I missed the exit to Toledo, which is how I ended up in Millbury. I’m not sure if this is the actual town of Millbury or a truck stop outside of it, or if Millbury is just a truck stop. In the local diner–the only local diner–I ate iceberg lettuce slathered in Thousand Island dressing and rock hard croutons and listened to men with long, gray beards brag about their children and their dogs–bragging to each other, bragging to the pretty waitress who lets drop that she’s six weeks pregnant and keeps touching her face.
This motel is strange. It rests far back on a single lot, away from everything else. Wooden lampposts jut up sporadically from the ground at the edge of the lot and within it, creating orange-gold pools of light that make the snow sparkle like crushed glass.
Perhaps someone was supposed to salt and plow the lot. If so, they didn’t. What was once snow melted a little and then refroze, becoming ice–uneven, dirty, hard, endless. In places, the ice is solid, as if I am slowly walking over a small and frozen pond. In others, invisible spaces made the ice groan and make thin cracking sounds that spread outwards from the epicenter of my body.
Six degrees, it is six degrees. Six degrees of separation, of Fahrenheit, above zero. Six of spades for the hardened snow. One degree for every week the pretty waitress has been pregnant. The air is dry and cold. It bites.
The motel rises up from this frozen tundra. The entrance is framed by two posts and power lines and opens up onto a road that goes into a kind of darkness I have never known before I moved here–not the gilded darkness of a flipped lightswitch in your childhood bedroom, but the darkness that is a bleak, Midwestern landscape after the sun has fled. A velvety blackness you are sure you could touch, if you weren’t afraid of it swallowing you first.
Eighteen wheelers rest in diagonal rows, and they are still and quiet as sleeping dragons. The women who gave me my room key asked me where I came from, and called me “darling”.
I cannot explain how this place makes me feel. It’s a little bit “The Shining”, a little bit I-cannot-believe-that-I-am-here-for-no-real-reason, a little bit oh-wow-I-am-adventuring-on-my-own, a little bit like I am hovering in some unknown, alien, beautiful place.