Strangers And Stories

November 21, 2007
The hotel lobby was deserted and quiet. The young manager was half asleep behind the faux-mahogany desk. It felt a little surreal, this whole weekend, this whole trip. And now we walk in to find this ghost town of an Inn, with white walls, and royal blue carpet. Nothing matched, but that is usually the case with a cheap place like this. It was nearly one-o-clock, but we were full of adrenaline and the night was still young. We had been all around this town and found nothing with lights on except for this dank place and a lonely Waffle House up the road. Ben and Jason, went to the desk to make arrangements with the poor kid who had drawn the unfortunate shift. Lauren and I walked around the lobby, peeking our heads through dark doorways and exploring the floor. We came across an abandoned room with a pool table and a change machine. It's decor spoke of solemn nights and dull days.

We got our room and went to check it out. Ben and Jason ran down the hall yelling to one another. We didn't think it would be polite to disturb anyone in their rooms, but at the same time we didn't care. This was our night. They should at least come out and join us, not lay in their boring rooms sleeping. This is Pennsylvania for Christ's' sake! Don't they know? We so desperately wanted to meet these people. Not that they were necessarily anyone important, hell they might not even be from Pennsylvania. But to talk to them, to listen to their stories, to hear about how their daughter takes piano lessons, or that their cousin has the bluest eyes. To experience this would complete everything- to share our night with a newfound friend. That would be inexplicably wonderful.

The long halls surfaced vivid memories of a scene from that old horror flick "The Shining", and we all laughed as we commented on it. The shadowed lighting only served to add to this extreme feeling of surrealism. And it made sense- we were here, living a dream, everything spontaneous and irrational, everything amazing. We took great ceremony in extracting the room key from the tiny envelope. The key slipped into the lock, and with a "click" we were in our room. Everyone scattered to different parts of the room, investigating our own corners.

"These beds are crazy!" yelled Jason as he did a backflip onto the one nearest me. And with this, Ben left his post at the window to come see- being six-foot-six it only took one big stride to serve as his running start. He jumped and landed on top of Jason, pretending to smother him with all of his weight. Jason socked him in the side, and with a groan, Ben rolled off the bed onto the floor. They were both laughing like idiots; Lauren and I exchanged looks and left them to check out the bathroom.

The best part about Pennsylvania is the weather. I don't say this because I enjoy the cold. In truth I hate the cold. I say this for the effect it has on everything people do. Specifically what they do in designing, say, a hotel bathroom. We were looking at what we thought to be the thermostat, when we realized it had no numbers. We looked closer and found it to be a control for the heated tile floor. Yes, I repeat, heated floor. Brilliant! Who the heck thought of this? Never more will people walk into the bathroom in the morning and shriek with the pain of a cold floor. This is unbelievable. This is inconceivable. This will save lives. Somewhere, someone will be spared a lethal bout of pneumonia because someone up north dared to say, "Heated tiles."

After the commotion about the bathroom died down, we all changed into our pjs and proceeded to sit on our beds twiddling our thumbs and discussing the evening thus far. Then Lauren remembered the empty arcade room downstairs. At this the guys jumped up demanding, "Why didn't you tell us!" We both shrugged our shoulders and said we forgot. And with that we were running back down the hall in our assorted pajamas and slippers, hair flapping wildly, minds working at top speed to judge which halls and stair cases would bring us to our desired arcade. And at last we broke, out of breath from the sprinting and excitement. And there it was. The same empty and desolate room we had seen earlier. The pool table stood in the center, and now I saw, that other games lined the far wall. There was one where you raced cars, and a couple that you played to win prizes. Lauren and I called dibs on the pool table, and delayed the guys for a few minutes to teach us how to properly play. Once we were preoccupied, they ventured over and began examining the other games.

I have to admit that I am no natural at this game of pool, and neither is Lauren. While I could at least shoot a ball into one of the six holes, she had trouble hitting anything. I do believe she spent more time bouncing the cue ball off the table than anything else. At one point Jason became so concerned for the safety of Ben and himself that he came back over for some additional instruction. Finally, convinced things were stable, he left us to finish our game.

A half an hour went by and we got bored. Conveniently enough, Ben had won a container full of mini bouncy balls, and was proceeding to pelt Jason with them. Lauren and I grabbed a few and it was on. The once dead and quiet room was suddenly alive with the energy of our full out war. Bouncy balls were soaring around the room with surprising speed, reflecting off of the walls and machines, and narrowly missing our bodies (most importantly our heads). Jason got the worst of it. Ben's aim was dead on and he had Jason in his sights. Lauren and I became targets only occasionally, and took much more glee in throwing our bullets from behind the safety of the pool table.

The madness went on well into the morning, and it wasn't until nearly three that the kid at the desk got up the guts to come and tell us to cut it out. We cooperated and headed back to our room, figuring we would just watch some cheesy infomercial until we fell asleep. However once we got into the room, all the events of the day sank in. We all lay down, staring at the ceiling, and thinking about all that we had accomplished in less than twenty-four hours. We were tired. Sleep reached for us, trying to drag us into our dreams. We all wanted to sleep, but we weren't ready to end this. We all wanted just one more minute of this life. Just one more memory to keep forever.

Our whispers filled the room; swirling. Forming words and then sentences. Telling our deepest and most beloved stories. In effect, extending our night into a more widespread adventure. A conglomerate of shared lives, connecting at this point in time. We listened to one another. Laughing at times. Sighing at others. Simply enjoying each other's company, and the sound of our voices in the night. We talked for what seemed like hours, until we could talk no more. Sleep came to take us away to tomorrow, and we quietly said goodnight to our perfect evening, knowing we would never find another like it.

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