She remained on the road for the better part of three days.
The comforts of a cheap motel-a place apart from time, with no designs on bettering itself- had alleviated a modicum of her stress and smoothed some of the crazy out of her appearance, but she felt little improved. A restlessness was waging war within the walls of her mind, her body.
Denver had done her best to avoid being mistaken for a battered woman on the run or a homeless vagrant who had lucked out and found a credit card prior to entering the small, oddly shaped motel. But she needn’t have worried. The receptionist barely looked up from her cell phone to take her payment and provide her with a room key. Perhaps she was reading The Sun Also Rises on her kindle app and couldn’t break from it’s grip. Unlikely. Two beta fish-one a deep red, the other a royal blue- in small orange-sized bowls flanked her computer. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Denver thought to herself. But she was in fact in Kansas, in a small town west of Wichita to be a bit more precise.
She wondered how the betas felt- assuming they had the depth of ability to feel- being on display in tiny glass prisons. There only job was to show up and be beautiful. To be worthy of being stared at. Did they derive any pleasure knowing that their looks were a subject of fascination? Did they worry what would become of them if their vibrant colors began to fade? Had they nothing at all to say on the matter?
After no more than an hour, her unremarkable white room had felt akin to a cage, so she paced the blue-green carpeted halls of the motel before this felt too tight a space as well, causing her to begin laps around the building’s muted gray exterior. The heavy, dated silence was suddenly replaced with rapturous catcalls and the laughter of young men. A group of frat boys, by the looks and sounds of it, on the beginnings of a night they didn’t intend to remember.
Though she was the only other human in sight, it took Denver by surprise that she appeared to be the intended audience for their cacophony. She was undoubtedly attractive, but in the most quiet and humble of ways. She had tried, to no avail, to figure out makeup, hair, but couldn’t seem to summon forth the mental energy and patience to learn and refused to part with the money required to pay someone else to do it for her. She liked to think that her natural curls and bare copper face conveyed to the world that she was an intellectual above such aesthetic trivialities. In truth, if she could have pulled them off on her own, she’d revel in all of the glosses, gels, sprays, and paints she could get her hands on.
As the group of testosterone personified marched ever closer, Denver found herself lacing her keys over and through her fingers, an impromptu set of brass knuckles. She could pretend she needed to go the other way and retreat, but why? She was being propelled by God and/or The Universe to some destiny greater than the sum of her feeble understanding, so what would it say if she were to turn and run from a group of horny infants?! And so she proceeded, making eye contact with as many of them as possible. Show no fear, no weakness.
She could almost see the waves of arrogance and glee coming off of them, like stink lines in a cartoon. There were five of them, dressed in similar form-fitting shirts and jeans- same athletic build, varying skin tones. She mentally rearranged them, lightest to darkest, to make a perfect ombré. Perhaps they were a third of a college basketball team. Each was more than half-way to seven feet, by the looks of it. She found them all relatively attractive and thought this said something good about her as a person, that she was beyond “types” and biases. She then chastised herself for the ridiculousness of the thought and for ogling young men who were likely no older than twenty-two.
As they crossed paths, two of the five averted their eyes, two muttered some Hey, girl, half-hearted pick-up lines, and the last- the lightest in hue- remained silent but held her deadpan stare. To the surprise of the both of them, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it as tightly as she could, before walking off without waiting for further reaction.