Sam stared at his most recent purchase. When he placed it on the nightstand the room was full of afternoon sun, now it was almost too dark to see it clearly. Sam had seen very few things clearly lately.
A phone rang next door. He had disconnected the one in this room as soon as he checked in. He wiped at tears that had long since dried into brackish trails, though his shirt was still damp against his chest.
Sam stood on tingly legs and made his way to the bathroom. The water was cold on his face and took his breath. A streetlight allowed just enough glow to project an eerie image in the mirror- a pale and sallow specter Sam did not recognize.
Re-entering the meager room the nightstand again lured his attention.
“No! Not yet.” He whispered.
Sam rubbed his temples sensing a headache coming. He felt a small pang of hunger and wasn’t sure the last time he had eaten. But that twinge passed as quickly as it appeared. He was thirsty, however.
As he stepped into the night Sam heard voices and laughter. Following the cheerful noise he watched as a family enjoyed the small outdoor pool. As he observed father, mother and two children together the pain returned full force- so did the tears.
Back in his desolate room Sam removed the unopened bottle of whisky from the paper bag and placed it on the night stand next to the cup of coffee. He was not partial to liquor, but if any situation warranted it this one did. Removing the lid from the coffee the steamy aroma filled his nostrils- he took a long, slow breath. He added one half-and-half and took a long, slow sip.
His mind went back to the problem at hand. How could she do this? How could anyone just throw away six years of marriage? How could she take three year old Matthew and leave Sam with only divorce papers?
As he reached toward the nightstand a knock came at the door. No one was supposed to know he was here. But someone did know. Someone knew more about Sam than Sam ever did.
“Who is it?”
“The desk clerk, I have a message for you. I saw you return and tried to call your room but...”
“Hang on a minute.” Opening the nightstand drawer he quickly shoved everything but the coffee inside. He closed the drawer and opened the door.
“Here you go, sir.” The man said and handed him an envelope with Sam’s name hand printed on the front.
“Thanks. Sorry for the trouble.” Sam said and handed the man a couple of dollars. The clerk looked pleased and surprised at the same time. Sam guessed a person didn’t get many tips at a place like this. Except maybe ‘Here come the police.’
Re-bolting the door he sat on the edge of the bed watching the envelope. Finally he dared to open it.
“Sam, I went looking for you and found your car here. I have tried many times to call your room, but something must be wrong with your phone. So I decided to contact you this way. I will return at eight o’clock sharp and knock twice on your door then wait for five minutes. I would really like to talk, but if you do not answer the door I will go home.
Sincerely, Pastor Mike.
P.S. I talked to Beth. She loves you, but is very unhappy. She has agreed to attend counseling if you will.”
The message was from the pastor of a small church he and Beth had attended a few times.
Vision blurred with tears Sam reached into the nightstand and felt something other than his items. He pulled it out. It was a Bible.
Emptying the remaining contents of the drawer into the paper bag Sam drove two miles to the river. Parking on the shoulder in the center of the Main St. Bridge he walked to the railing. Climbing far enough to see the dark glimmering water rush by Sam mentally replayed his life- especially the last few weeks.
Nobody was in sight. Sam closed his eyes and cried out as loud as he could. Then, leaning over the rail he dropped the bag watching it disappear.
Back in his room Sam began reading from the Gideon’s gift. Then he prayed like he never had before.
He heard two raps on his door.
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