I turn around, and there’s The Handsome again, its inglorious former self, scorched with age rather than flame. I can almost smell the gin wheezing through the doors. I could step inside and breathe in the odors of piss and sin, and see cigarettes butts floating in ashtrays and the puddles of beer sloshing onto shirt cuffs.
The Handsome Hotel is more real than the terrible behemoth of the Museum of Modern Mathematics. At least the place makes sense, even though it swallowed itself in a gut of flame years ago.
Again, I’m struck by the silence. There’s no one on the streets. Everything has been brushed clean by the wind. There is no litter ruffling the edges of sidewalk, or any sign of shopkeepers sweeping away the daily grit. It is a forsaken town.
I look back, hoping to swipe another glimpse of Arlene, but she is gone, of course, if she was ever really there.
The doors of The Handsome have been propped open by broom handles. There is a double parking spot in front of the Hotel. A sign reads “Loading Zone, Deliveries Only”. The sign is dirt-scoured and the words are almost invisible. A poster board is taped to the front door. “Today’s Specials,” written in green Magic Marker. The rest of the poster is blank.
I can see the neon Lone Star sign reflected in the mirror. Step inside and the bowls are filled with pretzels and Spanish peanuts. There is no one standing behind the bar, and the shelves are empty and dusty. Chairs are propped upside down on tables.
The reasonable thing to do would be to walk away. But where else am I going to go? I’ve walked these streets a thousand different times, and it feels out of order: buildings not quite where they should be, a never-ending dusk. It has the haunted quality of a dream. I want to go, but don’t know where. Back inside my dying bleeding self?
The sensible thing to do would be to walk away.
Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0
Free downloadable Kindle app also available.