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  • Francis James

Atlantic City 2021 - A (partially non-) Fictional Journal Entry

Morning. My mouth is dry and my eyes are begging my face to relax those muscles and keep them closed. The curtains are shut, but the fan from the AC unit under the window kicks up the curtain on the left, casting weird shadows and allowing sunlight to intermittently play hide and seek with my desire to jump off the balcony. I roll over and reach for my phone. 9:45 am. Why am I awake so early? Why did I go to sleep so late?

The Quality Inn. The only thing ‘quality’ about this palace is the dampness of the stale air that the AC unit cools and pushes around the room. It’s impressive that a room with nothing in it could hang on to such humidity. It’s like the room is that floating door in Titanic and the humidity is Jack Dawson hanging on to it. Sucks. He froze to death floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Doesn’t sound like the worst way to go right now. If I died here I;d be ashamed of the nature of the scenario. Seedy motel in AC, mysterious death. What a sway to get the rumors to fly off the shelves. Obviously I need to shower before I find the will to walk outside for whatever exquisite beauty this part of Atlantic City holds.

Thankfully the bathroom is clean. The shower is creaky though. The subfloor under the shower is either rotting or wasn’t secured enough. Either way, it’s weird and makes me think of who’s under my room and if I’d land in their bathroom or on their bed. Or on their head. Someone, land on my head so I can just sleep. The soap smells good.

I put on a pair of gray chinos, a black polo tucked in, and some black dress shoes with a hard sole so when I walk around, they can hear me click. Black belt. I think I look good. So I'm starting to feel better. Not sure who I’m looking so good for. The 24-hour-eyed hooker having a smoke outside the motel entrance? Maybe the druggie couple who couldn’t seem to get their clothes to fit them right this morning. I wonder where they were all night. Maybe I’m dressing up to walk across the street and get hit by a drunk driver on his way back to his efficiency room at the nearest murder motel. At least I’d leave a good looking corpse.

I step outside... shocker. Nothing beautiful. I looked over the balcony railing into the parking lot of the place. This place is sad. It’s a bit hot and muggy for a block away from the beach. There’s people around - checking out, checking in (or returning from a long night out), going to the beach with their beach bags and cheap drug store beach chairs. The air smells like the ocean - that’s definitely a block away. It’s not just after 10. Check out is at 11 and I don’t need to be at lunch until 12. And lunch is only 20 minutes away so I have some time to kill.

I step down the stairs from outside of my second story motel room, walk towards the parking lot, and pass a lovely couple on the way talking about how “that loser John tried to steal our dope and fell down the stairs running away”. Lovely life these people lead. I could only imagine what later today entails for them. Probably a zombified existence in the “comfort” of their damp motel room, sun beating on the closed curtains - just like mine. I can’t understand why a Nothing-existence appeals to these people, or anyone for that matter. I keep hearing that classic, “it numbs the pain”. I just accept the idea of stretches of time willingly given away to something as despicable as a drug. Like sacrificing an innocent creature to a god that doesn’t exist. Worse if that god simply doesn't care. Drugs are their god. Their god loves them. Their god awaits their death. Their god glorifies their death. Their god wants to see them suffer while they’re alive. Sounds like the Devil to me. Lucifer - the fallen angel who wants humanity to fall and stay down. That’s drugs. That’s a god, apparently.

I put my suitcase and backpack in the backseat of my car, opening the door with the key. I had lost the key fob about 7 years ago. Never replaced it. Opening the car door with the key works just fine for me. I walk across the street to a bodega for some cheap coffee and a bottle of water. One gentleman stands outside the liquor store, a cylindrically shaped paper bag in hand - already got this morning’s dose of liquid gold. It’s not even the PM hours and we’re already swaying like a straw in the wind. On the sidewalk is a mother and her son repacking their backpack on their way up to the beach. They must be local. There’s no way people are vacationing here. They don’t speak. They don’t acknowledge me.

I notice as I walk up to the store, there’s massive Monster Energy drink prints in the windows. John John Florence, the surfer, a skateboarder - forgot who. Reminds me of high school. I went to high school only a couple towns over. Obsessed with extreme sports and looking for opportunities to engage in them at every turn. When you ride BMX or skateboard you look at the world differently. That staircase, the handrail, the wall, the curb - they’re all part of a beautifully architected skatepark the size of the world. You see transitions where others see “some curved thing”, you see gaps where others see two objects that aren;t touching and have no business being connected together by some guy jumping from one object to the other on a bike that looks too small for a grown man to ride. I still have my bmx bike in the trunk of my car.

I walk in the store. Why do all bodegas smell the same? I smell old - yes the smell ‘old’, also saw dust, dirt, food, and coffee. Coffee. I walk over to the coffee counter, stationed right next to a display pitching me Advil, sex enhancement drugs, and some other assorted goodies. I pour a cup from the carafe. To the left of the coffee maker, a small refrigerator sits on the counter with all the Monster Energy drinks on every shelf, and the half and half at the bottom. I get the half and half, pour it in and make my coffee light, the way I like it. I don’t care how you like it. I didn’t check the expiration date. Not sure if I trust the owner-manager, or if I simply don’t care enough. Considering the place I woke up this morning, probably the latter. I poked around the two aisles that existed in this place, one of which was totally under construction. I obviously walked in on the day that the owner is making his wife rearrange the shelves and everything. At the counter I paid for my coffee and a big bottle of water. $5.13 - at first I thought wow, that’s cheap for two items. But then I thought, that’s kind of expensive for some cold water and some hot bean-flavored water. Ah yes… the half and half. That’s the kicker. That’s how they get you. With those extras.

I left the store and stood on the sidewalk. I took a sip of that glorious hot bean-flavored water and half & half, and it was nice. The coffee was actually pretty good. Smooth and strong.

On the sidewalk again, I looked up and down the street. Broad daylight, some hustle and bustle. None of it was because anyone was going to work. Some went towards the beach, some just stood around smoking or drinking. Some just walked and didn’t look like they really had anywhere to be. I didn’t necessarily have anywhere to be but I walked across the street back to the motel parking lot. I got in my car and wondered how I could kill some time while I waited for lunch. I took the long way out of there.

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