She awoke to the sensation of beads of moisture running over the olive skin of her face into a sweat soaked pillow. The sun coming around the torn window shade was hot on her face and the combination of heat, light and hangover sent her scrambling down the hall from her rented room to the bathroom she shared with the other two tenants on the floor.
Most of the porcelain had been worn away from the bathroom doorknob giving it an organic, black and white randomness that she would have appreciated at any other time, but just now she needed to get to the commode. The door was locked. For a second Zaina thought of screaming at John – it had to be John because Shauna went to her job before dawn, and John, like Zaina, was out of work – to stop doing whatever he spent hours doing in the bathroom and let her throw up. Instead, she ran back to her room and almost made it to the trash can.
“What a freaking mess”, she thought. The clothes that she had hit with bulls-eye precision next to the trash can had already needed to be washed, and now would have to be washed. Zaina would have done the washing sooner, but she didn’t have the money for the laundromat.
Unable to face her stark room, she had gone to the bar broke last night hoping that someone would buy her a drink. Someone did – a lot - and she vaguely remembered going to some guy’s apartment after the bar closed. She was sure that they had had sex, but she couldn’t remember any of the details.
Returning to bed and pulling the sheet over her head, Zaina tried to go back to sleep, but the heat and the headache kept sleep at bay. Throwing the sheet back she stared at the ceiling, tracing its cracks in the plaster to the ceiling light, from there to the broken place in the crown molding, and off across the room to the transom over the door. The door frame was of a style with target like concentric circles at each corner. The wood, and she was sure that it must have been real wood, had been stained a dark brown, painted over at some time, white, and was now a patchwork of flaked white with brown areas showing through. Despite the dry heat, the hall, bathroom, everything but her room had a stale, musty, closed up smell.
When she moved in, the transom and windows had been painted shut. She had taken a knife and carefully worked her way around freeing the windows and the transom free in their casements, but was disappointed to find that this did nothing to create a breeze because the rest of the building was painted shut and there was no chance for the movement of air. Opening the windows did allow for any cool night air to drift in, and she didn’t regret the insecurity an open window provided; she had nothing worth stealing and hoped someone would kill her in the night. She had nothing to lose.
This must have been a fine place at one time she thought. It was a freaking dive now: nothing but a dive. I’ve got to get a job. I’ve got to get out of here. Anything would be an improvement over this dump. She slid out of bed, pulled on a different set of dirty clothes, rolled the puke soaked ones in the corner in a ball, grabbed her toothbrush, and went back to the bathroom to brush her teeth. This time the bathroom was empty.
She took a moment to brush out her thick black hair and gazing into the mirror over the sink Zaina stared at her face. She had her Lebanese mother’s olive skin and dark eyes, but her features were a combination of those of her fair skinned American father and her mother. It wasn’t a bad look. Certainly her looks were enough to get her a second glance. Someone had left a bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet and she swallowed a couple hoping that they would stay down long enough to help her pounding head.
She couldn’t stay in the room, and she didn’t think she could stand washing the bundle of clothes in the bathtub yet. She would deal with that later. Locking her room door behind her she walked down the stairs into the dusty lobby of the old hotel. Atop the desk where a clerk must have at one time greeted arriving guests, a sign read, “Back at 1:30”. (Of what year, in which century?) The rest of the lobby held old, dilapidated or broken furniture and rodent droppings. She went through the front door heading for the com center at the library. The com center bunker would be cool.