The fountain was still gurgling, but Ponytail Guy was nowhere in sight, probably taking a smoke break out back knowing full well that no one would be checking in for the rest of the night. As far as I knew, we were the only guests at the Oasis.

I looked closer at the crudely-sculpted fountain. It was the centerpiece of the lobby, ostentatiously the motel’s proudest installation. A weak stream of water exited the flamingo’s beak. Glittering below the water in the grimy fountain basin was a small treasure trove of riches: copper pennies, silver nickels and quarters. Remnants of other lost travelers who somehow found themselves shepherded here. This was an altar for desperation; the flamingo was its deity.

I fished into my pants pocket for a nice, shiny penny that might do. I wanted to take a moment for some silent reflection. I was scared that I would one day find myself trapped in a labyrinth of self-inflicted desires, inventing elaborate, perfect lies that I could slip into and inhabit like perfectly shaped bathing suits or houses with wraparound porches and Grecian columns, sheltering myself from a life mediocrely lived.

A lobby door creaked open. Ponytail Guy caught me coming in from his smoke break. “Hey sweetheart, what are you doing up so late?”

His bloodshot eyes were all over my legs. But he didn’t look sinister. He just looked incredibly foolish, with his fat paunch and his scrubby beard. He probably lived alone and ordered in burgers and milkshakes every night. I felt sorry for him. Taking a few passes at his clients and jerking off to pay-per-view were probably the most exciting parts of his day. This was a guy who would never see what lay beyond where the sky met the Chihuahuan, and I was about to dip my toes into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Fuck off,” I hissed as I shoved past him. “And stay the hell away from my mom.”
I went to bed and slept soundly. Outside a desert thunderstorm landed suddenly. But I heard none of it.

Jackie Yang