I sat there looking at the pale yellow walls with a turquoise border that made you feel as though you were high on something if you looked at it long enough. The television and the mirror hung next to one another forcing you to choose between reality and a skewed version of it. There was silence and solitude. But I couldn’t sleep. Something about the roaring air conditioner and the contrast between the stark walls and the dizzying carpet they towered over forced an alertness that I often felt in hotel rooms. Trying so hard to feel homey. Comfortable. However it’s unsettling looking out the window to more temporary homes looming over the roads and taking over the city. They become peacocks, flashing their feathers, trying desperately to attract customers.
Everybody was a visitor in this city.
The drive to Reno was one that enthralled me. I sat in the second to last row of a van that was white and identical to the one I drove for four months. It was missing the dream catcher and the two post cards that were held to the sun visor with a clothes pin. It was not the one that took me to several new cities and even more beautiful moments. But it looked like him.
I sat and listened to the people who had been crazy enough to choose a summer of movement. Of inconsistency. Of chaos. Of dirty nature. Of costumer service. Of absolute, undeniable splendor.
There were 15 of us in all. Personal space was nonexistent. A head rested on my shoulder and a pair of Nike shoe covered feet sat close to me. I didn’t care.
I had been anxious. Social anxiety runs in my family. Both of my parents grew up quiet, observant. My mother is still that way. My father now makes up for his lost acquaintances from a shy childhood with a zealous, outgoing nature.
I have not chosen which path to take. But the people around me made talking look easy. They did it with simplicity. With grace even. And then I spoke. I stumbled on my words. Fell over the ends of stories. But they listened patiently as I awkwardly described the time that I got kneed in the stomach by the man sleeping next to me having a nightmare. And explained my new exciting internship that I had not yet learned how to illuminate. They were passionate and upbeat and they smiled as I stumbled, which is better than no smile at all.
We drove through Lake Tahoe watching the trees change color before our eyes. The hills in the distance were covered in evergreens imitating a green wool blanket. Prickly and warm. Closer to us, lining the highway were yellows and reds and oranges.
The conversation was intriguing, hearing about the adventures this job had opened their eyes to. All of a sudden anything and everything felt possible. They will bike the Pacific Northwest. They will go to Patagonia. They will work in South America. They will travel. They will climb mountains. They will create their dreams and make them happen.
We arrived to the bombastic hotel exhausted and eager for the night to begin. We dispersed to our rooms, with the pale yellow walls and turquoise borders, creating our alter egos. My mother’s anxieties inside me exposed themselves as I took out the ironing board to iron my button up white shirt. Dressed in my smooth white shirt and black pants and a blazer that matched with a polka dot bowtie and striped socks I felt confident. The details were vital. I was a confident man ready to dance and laugh.
I slipped out to the hallway where my coworkers and friends had turned into zombies and hamburgers and men with impossibly large mustaches. We mingled and made fools of ourselves and I was told that I looked like Bob Dylan. Kate Blanchett from the film I’m not There. I was thrilled that my black tux and blue striped socks were being well received.
We made our way to a bar. We overwhelmed the small hole in the wall and the tiny bartender who was wearing a corset top and low sitting tight jeans. She wore dark eyeliner and her hair was bleached blonde making her natural appearance impossible to guess. She was tiny and pissed off that so many alter egos had chosen Shooters as their spot for the night. Not only were we large in numbers, but our voices roared through the biggest little city as we laughed and flirted and connected for one last time. The season was over.
The popular question was “What will you do for the winter?” The answer was unimportant. We had witnessed stunning impossible events over that summer creating lives that were no longer stagnant.
And so hung over and content and overly emotional after two full nights of debauchery, we said our heartfelt goodbyes to our friends of convenience. They had become the characters in our summer stories who were sympathetic and supportive and more than that completely and unapologetically themselves. We’re a group of misfits who left our loud, stubborn mark on Reno. And now we will disperse and do the same on many more parts of the country and world.