By Chris Daley
B is outside the door. She left Paul in the cantina, talking about the decline of airlines with the red-haired
German tourist. The more excluded she was from the conversation, the more she felt the tequila congeal
in her throat. She mumbled something about going to the bathroom and never returned.
B is inside the door. When she decided to travel alone, she imagined all forms of mishap—loss of
direction in Mexican alleys, robbery, loneliness, not being able to ditch a man she had indulged—but
she never once thought she’d become trapped in a hotel room.
B is outside the door. She can’t find the key, an old-fashioned metal key connected by a thin chain to a
block of wood. If Paul has the key, she decides, she will just wait. She digs through her frowzy purse,
pushing aside a book, a notebook, a guidebook, her wallet, a camera, cosmetics, glasses, sunglasses,
pens, a bottle of water. She wedges her fingers further into unsuspecting leather corners, holding and
discarding items by feel, until she withdraws her hand. If the key is there, it is buried again beneath an
B is inside the door. She doesn’t want to call the front desk. It’s too soon. The door is just jammed—the
right force, the proper angle will free her. At first, she thought the door was simply locked, but the
problem is with the knob. She had never considered what she would do in a situation of broken knob.
She doesn’t want to alert the clerk in the lobby, who leered at her and asked three times when her
husband would arrive. Cuándo llegará tu esposo, Señora?
B is outside the door. She blankly stares at the stained carpet, which may have once had shag but now
has flat. She doesn’t want to crush the items in her purse, but she doesn’t want to press her skirt against
the carpet either. She settles for a crouch with her back against the wall. The first night they were in
Mexico, Paul had pushed her up against the inside of the door and kissed her fully on the mouth, and
she thought maybe this trip would save something.
B is inside the door. Is it the humidity? Should she just go to sleep and try again in the morning? Maybe a
different time or temperature will change the condition of the knob. Maybe she will find another way
out. She can feel the weight of panic in her stomach, small and hard like the block connected to the
B is outside the door. Through the window at the end of the hall, she can hear the German tourist’s
Chris Daley’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, FORTH Magazine, Angels Flight • literary west, Crony, DUM DUM Zine, Cease, Cows, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction. She is the Director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles and teaches academic writing at the California Institute of Technology.