After he’d left the CO’s office John David spent the rest of the afternoon sitting at a bar amongst the couple of other lone warriors scattered about, like buoys bobbing in the dark current, their shoulders slumped but for the occasional sigh and despite there being nothing but sports playing on the seven huge televisions their eyes were pointed down staring into glasses of beer or mixed drinks or in some extreme cases both, until one of them would stand and stumbling make their way to the latrine or in a rare case, the exit, to which he and the others would silently share a look of godspeed to the one crazy motherfucker stupid enough to venture back into the broken world awaiting them each outside.
When he, too, worked up the courage and left it was just after three in the afternoon. He headed to the motel and parked in his usual spot and then staggered up to his room where he fumbled briefly with the key before shoving it into the card reader. When the door didn’t unlock he swiped it again. Still nothing.
What the fuck? he mumbled and looked at the number on the door. He jiggled the handle and roughly swiped the card reader again and was studying the card for a defect when the door to the room flung open. Standing there scowling and shirtless was a man with one hand on the door and the other gripping a small white bath towel around his hairy, pot-bellied middle.
What? the man demanded.
John David looked confused and speechless and blinked several times and then looked the man in the eyes. This is my room, he said. The man made a face and told him to buzz the fuck off and slammed the door shut.
John David stood there a moment, teetering, then made up his mind and he steadied himself and banged again on the door. Nothing. He banged again. Then came angry muttering from inside and the door opened and the man in the towel stood filling the doorway once more. John David looked past him and saw a woman scowling from the bed, the white bed sheet pulled up to cover her breasts. John David looked at the man. This is my fucking room, he said.
The man studied him a long moment and he must’ve been considering the possibility of a mistake on his part because he leaned forward and read the numbers on the door, but then looked again at John David and said, Go bother somebody else. He started to push the door shut, but before he could close it fully, John David had thrown himself into the open space. He shoved against the door but the man was taller and weighed several pounds more than he and was also probably sober and as he pushed back he extended one hand and grabbed John David by the shoulders. He dug his thumb into his collar and drove him backwards onto the walkway.
Inside the room, the girl asked what was the goddamn problem. There’s not one, the man snarled back and he sneered at John David and called him an ass and reached back to shut the door.