Not many people actually slept at the Plantation Inn. A two-story, low-slung motel by Airline Highway, it was the kind of place that rented by the hour and produced the occasional dead John Doe. The air conditioner in the lobby broke down a lot. Mormons left pamphlets out, and I saw the occasional cockroach (more on the ground floor than anywhere else). The courtyard held a pool of stagnant, muddy water and a tree that was perpetually in bloom. From January to November, every time I saw that tree it was blooming. Nobody told it not to, I guess.
That hotel was deserted on weekdays. But Saturday nights around three or four in the morning, you’d be lucky if it didn’t take you an hour to get up the stairs. There would be kids packing the upstairs hall, kids in the ballroom dancing themselves into a sweaty fervor, kids lying under the staircase, tangled in a great pile of arms and legs, lined up in the bathroom, ripping the wallpaper down when they inevitably ran out of toilet paper. I do mean kids, too. High school age and younger.
Once I saw a twelve-year-old and her mom, both rolling and both hiding each from each other. They told me, though.
When the raves ended at seven-thirty or so in the morning, when the sky turned into a pastel Easter egg, every room was full of kids who weren’t ready to go home yet. Room numbers were murmured through the crowd— “After party… room 138…219…64…” I wrote the numbers on my palm. Sometimes the line stretched to my elbow.
That night, a blonde girl asked me for water. I was too fucked to realize I had been carrying my bottle around empty. So I went to the bathroom to fill it up with the sink’s tepid water (cheaper than buying another bottle). The sink was clogged with cigarettes and brown napkins. I heard the oily retching of a girl puking into the toilet. She lifted her head and looked at me, bleary eyed, spying the bottle. Water, she pleaded, extending one frail hand. I smelled her puke and really preferred her lips remain far away from my bottle. Turning the bottle upside down to show that it was empty, I retreated.
The blonde girl was reclining on an armchair of men — at least that’s the way it looked. I tried to explain why there wasn’t any water, but she had forgotten about it. She couldn’t really hear me over the crunching bass, anyway. That bass. Each beat felt like a slap across the face. I liked that about it.
Then the girl was pulling my face down to hers.
“Are you bithexual?” She had a distinct lisp. “These guys will feed you tabs all night.”
I hadn’t ever fucked a girl, but sure, why not. What difference did it make, anyway?
I looked at the guys. They were at least ten years older than both of us. One looked like he was missing a bunch of teeth. The other one had kind of a looseness to the skin around his face and glinting eyes. The third one was kind of okay looking, but he seemed like an asshole. The girl was kissing Loose Face. Was he some kind of boyfriend? I hoped this didn’t mean I would have to fuck him, too. She got done kissing him and looked at me. Her blonde hair was all messed up.
“Aren’t you going to give me a little kiss?” So I did. Damn, this girl was fucked up. She practically convulsed. Then Loose Face kissed me and there was the licorice-y tang of ecstasy on him; he pushed a pill into my mouth with his flabby tongue.
So from then on, I was Jennifer’s. I made out with her and she laid her head in my lap while I sat in a chair and stroked her hair until it was smooth again. I liked her haircut; it was an angled bob cut very close to the nape of her neck. I liked her neck a lot. I felt almost maternal, petting her head like that. She was eighteen, three years younger than me. I thought about her mom and I thought about my mom and then I had to make myself stop. I’ve ruined some really good rolls that way, and I’d be damned if I ruined this one too.
Jennifer had to pee. I went with her to the bathroom; it still smelled like puke. Those guys had been feeding me pills all night, but I still wasn’t that fucked up. Jennifer couldn’t fasten her tight camouflage hip-huggers, so I did it for her. Again, there was something almost maternal about it.
“Is that guy your boyfriend?” I asked Jennifer.
“No.” She looked repulsed. “They’re just some guys I got a ride with.”
She said she worked at Walmart as a cashier. When she was about to clock out, the guys came through her line and told her where they were going. So like me, Jennifer was just along for the ride.
The guys got us a hotel room. It was on the second floor, facing the perpetually flowering tree. There were two big beds with a nightstand in between, and a mirror that seemed like it was staring at me. Jennifer lay down and I lay down on top of her.
We undressed and the guys formed a semi-circle around the bed. I don’t know if they were masturbating or what; I didn’t look. Jennifer had a nice body. She was very tan and smooth and slippery. A woman felt smaller than a man, and hard to hold on to because of all those curves and smooth skin. Men are broad and angular and hairy. She was a good bit taller than me, and I’m five-seven. I sucked one her of her tits and some fluid came out. I wondered if mine do that.
I worked down, getting on all fours. She had stretch marks on her lower belly, shiny silvery stretch marks.
“It’s because I had a kid,” she said. Not what I wanted to hear when I was putting my nose in her tuft of blonde pubic hair. When I was going down on her, one of the guys put his finger in me. I ignored it. This was not going to turn into an orgy; I was firm about that. I would have sex for these men, but not with them. If they were kissing me, it had to be because they were transmitting a tab. Still, that finger pissed me off.
Then Jennifer went down on me for a while. I wasn’t really paying attention. I asked her if she wanted to sixty-nine and she said no, not really. She said she had to pee. I said, “Do you want me to go with you?” She said, “Okay.”
I’m not sure why I asked her that, I guess I was in the habit, but now we had our own bathroom. And I didn’t want to be alone with those guys.
