With sleep slowly diminishing from my life, it’s no wonder I can barely think straight anymore. Grasping the porcelain sink with clammy, quivering hands, I grappled for my contact lens case, slippery with saline. The ghastly image in the mirror was almost unrecognizable as me. My face a pale yellowish complexion, hazy bloodshot slits for eyes and a drooping lip. The Thorazine tablets the doctor prescribed to me were wearing off and I was starting to feel the effects of a nervous twitch. I’ve stopped taking them now though; I have to get to the bottom of this.
Everything started two weeks ago when I was at work. My phone vibrated in my pocket, a glowing 703 area code number appearing on the screen. I answered to the sweet sound of a young college girl with a curious flirty tenor.
“Is this Josh Kinney?” She asked.
“Yes it is,” I replied, my immediate thoughts wandering to who this mysterious seductive voice was on the other end of the line.
“I found your name and number on a piece of paper here, and it says call me.” Silence. Confusion. “Did you stay at a Residence Inn last night?” I scratched my head in utter bafflement.
“Of course not!” I retorted, stammering for a moment, listening to her shuffle about what I assumed was a hotel room.
“Well someone left your name and number here and also a computer charger. These things are expensive you know.” I took a seat against the cool concrete wall and gazed at the number on the screen.
“Where is this Residence Inn?” I asked. A 703 number wasn’t something I recognized, even with friends all over the country.
“Woodbridge, Virginia,” she said, “I was just cleaning the room and I found this note. Did one of your friends stay here?” I searched my mind for some kind of obvious answer that I was missing but there was none.
“No, is this some kind of joke?”
“No, sir,” a bubbly laugh, “I’m just as confused as you are.”
I rose to my feet.
“Well I don’t know anything about this. I’ve never been to Woodbridge, I don’t have any friends there, and I’m almost positive I don’t know anyone who would have been staying there last night.” More shuffling on the other end, it was getting rather annoying, like she was trying to open some kind of plastic wrapper right in my ear.
“Oh well. Sorry to bother you Mr. Kinney, have a good day.” With that the line went dead and I snapped my phone shut and slid it back into my pocket.
“Well that was unusual,” I thought. Busied with work, I hadn’t thought much about it and by the end of the day I had other pressing issues on my mind. When I arrived home I went straight for my car, parked on the side street by my house. I was supposed to meet my friend Jason at his house to help with costumes for our themed dinner party that night. I fiddled with my key and opened the squeaky door of the old blue Plymouth Reliant. The dry heat consumed me; I immediately started the car and blasted the air conditioner turning it almost instantly into an ice box. For a twenty year old car, the air condition worked brand new. Shifting into drive, I recognized the mileage on the car was significantly different than that of last night. The previous day I had gotten an oil change with 103,300 miles. Today it read 103,703. I threw the car back in park and tapped my finger against the clear plastic, puzzled. Somehow about 400 miles was put on my car between the time I parked it last night and today. Did someone use my car while I was at work? Everything looked the same, the tire up a bit over the curb just as I had parked. Maybe it was just some kind of malfunction. Parking the car, I walked back into my house and headed for my room to grab the shirt I had forgotten. It was about this time that I remembered the phone call from earlier.
Woodbridge, Virginia, I wondered where that was. I powered up my laptop and went to google, finding it just south of Washington, approximately 200 miles away. With 400 extra miles on my car I began to panic. Had someone taken my car? A few moments later my computer started to beep and the light from the screen grew dim due to lack of battery charge. I must have left it unplugged all night, I thought, reaching for the charger…except it wasn’t there. A wave of trepidation swept over me as I recalled the phone call and the girl’s voice saying “Well someone left your name and number and also a computer charger. These things are expensive you know.” Sweat started soaking my forehead and splitting my hair, a choking fear and bewilderment suffocating around me. The number! I still had the number though. Reaching for my phone I found it under my received calls and hit “dial.”
“Residence Inn, Woodbridge, how may I help you”? came the familiar voice, it was the same girl.
“Hello, you called me a few hours e-e-arlier,” my voice was stuttering, “You said someone left my name, number and a computer charger in one of the rooms?” There was a brief pause.
“Yes, Mr. Kenney? Or uh…” –
“It’s Kinney. Um, do you have that computer charger with you right now?”
