The manager said she was my mama now.
She would inspect my room daily
and if it wasn’t spotless
she would chuck me out on my ear.
It was the middle of winter
and renters have some protection
from this kind of abuse
but not those who rent motel rooms.
I was paying by the week, offseason rates,
which wasn’t much, but represented
two-thirds of my take-home,
and even if I could afford to move
I couldn’t afford the first & last
and had no way to move my stuff,
so I was stuck, and she knew it,
and I wasn’t a bad tenant at all—
I never drank (I didn’t like it)
and I never had girls over
(they didn’t like me) and mostly
I sat on my bed reading
old New Yorkers and Kurt Vonnegut,
sometimes staring out the window
at the snow, wondering if tomorrow
I would be sleeping on it.
Nevertheless, I was young and male
and in her mind that meant trouble.
Maybe she read too much Bukowski,
maybe she simply didn’t like men.
So she made my business her business.
If I had a day off, she knocked on my door
to ask why I wasn’t working; when I walked
on the beach, upon returning home
she made me turn out my pockets
to look for drugs, and finding nothing
(I couldn’t afford drugs) looked in my eyes
and decided my face flushed from cold
was the proof she needed I was a user.
She told me to go sleep it off,
and I trudged to my room, wondering
if she’d accept the rent money next week.
But of course she did. I was too young
or dumb to realize that her job depended
on keeping those rooms full of occupants,
and I was the best behaved in the place.
If it happened to me today, if anyone
scampered through my personal belongings
looking for contraband, I would call
the police and send her to jail,
but back then I just accepted it
as one of the perks of being poor:
everywhere someone wanted
to run your life so they could ruin it.
Photo By: Sharon Mollerus