The Super 8 Motel room is freezing. We drop bags on the floor and you can't even be bothered to take off your shoes: seven straight hours on the road with nothing but a single bathroom break to stretch your legs is too much for you. I'm taking off my coat as you slide into the sheets like a love letter into an envelope.
"Argh," you yelp, followed immediately by a massively deep breath.
"The sheets are cooooooold. Worse than the gynecologist."
"At least he warns you about the temperature," I say, digging through my backpack for the massive Ziploc bag containing our toiletries. I fish out my toothbrush and check the bathroom to see what they supply.
"Babe!" I call out. "Free toothpaste!"
"They give you free toothpaste! And shampoo/conditioner! All in one bottle!" I can peripherally see my ridiculous grin in the garishly overlit bathroom mirror. "And those little bars of soap that are the size of a Club cracker."
"Babe? You awake?"
I peek my head around the corner and see you've already fallen asleep. You didn't even take the swarm of bobby pins out of your hair. I take off my shoes, brush my teeth, and tiptoe to the bed, adjusting the thermostat to something above the current sub-Arctic tundra the room currently resembles. I scan through your intricately-arranged bun on your head, pulling out bobby pins as I find them. I find nine before my scavenger hunt is interrupted by your stirring. Your eyelids creep open.
"What are you doing?" you ask.
"Just taking out the pins," I explain. "Don't want you to lose any or poke me in the eye or have your hair pulled back so tight you get an overnight facelift." Still two-thirds-asleep, you smile.
"You're sweet." You lean up and kiss me on the chin. Your head slumps back to the pillow.
I take the small palmful of off-brass pins and empty my hand onto the adjacent nightstand. The fall almost silently onto the particleboard top and blend in with the dark stain of the thin wooden veneer. The pins pile and intertwine with one another and I have a flashback.
THE FLASHBACK I HAVE
It's the first time you actually planned to stay over. It had happened before, sure, but mostly because we'd find ourselves exhausted from eating ice cream and watching cartoons. Your hair was also littered with bobby pins that night, and you carefully took them out, one by one, while tired eyes watched you from the mess of pillows that held my head.
I couldn't sleep that night, though. I was restless and high on Rocko's Modern Life and so glad you were there. Finally giving up any attempts at slumber, I got up for a drink of water. I crawled out of the bed as quietly as possible, pounded down an entire bottle of water--let's be honest, we had gotten each other pretty dehydrated--and came back to the room. My eye was caught by the little bobby pin collective that claimed the bedside table in the name of their king, and I looked at you sound asleep, the pile of bobby pins, you sleeping, the bobby pins, you, the pins, and I was caught off-guard by how they seemed to belong.
And now, I see the similarly structured pile on a much lower-quality bedside table in a crappy hotel room in Reno, NV, and I'm similarly grateful to know who'll be by my side for the foreseeable future. I pull the sheets on the other side of the bed back and wriggle under the stiff blanket. I close my eyes as you sleepily wrap your hands around my neck.
But I can't sleep. I'm too glad to be On The Road, too grateful for the west desert landscape that's become our motorvehicular playground, too excited to show you tomorrow the thing that made me finally believe, with a certainty bordering on knowledge, that there was a decent cosmic force keeping an (perhaps interventionist, perhaps non-interventionst) eye on us.
I reach down into the bedside pile of denim that my jeans have made and pull out the small notebook I've been keeping in my back pocket. I grab a pen from the nightstand's drawer and start scribbling.
Apparently, my scrawls are loud enough to wake you up.
"What are you writing, hon?" you whisper.
"Nothing," I say, embarrassed at how poorly I'm masking my embarrassment from the words on the page. Double embarrassment.
"No, what is it? Show me!" Your head nuzzles up against my chest and your eyes re-close. "Read it to me."
"No, it's nothing."
You're not as asleep as I thought you were, and you snatch the notebook from my hands like a falcon takes a field mouse.
"'Roses are red, violets are blue/I think you're really beautiful and sometimes you look like you need to hear it.'" You close the notebook and your eyebrows pull together and your lips purse.
"I'm not very good at rhyming," I mutter. "Or poetry." You look up at me with eyes open far more widely than they should be at 4:30 AM after a whole day on the road.
"You think I'm beautiful?" you ask. I brush a long, dark strand from your forehead--it'd probably be held back by bobby pins if I hadn't have interfered, huh--and look as far into your eyes as I can.
"I wrote a poem about it, didn't I?" I kiss your forehead and you put your head back to the pillow. "Goodnight, darlin'." You toss an inaccurate kiss, presumably aimed for my lips, but it lands right on the bridge of my nose. You chuckle softly.
"See you in the morning," you say.
I sleep like a baby.