“Yes, it’s actually right here beside me.” I hesitated and looked under my desk and in my drawers, hoping I had just misplaced it.
“Yeah, uh, does it have the initials JK on it in silver sharpie?” I started biting my fingers.
“Actually, yes it does. Is it yours?” Suddenly my heart started racing, I kept wiping my forehead, my eyes sputtering around the room from the desk to the drawers to the window where I had a clear view of my car. “Alright, what the hell is going on?” I yelled at her. There was silence.
“Excuse me sir, I don’t appreciate you shouting at me. I’m trying to help you.”
“Well who stayed there last night? Can I get a name or number, description, anything?” I honestly felt like someone was screwing with me big time. She wasn’t speaking fast enough for me either.
“Uh… he came in around 1 AM and left around 6. He paid in cash I believe, small, blonde haired college boy, drove an old blue car, parked right out front here. Let me look in our records for a name…” –
I threw the phone across the desk and pulled at my hair. What was happening? Had she not just described me perfectly? For a moment I closed my eyes and pierced my lips, taking a deep breath. I dialed Jason.
“Hey, you still coming over?” he asked.
“What time did I leave your house last night?” I was panicked, he could tell.
“Uh, not long after midnight.”
“I thought so too…” Woodbridge was about three hours away, and the person she described had checked in at 1. Clearly it wasn’t me, I surely would have known. There was a beep on the other line, call waiting, the Residence Inn was calling me back.
“Hey, I’ll call you back in a few.” I dropped the call and switched to the other.
“Is this Mr. Kinney?” her luscious voice echoing in my ear.
“Yes, I’m sorry, I lost service earlier. What was the name?”
“According to the records in the computer, the guy checked in under your name.” Had someone stolen my car? That couldn’t have been because I had it at midnight and this person checked in at 1. Still didn’t explain why there was a little over 400 extra miles on the car, or why my computer charger was missing.
“Listen, I’ll get to the bottom of this and call you back.” Dashing down the stairs, I ran to the car and headed to Jason’s, my mind racing in all directions and my heart palpitating abnormally. I clenched the frozen steering wheel, the rubber digging into my moist hands. Running my trembling fingers through my hair, I leaned back against the cushioned seat feeling my neck crack as my head tilted to one side. It was cold all of a sudden. I hadn’t turned on the air condition, yet a chill swept through me making the hair on my arms stand straight up. A brisk, howling wind seared through the open window sending my cadaver into a convulsive shutter, the chill whisking against my face. “Where did that come from?” It was August. There weren’t supposed to be chilly breezes.
As I turned left onto Fairview, I started recalling strange images of green highway signs. Newark, Baltimore appeared in the back of my mind, and then Washington, Alexandria. Was I just recalling past drives? These seemed quite vivid and fresh though. Racking my brain, I conjured up a few more recollections. The EZ pass toll and the lights from the tunnel under Baltimore harbor. A sign for the Beltway…all of this added to my alarm. There was no possible way, I subconsciously drove to Woodbridge Virginia in an hour and checked into a Residence Inn making it back for work at 7, none of it made sense, and I of course, would have known!
Jason was just as stunned as I was. We decided to call off the dinner party for this week and drive down to this Residence Inn and try and straighten things out. We took his car and within minutes we were on 95-South already passing Wilmington. We talked for the entire three hours, him asking if I was sure I hadn’t taken a little joy ride last night and me persisting that I had gone straight home. The drive took about four hours considering we hit Baltimore during rush hour and sat in usually traffic by the tunnel. I pressed my head against the glass and closed my eyes, the red break lights reflected off every mirror. A blanket of confusion settled over me. Who would have left my name and number and wrote “call me.”? None of it made any sense.
Or was I trying to get in touch with myself?……
When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately jumped out of the car and started for the door. A blast a cool air hit us as the automatic doors opened.
“Ah, back again are you?” A small, plump, elderly woman sat at the front desk, smiling at me.
“You know you left your computer charger, one of our maids found it.” She had a hint of a southern accent. I backed up, placing my hands on my hips and frowning at the woman.
“I’m sorry, but I have never been to this hotel in my life.” The woman slumped forward, clearly confused.
“Sir, this is the 4th night in a row you’ve checked in here.”