There was a time when words mattered. But then it stopped. And nothing was left but vague gestures. But then at that very moment, you entered the room. Suddenly all of our hairs stood on end. The dogs. The cats. The rabbits. The deer. The ponies. The angels. And us.
We were afraid to ask where you had been, after so many days and interminable nights. Who knows how many? We guess we never really thought of counting. But still, we all wondered, where were you?
We could tell by the scent of your hair that you had come from somewhere far far away. We could speculate that you came from a distance. Perhaps from some nether region. Perhaps from across the courtyard. Or perhaps from the laundromat. Or that shoe repair place you always spoke so glowingly. Or perhaps from the airport, from a plane that had never left the terminal. The only thing we could agree upon was that wherever you had come from would be impossible for us to locate. And even harder to find.
But the scent of your hair was familiar, eerily familiar. Like burning raisin toast. Or an empty humidifier. Or perhaps a car wash. You had that washed away look in your eyes. It was pretty unmistakeable. We wish you could have seen it. We are pretty sure you would agree. That might help us better understand your hair.
We thought of you a lot while riding the train. Glancing out the window passing towns and forests bubbling with life, even in the winter, even in the dark, especially in the dark. We gazed in wonder at this marsh we must have seen 1000 times by now. But we never realized it was even there until just before we returned home, mere moments before you walked into the room.
Some of your features had changed. Your hair was thinner but just as unkempt (which is not a criticism). Your skin was greener than we remembered. Which was worrisome to some of us. To others it was wondrous. It didn’t dawn on us that you were standing in the light filtered through our terrarium. But it was a nice mystery while it lasted.
But you did look more stern. Maybe you had forgotten how to smile. It’s so easy to forget. We imagined that if you could smile, it might take all of your effort. And we didn’t want to exhaust you, especially since you had just gotten home. What kind of welcome would that have been? Not a very welcome welcome. The thought that we might be asking you to smile against your will was not something we would ever choose to endure, at least not voluntarily. Although some people are really into it … the unendurable.
We could not tell if you had noticed that our home had been transformed into an Extended Stay America. Finally, we had a place to stay for as long as we wanted. We would have asked if you would like to stay with us, but we thought that maybe we should wait until you had actually entered the room. We might build up to that later. Or maybe that would be too manipulative. Maybe we should ask you to stay right now. But we thought if we had asked, you’d be out the door in a flash. In less than a flash. You’d be gone. And that would be that.
But if we didn’t ask and you had left without our asking… that would really truly be something we could never ever endure. We would be at wit’s end. What would it be like to live at wit’s beginning? Or in the era before wit even existed. Just try to imagine. We are imagining what the Earth would look like before the dawn of wit. We can see that it looks like a dense roll of faded green shag carpeting, 6 feet wide and who knows how many miles long. We thought, now that is a strange thing to imagine. Very strange. We eventually realize that the Earth at that time was simply a macrocosm of our home in the Extended Stay America. It was so obvious, how could we have missed that?
This is what happened to our imagination while you were gone.
And in case you were wondering, your your arrival was a welcome disruption, especially when we found ourselves staring at your shoes. You always had such cool shoes. And we loved the colors of your shoelaces. You always wore these dark brown boots, leather grained like footballs. With fluorescent orange shoelaces. It was so perfect. (We recall you once told us that you can tell a lot about a person from the color of their shoelaces.) We wish we had your sense of style. We never really knew what to wear anywhere anymore. We never really considered that anyone else might feel the same. It just never occurred to us. We’re not sure why.
And that scarf you were wearing. It looked exactly like the scarf we saw in the photo of that guy in the newspaper, the one who claimed he was a data architect from New Zealand but who turned out to be a registered foreign agent lobbying for some fascist regime that had recently seized control over the government of our municipality. It seemed like everyday another of us was getting deported to who knows where for reasons beyond our comprehension. We were diminishing in number. And some of us were worried. That’s when we came up with the brilliant idea of finding a room, a suite actually, at the Extended Stay America. That is what brought us to this place. We knew no one would ever find us here, except for you. And here you are, at least for the moment.
But we have to tell you know how much we love your scarf. It’s such a great great scarf. We could not blame you for wearing it. You just didn’t fit the type.