No matter how much coffee I drink, I’m not getting back my edge. As I fix my pale orange lipstick with the hotel napkins I look at my watch. I’m late, the late where I’m going to hear about it. I need to get back my edge. As I’m walking back my spot at the front desk, I see him standing in line. He’s standing with a familiar piece of luggage, I’ve seen it before, who was it that held this piece?
“Sir, if you wish I can check you in downstairs, may I?” I open my hand and watch him read my name tag before leaning the handle into my palm.
“Thanks I’m already late, I think most of my colleagues are here.”
“Ah yes, your party…”
“From our firm.”
“Yes, we won’t take long. I have to say your luggage is unique.” I mention halfway down the hall.
“Oh thanks, my wife bought it from an estate sale.”
“The style reminds me of a woman who once resided at the hotel, she sold us make-up, ah, here we go.” I open the basement door with my badge to where a concierge desk is located.
He walks into the room and glazes over all the other doors. No matter how much I want to look at his face, I too get fixated on the volume of doors in this room. And the variety is like nothing anyone has ever seen: from red ones with gold handles, blue ones with bronze, big wooden ones with lions faces and the carvings. Some have generic store bought adornment up to custom art deco glued on the front, while a few have twisted rod iron. Many still have numbers on them, and some look to have been held in hinges for months and some for years.
“What’s going on? I don’t understand.” He asks.
“What do you mean?”
“You made it seem like this would be faster than waiting in the line upstairs. But all I see are doors.”
“Yes, and on the other side of these doors is a room that I can check you in.”
“Okay, so I’m to clear a path?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what you need to do, do you wish to go back upstairs?”
“No, that’s fine, I can clear these up.” He says with confidence as there are dozens of doors in the room. Some appear to have been placed in haste with some paint transfer marks from neighbouring doors. There is no order to where the doors are placed, as there are heavier ones next to lighter ones resting in what I imagine to be the middle. It is as if the placement of the doors were acting as a way to barricade us to one side of the room. But I chose him to come down here, knowing he is able to see a path.
“How did these get here?”
“I’m not sure, they just started to appear in this room.”
“With no sign of how they got here?” He asks.
“The other hosts believe they started showing up after there was a strange power outage. One night the whole building went dark except for the backup lights for the hallways and kitchen fridges. We kept the residents with some comfort but unfortunately we weren’t able to keep the elevator in use. The residents began calling the front desk, each asking when their room will get back power. We kept reassuring the power will be back on soon as the grid is getting repaired. Then we started receiving calls about how some rooms were seen from other residents to having all their lights on. When we asked how they knew that to be true, the residents responded that they saw light coming from underneath the door frame. When they told us the room number the computer never showed a registered resident. When security got there, the room was vacant and the lights were indeed on. When they went to turn off the lights, they said the lights didn’t turn off. No matter how much they flipped the switch and the breakers, the lights remained bright. We kept having to contact security, to send them to the other rooms that were reporting to having the same phenomenon. Each of these rooms were vacant and each room unable to go dark. The security wrote in their report how there were no patterns to the rooms that were lit: not from the distance from the stairwell, or the same room just a floor higher from each other, along the edges of one side of the building, nothing. There were also no signs of activity like people attempting to abandon the room in an effort to avoid security. The next morning the power came back on the grid, which is when the hotel manager briefed the staff about what to tell the residents upon checkout. He said to tell them how those rooms were connected to power lines in the neighbouring grid that must have gotten crossed during construction. No one questioned this explanation but the staff for the longest time avoided registering residents into those rooms.”
“Surely you don’t believe that…” he says while lifting a 3 inch thick burgundy oak door with ease.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” I say, “it’s just what happened before the doors started showing up.”
“I don’t know, maybe the manager should hire movers?”
“Or an exorcist?” I question.
“You know any buffed ones?” He asks with a smile over before lifting the next door, “something tells me your manager doesn’t know what to make of these doors but he should do something soon, I saw weasel hair caught in between on the carpets.”
“Gross, now I’m just hoping the computer in this room works, some of these doors have a thick layer of dust.”
The last one that is leaning on the small office’s door he lifts and rests on the south facing wall. He calls me over when it’s safe to walk through the path. As I reach for his luggage handle, I realize it doesn’t feel comfortable or worn out but untouched and cold. Whereas the bronze handle on the office door feels warm and reflects enough light so I can see my red lips. Why does this door not have a place to swipe my badge? Why does the manager insist on keeping this door closed with an unlocked handle? Maybe this is where I am to welcome new residents? In this old unsafe room next to my edge, keeping an eye on these doors. To keep a ritual of walking down future residence’s next to these doors from thresholds unknown.
“So what name is the reservation under?” I open the desk drawer to find a tube of lipstick, fallen edges, with a dark brown sticker, maybe I’ll change shades too, “What’s the matter?”
“But the room, it’s so boring and plain. There’s no embellishment. No reason for this room to be so bare.” He says, clearly lightheaded from all the lifting. I hand him a cold bottle of water from a fridge in the cupboard, its air holding a thick scent of stale plastic.
“Ah, it looks like you’re on floor 13 with a clear view of the tower.” I tell him and look up, “What’s the matter? You didn’t look as if you wanted to wait in the line. Upstairs our lobby has some seasonal flowers in vases on tables next to floor to ceiling windows that face the busy street. But you kept looking at your phone, so I brought you here to get checked in. Isn’t this what you prefer?” He looks back at the doors all angled in a makeshift a pile. Each one resting on the other. Not for support but to make room for someone to walk inside.
“Yeah you’re right.” He says and takes his key card, “this is what I needed.”
Trista Hurley-Waxali: "I am an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to my parents' advice and moved South. I have performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. I write weird short stories and am working on my novel, At This Juncture."