I could never sleep well in hotels. I guess that’s somewhat of an understatement; I could never sleep well in general, but hotels were the worst.
Just the thought that the previous occupant of this bed is a complete stranger was repulsive in my mind, but that’s beside the point.
What I’m getting at is how this lack of sleep in hotels changed my life. Christmas, we were spending Christmas in a shitty hotel and not with family, great.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the all you can eat buffet of soggy hash browns and grits for Christmas Eve dinner.
Of course the first snow of the season had to cancel our flight down to Virginia. It was Christmas Eve and I was trying to sleep in this bleach saturated room; my mind was wandering, wondering what happened in here to cause such an excessive amount of bleach needed.
The room was nothing out of the ordinary: two beds, one for me and my dad and another for my sister and mom, a bathroom, and a stained microwave that looked in need of a good dusting. Somehow I escaped the room (and stench of bleach) into a dreamless sleep. Waking up, I could tell it was early morning, my dad was next to me snoring and he usually wakes up before 4 am.
That’s when it hit me, it’s Christmas, and I was about to let this bad fortune ruin my favorite holiday.
Looking across the bed at the clock to check the time is when I noticed it: The silhouette of a man about 6’3 across the room staring at my mom sleep. Still half asleep and caught up in the moment I couldn’t help thinking of Santa Claus.
I realized how stupid the thought was and horror soon filled my head, I choked back a shriek. I knew I couldn’t let him see me awake so I quietly put my head back down pretending to sleep. My mind was racing, someone was in my room and I couldn’t do anything; I was scrawny sixteen year old, this man looked built like an ox.
I wondered if I could wake my dad up in time but I knew that wouldn’t work. He slept like a rock; a bucket of water couldn’t get him up fast enough. I was practically in tears; I’d never felt so helpless. For a second time I choked back a scream. He was standing next to me, and I could feel and hear his repulsive breath on my face; it smelled like he’d been eating rotten meat for a week now with no thought to brush his teeth. If he didn’t know I was awake surely he did now, seeing my face was contorted in fear.
The breathing stopped and I couldn’t help the sigh of relief; I would've kicked myself but there was no need, I heard the room door open and close. I launched out of bed. Nothing in the room was in disarray and my family was still asleep. That couldn’t have been a dream, I couldn’t have imagined it. Feeling awake as ever a horrible idea popped into my head and before I could push it away I was pulling the door open.
Glancing back to the door in order to memorize the room number I saw the giant spray-painted black ‘X’ on the door. Had I seen this without the prior experience I probably would’ve thought it was just some stupid kids, I knew better, but not enough to know what it was for.
My heart skipped a beat, there he was, turning the corner at the end of the hall, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I tailed him down to the parking lot, he was nowhere in sight; one moment he’s walking out the lobby, the next he’s gone. Realizing how cold it is outside in paper-thin pajamas, I returned to the lobby. No one was around, strange; I could swear there’s usually a night concierge.
Adrenaline wearing off, I realized how stupid and rash my actions had been; he could have killed me. I cursed myself back up the stairs. I knew something was wrong when I got to my floor. The door to my room was wide open, ‘I hadn’t left it that way, right?’
I walked inside and after a quick search of the room I determined it safe and my family was still asleep. I locked the door and got back into bed though I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. I listened to my dad get up and eventually my mom followed but I still pretended to sleep.
A few hours passed and my parents got my sister and I up, we got into the car, and made our way back to the airport. Digging through my bag to grab my iPod led to the finding of something that hadn’t been in there the previous day.
A note that simply held the five words I still think about to this day, “I knew you were awake.” It’s now been two months since the hotel experience, I’m still scared for my life and it gets worse every day. That note I found wasn’t the only one; I still receive them.