I slammed my hand down on the little dinger and shivered. The hotel lobby smelled like coconut and sweat and it was about the size of one of the bathrooms in my parent’s house. I dinged again. At 4am there was a possibility I would be standing here for a while. But then some old dude with gray hair sticking up like Woody Woodpecker, half-stumbled in through a little door and leaned over on the counter on his elbows. I tried not to grin as he looked up at me incredulously.
“You kids” he said.
I took out my wallet and pulled out a wad of cash. I thought maybe that would put him in a better mood when he remembered there was going to be money involved in this exchange. He took out a receipt pad and wrote $45 on there and pushed it over to me. I put $45 on the counter and he pocketed it, walked over to a wall of keys and started to point at them, murmuring.
“What?” I said.
“You kids” he said again. “You all come flooding in to ride the hurricane waves, don’t even care if you goddamn kill yourselves.”
He turned around holding a key in his fist, “Ever heard of a goddamn riptide?”
He walked over to the counter with the key and held it up for me, dangling it. I went to take it from his hand but he pulled it way. “Well have you?” he said.
“I didn’t come here to surf,” I said.
He eyed my board leaning against the chair behind me. “You think I’m blind, boy?”
“Just give me the goddamn key” I said, borrowing his cussword. I didn’t owe him any explanation about why I was here. It wasn’t his business that I had driven all night for a married woman, 8 years older than I, who didn’t want to see me. Or that I didn’t feel like pitching a tent on the beach in the dark anymore. That motivation had dissolved as I approached St. Augustine…and reality. Now I was going to sleep and sleep, then figure out what the hell I was going to do next.
He put the key on the counter and I took it. He pointed off to the right and mumbled to take the stairs because the elevator was broken. Then he wagged his finger at me, “Don’t you take that key with you when you leave. Its not some piece of shit plastic card.”
“Don’t worry dude,” I said wearily. “I’m not gonna keep your key.”
I grabbed my board and my duffle bag and pillow and backed out of the glass door into the cold. Usually the beach air had that excitement to it. But right now it was depressing and I hoped that the room was at least clean as I made my way up the concrete steps with my ears and nose freezing. I thought of my own warm bed with Milo stretched across the bottom. I climbed the last step and turned to look for my room number as my board slammed into the railing with a loud clang. I dropped everything at my feet and smoothed my fingertips over the new ding and realized then, that I’d had better ideas than this. And although I know it is good to be spontaneous, sometimes it is just fucking stupid to not take no for an answer.