Do You Always Want to Move Me?
Trent England

Nina walked through the room wearing only underwear, and she stopped at the window, pulling aside a curtain that looked like a thinning bathrobe, sheer and holey, and lit up a cigarette. Instead of inhaling, she held it at her side, letting the smoke crawl up her arm and fill the room. I had never seen her actually smoke one, and if she had ever inhaled, it hadn't been around me.

"How long until we move again?"

I could feel her looking at me for a moment before returning her attention to the outside world, a crumbling parking lot that also housed a Denny's, and just beyond the Denny's was the rushing interstate, the sound of which had been keeping me from sleeping at night.

"Never mind," she said. "I don't know why I keep asking you."

Nina had long, dark blonde hair, green eyes that elicited involuntary truthfulness from men like me, and I felt dangerously close to telling her something I wasn't supposed to. I looked over and watched the cigarette smoke rise, wondering why it was always described as blue in books, hued blue in certain movies, the lazy line of smoke making its way to the ceiling.

"I used to hear about people living in hotels, and I used to think it was... I used to think it was just great, y'know? You get someone to clean up for you, make your bed." She turned and gestured to the two full beds in the room, ruffled and unmade. We hadn't left the room in days, refusing linen and laundry service. Our room did not contain fresh towels, and instead, we draped wet towels over chairs and hoped they would be dry by the time we needed a shower next. "But this," she went on, "I don't know what the word for this is."

Outside it was bright as if a mirror were being held up to the motel. I squinted my right eye as the sunlight funneled into the room.

"Will you close the curtain? You're not supposed to be standing near the window."

"So, can I ask you," she walked over to her bed, "why do you watch this show, anyway." She stubbed the remnant of the unsmoked cigarette into an ashtray next to her bed. "You never laugh. You don't even seem to like it."

It was an old sitcom, dated, with painful colors and patterns populating the set. The centerpiece was an American family, the laboring pottymouths full of working-class wit.

"You know, I have this feeling we probably came from the same kind of place. Suburban houses, parks and big grocery stores. Did you go to church when you were a little boy? I see you in a padded pew for some reason. I used to go to church with boys who looked just like you."

"I'm not here. I don't matter to you. I don't exist."

She shook her head, refusing this truth.

"I want to know things about you. Like were you ever in love?"

"You say that as if it's too late."

"That's because you have this look on your face like it is too late."

"I've been in love, yes." I turned down the volume and looked her in the eye, trying my best not to gaze at her underwear-clad body. Nina had grown comfortable enough with me to walk around like this, as if I were her older brother, gross and flaccid. "Who hasn't?"

"What was her name?"

I pictured Nina sitting on planes and buses, making friends with strangers. Talking to children on sidewalks, cradling a newborn niece at a christening. I knew she was from Pittsburgh and that her name was Nina. I knew nothing else, and didn't want to know anything else.

I shook my head and looked back at the TV.

"If I can't know your name, at least tell me hers." After a long pause, she said, "Okay. Then I have another question. Do you always want to move me?"

When she asked me this, I sat forward on the bed and wrapped my arms around my knees. She returned the look, her eyes burning a hollow point in the wall I had built between us.

"Don't you ever want to keep me in one place?"

Nina pulled her hair back and fashioned it into a ponytail, not taking her eyes off me. Until now, she had always wanted to know when I would move her next, to what city we were moving, how long we were staying in each motel and hotel.

"The last time you moved me," she said, "I got this feeling about you."

The TV commercials were louder than the TV shows themselves. This was something I wanted to talk about. There was a commonality to the subject that she and I could share without her having to be told too much. I could talk about commercials without revealing my name or where I was from or what church I went to when I was a boy, or the fact that I was once in love with a woman named Evie, but Nina wouldn't have wanted to talk about commercials.

"I can tell." She stood from the bed and pulled on a pair of jeans that were crumpled on the floor. As she slid into the slender denim legs, she walked over and stood next to me. She made me nervous when she stood next to me, close enough for me to smell her deodorant and lotion. "I can tell that you don't always want to move me."

Trent England lives in Salem, Massachusetts, where he writes full time. He can be found online at

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Ian B. Line.

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