over me and jerks to a stop. He shakes his head again, trying to suppress a smile,
then slams the dumpster to the ground in front of me. Startled, I jump out of the way. I cannot
see him when he backs up and revs the engine, a cloud of diesel fume when he roars away.
I grab my jeans off the ground and lean against the dumpster to wrestle them on. I
collapse the tent pole and pick up the sleeping bag, pad out into the parking lot in my stocking
feet. I check my watch, four hours of sleep and this shock of morning.
I roll up the sleeping bag and pack everything away, then soak a washcloth with canteen
water and scrub myself down. Nothing is stirring in the parking lot. I brush my teeth, pull on
clean socks and a t-shirt, and finger-comb my hair in a rearview mirror of my
cycle. I catch myself grinning.
I pull on my helmet and climb on, start the engine and head off to what I hope will be
breakfast in the town square. I park in front of a coffee shop and walk inside, trying not to
notice the eyes studying me above lifted newspapers. I sit down with a coffee and an
newspaper someone left behind.
It feels like a clean getaway.
What Remains, page 52
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