There were no clothes hooks in the washroom, just a couple of scratchy white towels on a rack. The sink and the tub were dull gray as though all the shine had been scrubbed away which is how Becca felt on the inside a lot of the time. Scratched clean but damaged.
Becca tried folding Dwayne’s pants like they did at the Gap a few times then decided to lay his clothes flat in the tub so they wouldn’t wrinkle.
She tucked his shirt into his pants and laid his jacket on top. When she tried to tuck the sleeves into the pockets, she discovered the pockets were fakes. Why would anyone pretend they liked pockets? Fucking adults. Getting stuff they never wanted then spending the rest of the time pretending they didn’t have them. It enraged her. Dwayne was quickly falling in her esteem.
Becca kicked up the toilet seat with her foot then flipped it back down. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for but her mom had told her to always check before she peed.
She unbuttoned her jeans and let them slide down her legs. Rows of thin pink scars popped up on her thighs under the fluorescent lights. Becca lightly ran her fingertips over the bumps like they were in some sort of fucked up Braille or in code. She had no idea what it meant.
She wondered whether people ever went to places like motels just to kill themselves. She wondered what it would be like to take a lot of sleeping pills and lie down on a bed with a plastic bag over her head. Eventually, she imagined, she’d fall asleep and suffocate. She probably wouldn’t feel a thing.
Dwayne would wake up from his nap and find her beside him, dead on a bed of orange flowers like some tragic Ophelia. He would totally freak out, she was pretty sure. Caroline would have to ID her body. The coroner would sort of fling back the sheet and show her lying there. And her mom would get all dramatic like: “No. No! This has to be a mistake.” And the coroner would tell her, her daughter had made a choice and she had to respect it. And that it was terrible that someone so young didn’t feel she had anyone she could talk her out of killing herself. And then her mother would have a breakdown because she’d know she had never been there. But it would be too late. And she’d have to live with that. Forever.
She pulled a ten dollar bill out of Dwayne’s wallet for nail polish remover and tossed his wallet into the tub, thinking how everything in her life was screwed up. Like school and her mother and pretty much everything else.
She could feel herself going to that dark place again and ordered herself not to cry. Becca pulled out her pack of matches and hopped up on the vanity. She lit one and stared into the flame, trying not to think of shitty things but all she could see were her man-hands. They were nothing like her mother’s long, tapered fingers. Becca angrily flung the match into the tub and lit another, determined to really focus this time. Success. The third match lit.
She studied how the flame was energized by the sulfur and how liquid ran down the cardboard ahead of the fire and fed the flame. Life was like a match, Becca thought. It sparked or it didn’t and there was nothing much you could do about it. You could accept it. Or not. But it didn’t do you any good to struggle.
Becca tossed the burned out match into the tub then lit match after match after match. Some sparked up brightly, others went out as they landed. She’d gone through half the pack when she noticed a plume of smoke rising out of the tub. “Oh,” thought Becca, slipping off the vanity as a tiny flame erupted from the jacket. It sputtered weakly. Becca leaned over the tub and blew gently. Her fire baby revived. Becca held what was left of the matches over the flame until they all lit and she dropped them into the tub, too.
She stayed on her knees beside the tub a while, watching Dwayne’s jacket burn and his credit cards melt in the heat, all the while feeling warmth and calmness spreading through her. Then the flames caught the edge of the shower curtain. Becca got to her feet, coughing from to the drippy black smoke. She flipped on the exhaust fan but it was so loud it got on her nerves. She had to get out. Fucking plastic ruined everything.
Becca went back into the bedroom, tugging the door quietly shut behind her so as not to disturb Dwayne who was still asleep. She picked up her canvas bag and hoodie and hovered at the foot of the bed a moment wondering if she should wake Dwayne up and say goodbye.
It was probably more grown up just to go.
Becca left real life and Room 7A just as the smoke alarm started to wail.
She crossed the parking lot to the sidewalk to wait for the bus, wondering if anyone had noticed she wasn’t in home room this morning. Whether Mr. Brophy had called down her absence to the office or whether he hadn’t because he’d decided she was a lost cause. She wasn’t sure why she cared.
Becca looked back wistfully one last time at the motel as the bus pulled up.
The doors opened and Becca climbed on board. She dropped her ticket into the fare box and started pushing her way into the crowd when she heard “Hey!”
She turned around. The driver was waving at her to come back. Becca rolled her eyes and pulled out her ID knowing everybody was glaring at her, like she was the reason the whole transit system was fucked up.
“I’m fourteen.” She held out her ID.
The driver crinkled his nose at it. “What is that?”
Becca double checked. “My ID.”
“No. What’s that smell? Like a campfire.”
Becca shrugged. Bus drivers were freaks. In the distance, a siren wailed.
The driver pulled the doors shut and checked his rear view mirror. Becca made her way back through the crowd towards the back.
As the bus turned south on Glenlake, Becca spotted two fire trucks coming from the distance and wondered if Dwayne would be mad at her for burning his pants.
NEXT WEEK: Dressing for the weather.