“I can’t,” she said as she sat on the toilet. “I can’t pee.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That happens to me sometimes too.”
“It’s not because you’re here.”
“I know, it’s because you’re too fucked up.”
It happens sometimes. You really have to pee, and then when you sit down, you forget how. You give up and go back five minutes later because you still have to pee.
I massaged her legs and she hung her head down until she was able to pee. Then we left, our arms around each other still.
“Hey, you two look really good together,” the guys told us.
I was naked, but I was still wearing all my day-glo plastic jewelry, the brightly beaded bracelets stacked up to my wrists, a big plastic star around my neck and glowing rings and a pacifier. I found my glowsticks and started waving them around and dancing in front of the mirror, not a sexy dance, but the kind of athletic, rhythmic hopping that candy ravers do.
They just kind of stared at me. I really didn’t care. I was having fun now, making figure eights and butterflies with the glowsticks, dancing around. I guess maybe I was more fucked up than I had thought, because look at this shit.
When I got done dancing, I put my clothes back on. Where is there to go after that, really? The guys protested weakly when Jennifer followed suit. Show’s over, we seemed to be saying. She wanted to take a shower, but there were no towels.
“I’ll get you some towels,” I said.
“No, you don’t have to. Let the guys.”
“I want to.” I did. I felt like walking
“Okay, I’ll come then.”
The man at the desk smiled at us. I wondered how he got any work done with a rave going on in the middle of his lobby, so I asked him.
“It’s not too bad. It passes the time.” He didn’t seem to want to elaborate. “Are you friends?”
Jennifer and I looked at each other. We didn’t know what to tell him.
“We just met tonight,” I finally said.
“Oh. I thought you had been friends for a very long time.”
Jennifer left when he said he didn’t have any towels at the desk.
“There might be some in some of the rooms,” he added.
“Okay,” I said.
“Come on. Come get the towels.”
He had me follow me to the room, and when we got there, he closed the door. We were in the narrow part of the entrance, between the wall and the bathroom door. He was standing very close to me and came closer, pressing me against the wall.
“Come on,” he urged.
“I just need towels,” I said. He knew all along. I was tired of this. I got the towels and carried them back, a snowy white stack, but Jennifer was sleeping. She reached out for me. I think she wanted to cuddle. Normally I’m very big on spooning, but I was feeling the amphetamine properties of the drug and wanted to keep moving.
“Cigarette,” she said. One of the guys handed her a cigarette.“Lighter.” He lit her cigarette.
She stared at me and inhaled the smoke. A long stare, a long inhalation.
I went outside and picked a white flower from the perpetually blossoming tree. I was just going to pick one, but it felt nice to be picking flowers in the early dawn light. They were nice flowers, too. Sometimes when you get up close to a flower, you see tiny little bugs inside, and the petals are ragged looking.
Not these. These were smooth and clean and nice and so I made a basket with my hands, my interweaved fingers, and soon it was full of flowers. I didn’t know what to do with them.
There were kids sitting around everywhere. I gave everyone a white flower. Then I found a big group, and I didn’t know if I had enough to go around, so I threw the flowers in the air and they fell around us, soft and quiet as little parachutes. I talked with them for a while, people I didn’t know.
I felt so comfortable and content sitting there with the flowers; I could have stayed all day. It was the best I had felt since I had gotten there.
Jennifer came back out and we went into someone else’s room.
“How much for an eightball?” she asked. He told her.
“I have a deal with this guy; if I sell two he gives me one for free,” she said. This girl didn’t like paying for drugs at all.
“I’ve got some acid,” he told her.
“Should I get acid?” she asked me. “It might be good for the drive home.”
They had to drive all the way back to Mississippi. She bought some acid and I bought a dime bag of weed. It was all I could afford.
By the way, I’m not including all the drug stuff to try and sound like a badass. I had never done drugs until four months earlier. After my dad and sister’s nonsense, I had hated them. But I wanted this to be true and that’s what happened. I hate writing about drugs and I hate talking about them, I really do.
The guy suddenly looked freaked out. He had dark circles and sad brown eyes. He looked like he could have been a nice guy.
“Hey, you aren’t narcs, are you?” he asked.
“Come on,” we said.
“Seriously, are you? You have to tell the truth. If you say no and you are, that’s entrapment.”
“We aren’t narcs.”
It was almost eleven, check-out time. Jennifer said she would give me a ride back to my apartment. I was hot and cranky and went back home alone. I tried to sleep, but I was restless. It was Sunday afternoon and my mother was probably just getting back from church. I’m always the last one to want to quit partying. It’s a lonely feeling. I tried and tried to get to sleep but ended up staring at the wall, too hot on my inflatable mattress. It was no good.
I pulled my dime bag out of my pocket, along with phone numbers on feathery scraps of paper, flyers for the next parties, and a squashed little white thing. It was one of those flowers and it had weathered the ride in my pocket well. I smoothed it out as best I could and put it in some water.
I barely remembered anything from the night before, but picking flowers from the tree… that stood out clear as a crystal bead on a string of clay ones.
Later, I moved away and the Plantation Inn closed down. They leveled it, I heard; now all that’s left is a smooth patch of concrete. I like to think they left the tree alone, that other trees are gradually growing there, sneaking in dainty and timid as little deer, surrounding their own. It was a shame about that tree. I think it was so beautiful because it had no right to be there.