These are strange days when the mind settles yet the body rebels or the other way around, yet the two always agree for a few minutes around midnight. The neon sign of the Comfort Lounge fritzes in the cold rain, spilling pink light across the windshields of parked cars papered with advertisements for faith healers and aura dealers. The bar is haywire chintz: red paper lanterns and a plastic palm tree, a bruised Rock-Ola jukebox and tangled Christmas lights. An old Zenith mumbles in the corner, where a news anchor with aerodynamic hair announces that our internet passwords will be replaced with retina scans. “It might happen sooner than you think,” he says with a nervous laugh while a woman at the far end of the bar stares deep into her drink and whispers, “I refuse to believe in a god of confusion.” Two quarters, a kerchunk, and the day’s news is swept beneath the Rock-Ola singing dance dance dance to the radio.
The bartender looks up at the television and sees a celebrity smiling in a razor-wire prison and he cannot tell if it’s a movie, reality show, or news report. An old man in snakeskin boots finishes his coffee and slaps the bar. “Shame that Carly Dee left town. If she can’t be happy here, Lord knows what she expects to find out there.” The bartender ignores him and flips the channel to footage of an explosion.
Meanwhile in a motel on the edge of Amarillo, Carly Dee sits on the edge of a twin mattress, wondering why they called it a twin when it’s built for one. Last night she dreamed of a place called Lemon Falls, where they say the signal of time originates. Someday she will be known as the Voice of the Red Rocks, but tonight she is just another nighthawk, another enemy of sleep. She told the night clerk her name was Carol Lee. No reason, it just felt good to lie, sort of like how she’s happiest when smoking a cigarette with a cup of coffee, thinking about quitting smoking and switching to decaf. A snowy television hums in the corner, half-tuned to a screwball comedy from the thirties, a woman’s voice saying, “Golly, that’s a plain funny feeling, but remember it can be worse tomorrow.”