We spent ourselves and each other like pocket change, and we spent that, too. We weren’t supposed to be in this city, nevermind with each other. We’d ended up here on a weeklong vacation almost haphazardly, after the mutual friend who had introduced us bailed at the last minute. I said I wanted to go anyway—I was trying to be the sort of person who was spontaneous and loose.
The first evening we stumbled into the dirty yellow motel room and I tore our guidebook into pieces and tossed them about the room. We didn’t need anything to show us the way, because we didn’t know where we were going or even care. At sunrise I awoke with my head like a heartbeat and stared at the vertical lines of sun hitting the still-made extra bed we hadn’t ended up using. The scraps of paper shined in the light, announcing the different places we could go: The Opry Land Hotel, The Frist, The Country Star Wax Museum. I didn’t know where any of those things were or how to get to them. I knew nothing at all about the city except a few bars we’d already been to, and even those we seemed to travel into and out of as if by some magnetic force rather than by directional knowledge.
Very quietly and without touching him, I arose wrapped in the sheet that I must have stolen for myself in the night. I sat on the unused bed and tried to put the pieces of the guidebook back together, but it was useless, as I should’ve known.
Soon we both stood unsteadily in the motel parking lot, shielding our eyes from the morning sun as we swallowed bad coffee and aspirin, waiting for things to come into focus again.
“What should we do today?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. I closed my eyes and looked towards the sun so that I could see the colors in my eyelids, orange and red.
We found a free map at the motel’s front desk, but it didn’t tell us anything about where we were, nevermind where we were going.
We faced each other, holding opposite sides of the map. “How about The Country Star Wax Museum?” I said finally. I didn’t know anything about country music. “I think the map is upside down?”
“Let’s just go,” he said finally. “We’ll find it.”
We walked and walked. Roads led to more roads and once to a river. We found ourselves in an art museum, but we just sat on a bench before a painting of some pale, naked, voluptuous saint with long blond hair. Her eyes were kind of rolled up in her head—ecstasy or agony, I couldn’t tell which.
“She looks a little like you,” he said, yawning.
“I think she’s pretty,” he said. He’d closed his eyes and was lying on his back with his feet still on the floor. I wanted to hold his warm, smooth hand. In the dark, his hands had felt like the idea of hands, but now they were here in the light.
There was hardly anyone in the museum but us. I often go to new places and think I see someone from home, but in that museum—in that whole city—I never even saw the mirage of someone I thought I knew from real life.
“Should we go?” I asked.
He shrugged. I guess we had no real place to be.
Outside again, the air smelled like fried chicken. We found some to eat at a corner diner that shined with grease. “Where’s The Country Star Wax Museum?” we asked the waitress, holding out our map.
“You’re a long way gone,” she said. “You can’t walk.” She showed us that depending on how you held the map, the scale changed. One side was an up-close view of the downtown, the other was a far away view of the whole city. We had to take a taxi.
The only real person in the wax museum was the woman who sold us our tickets. Her lips were bright pink and her face looked firm and shiny.
The country stars smiled. Some of their hands had broken off and lay severed on the floor beside their resting guitars. I listened for music, but there was none. We left without taking pictures or buying souvenirs.
Outside again, the sun was already low. What had we done all day? “Hey,” he said, pointing. A neon light winked in the distance, calling to us. I followed him towards it.
We took shots of whiskey and chased them with beer. “Where will we be tomorrow?” I asked, but what I wanted to know was where we’d be when we returned home. It was no use asking. The whiskey began to say what it had to say—it seemed to be the only thing that knew what it was doing.
Maria Adelmann‘s writing and art can be found in national and international literary magazines and in stores across the country. She has an MFA from The University of Virginia and a BA from Cornell University. She is working on a novel and a screenplay. Visit her at mariaink.com.