My phone buzzes in my pocket. I pull it out and see that it’s a FaceTime call coming through: Rivi. I swipe to accept it. “Rivi,” I say.
“Sebastian.” The image is dark except for a sliver of blue, enough to dimly illuminate the right side of Rivi’s face, and a bit of a wall behind her.
“Where are you?” I ask.
“Salt Lake,” she says. “Somewhere around there, I guess. Murder motel on the wrong side of the tracks. Actually, all of it’s on the wrong side of the tracks here.”
“What are you doing in Salt Lake? And what are you doing in Salt Lake at 3:39 in the morning, especially?”
“Got a hair up my butt yesterday, started driving, ended up here.”
“Must have been a long hair,” I say. “That’s like what, a twelve hour drive?”
“Rapunzel hair,” she says. “So much longness. Miles of hair.”
“You need a hobby.”
“You’re my hobby, Sebastian. Get with the program. Besides, who else am I going to call at 3:39 in the morning?”
“3:40,” I correct her. “And yes, obviously I’m awake at this hour, although against my better judgment at all times.”
“But still awake,” she says.
I sigh. “Show me the motel.”
She flips the camera around and gives me the three dollar tour. “Tube TV on the dresser, because it’s 1995 here, apparently. The remote is bolted to the night stand. No trustworthy travelers through Salt Lake, it seems. Coffee maker, smells like something’s been growing in there since the Reagan administration. I brought a case of Red Bull with me across the border, smuggled that shit right in. I’m not about to trust my life or my caffeine buzz to the Mormons. What do they know about coffee, anyway?”
“I don’t know if they still can’t drink coffee or not. It’s too early in the morning for Google.”
“Here’s the best bit,” she said, moving the camera to a painting hanging on the wall. “A matador and a bull. Very gory. Lots of violence and hated of nature. The curtains here don’t close all the way, so when the lights in the room are out, there’s a spotlight from the motel sign that shines right across the painting. Looks very powerful when you’re laying in bed and all you can do is keep looking at this bloody bull with a dozen skewers sticking out of its body.”
“Like being in the Louvre,” I say.
“The Mormon Louvre,” Rivi replies. “Is there much bullfighting in the Book of Mormon? I haven’t read it recently. Nor at all, actually.”
“Again, too early for Google.”
She flips the camera back around. She is in bed with a couple of pillows fluffed behind her and against the wall. “It’s quite possible that I shouldn’t have driven quite so far at one time. I’m too tired to turn around and come back, which is why I’m in a Mormon murder motel with a toreador on the wall and a carnivorous fungus growing in a coffee maker. I certainly wouldn’t choose to be here.”
“I suppose this is where I need to ask exactly why you took a twelve hour drive off into the wasteland?”
“Do you really need to ask, Sebastian?”
“Ah,” I say. “Boy trouble. Or girl trouble.”
“Both trouble,” Rivi says. “Or neither. I don’t really know at this point. Maybe just me trouble.”
“Can’t be you trouble. You’re perfection all the way down.”
She snorts and puts her arm behind her head. “You full of shit, but it’s the kind of shit I like to hear, so you may continue to live.”
“Yes, well. I do appreciate your constant grace and kindness.”
“As well you fucking should,” she says. She rolls onto her side, taking her phone with her, and the camera flips to a horizontal view. There’s a thin line of bed sheet at the bottom of the frame, and over her shoulder I can see the curtain that doesn’t shut all the way, and a star of bright blue light from the motel sign shining through. “I am feeling exceptionally broken right now, Sebastian,” Rivi says.
“You aren’t broken. Slightly cracked. Perhaps with electrical tape wrapped around your middle.”
“No jokes, please. I’m in fucking Utah. There’s nothing funny to be found here.”
“That painting is pretty funny, actually. You should steal it and bring it back with you.”
“I already tried,” she says. “It’s screwed to the wall. Fucking Mormons think of everything.”
“Come home, Rivi. Sleep first, then drink a Red Bull and come home.”
She closes her eyes and bends her arm over her head. “It’s a murder motel. A Mormon one. I’m never getting out of here alive.”
“Pour a bag of coffee grounds across the threshold. Mormons can’t cross that. You’ll be safe for the night.”
She snorts again. “And then I’ll have six Red Bulls and rip that painting off the wall, put it in the car, and do a hundred and forty across the desert. I can be home in an hour. Maybe eight hours. I don’t know. It’s too early for Google.”
“Just come home,” I say. “We’ll make you waffles and you can ugly cry and nobody will ever know it happened.”
“I like a good ugly cry. Plus waffles.” She yawns, then takes one of the pillows and puts it behind the phone. The image shakes for a few seconds like it’s in an earthquake, and I realize that she’s propped the phone up on the pillow so that she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. “I’m tired,” she says. “I’m going to go to sleep. Stay here and watch me a while.”
“Only if you bring that matador painting with you when you come back,” I say.
Rivi mumbles something that I can’t make out, then pulls her blanket up over her shoulder and doesn’t make another sound except for soft breathing, seven hundred and fifty miles away.
It’s another hour before I turn off my phone and slip it back into my pocket.