This dank and dreary motel room has been the bane of my afterlife. It used to be my go-to environment, bringing in John after John during a lapse in judgement that manifested into being unable to fight the appeal of a chick-with-a-dick. I hate that term. So. Fucking. Much. Still, I humored countless doctors, lawyers, and all manner of Trade in exchange for that almighty dollar. I had no intentions of making this place my purgatory, but as it turns out when you suicide yourself the crossover is complicated. I didn’t kill myself in a conventional way glorified by Hollywood. No. I did it by giving up.
I can’t believe this place still remains since its debut in ’81. The once beige and soft carpet are now a murky brown and, though I can’t feel it, it looks coarse to the touch. I recall the bunny ears of the original standard definition TV which has long since been replaced by a cheap flat screen placed on the same pea green dresser that I thought was tacky even back then.
The glass on the French doors leading to the grand patio had fogged over from the cleaning crew’s neglect. The maids used to be very thorough here. Recalling the formerly great cleaning detail brings the sting of bleach to jab my nostrils and remind me of the night of my demise. I remember the woman in her gray dress and white apron scrubbing me off the walls in strokes of soap and crimson whilst she crossed herself and said Ay dios mio again and again under her breath through the commotion of police treading the room walking through my floating body as I screamed for anyone to please notice me. Sorry, I do that sometimes; say way too much at once. It’s another trait from my hateful mama.
Anyway, the John I’d scored that night was more sketch than the normal variety. I should have listened to my unease. Instead, I tossed my curly wig side to side and trotted my red bottoms toward Room 108B. Burly and dark haired, he sat on the single queen mattress, eyes to the floor, but not in the room. I disrobed and untucked my little secret. Fright took over his face though he already knew what I was. I approached him and after one touch to his cheek from my manicured nails, he charged at me, knocking me against the wall. He was yelling and sending fist after fist into my delicate face, so blood met the white behind me. Slamming my slight frame to the ground he knocked the bed’s nightstand over, bringing the phone to meet the carpet along with me. As I gasped and pleaded, he looked at me like a roach on the floor and brought his boot down on my skull.
The world became incoherent. I heard the door close.
My broken eye sockets could still make out the phone on the end table. I reached for it with a weak arm. The 9 and the 1 were soon stained with my blood. I hovered my finger over the 1 for the second push.
I let the receiver fall from my hand and waited for the cold in my toes to make its way to my ears. The room disappearing from me.
At that moment when darkness was all I could comprehend the classic ring of an old phone woke me. I opened my eyes and I was floating, unharmed, above my bloodied body on the floor. The phone on the carpet rang again though the receiver was off the hook. Frightened, I tried touching the splattered wall and the bed only to go through them. I floated down to the ringing phone able to pick it up.
“How did you live?” a woman’s voice asked.
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Since you have chosen suicide you will not be able to leave this place until you answer my two questions correctly,” she said. “How did you live?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Why did you die?” she asked.
“Because that monster beat me!”
“That is incorrect.”
The line went silent.
For the next decade and a half, I sat in this room watching it transform from elegant to drab to detestable. Through the years that tan phone would ring every day, just once, and I would fail to answer those two questions correctly.
Meanwhile, I saw every manner of person come in and out doing all styles of human wonders that occur when one is by themselves or with kindred souls. I saw love that was fleeting, young, or aged. Moments that were unmitigated and unashamed. Life. Something I never truly experienced due to a world that cared little for me, leading me to not care for myself. So, when this phone I’m holding rang today and you asked me, How did I live? I knew the answer was I never did. Why did I die? Because I felt death was the only thing that was willing to accept me, but that doesn’t have to be true!
“That is correct,” says the woman on the other line.
The loud repetitive yonk old phones make when they are left off the hook too long reverbs against the motel’s hideous walls. Our damned lady covers her ears. A pale light rushes to blind her. When her eyes adjust, she finds herself bleeding on the motel’s spongy beige carpet surrounded by the room’s original trademark elegance and posh with the phone’s receiver in her hand blaring that pounding tone. Quickly and against her hyperventilating numbness she mashes the top of the phone to reset the dial tone and follow her bloody fingerprints to touch the 9. The 1. And the 1.
With Earth left ravaged by lack of fantasy and political unrest, Cairo N’ftali knew it was his duty to offer an escape to all he could by way of his imagination.
Cairo understands that our generation is at a point where new stories under diverse voices are craved more than ever. He strives to bring his views and understandings as a gay, black, and non-binary entity into the Writer’s Room and change entertainment for the better.
For the past 15 years Cairo has brought intriguing premises and developed powerful worlds in his poetries, short fictions, flash fictions, manuscripts, and teleplays.