The Halo Room

The halo room is the top floor of the hotel. Lauren heaved her wares onto the table under a bevy of bright windows overlooking downtown Austin, some patched with whiteboard and all of them covered with plastic sheeting to hold warmth in the winter. She put the sack under the table by her chair and sighed relief, shaking out the strain from her arm. "Welcome to the halo room," she said. Erica looked at her expectantly. "Yes," continued Lauren, "this is it, where we do things, our living room." Lauren filled a bottle at the water cooler as she spoke. Erica sat in a deep brown velour couch and glanced over the bookshelves.
The room looked magisterial, touched by the art of dozens of travelers, and not least by the architect at some significance, though the fine details had been absorbed by punk and post-punk feminine rigor. The medial wall was decorated pink and granite grey, portraits of unknown women. Lauren said they stayed in past years, the painter moving on that spring to the northwest. Lauren was portrayed near the end of the wall, smiling in semi-profile with, as she said, a faux representation of her hair made to look Victorian. Each portrait had something humorous or anachronistic, she said, gesturing to one, representing the subject as the bust of an ancient wearing laurels, another featuring a top hat and monocle. The pictures enmeshed like billows of cumulus. The final portrait before the painter moved on had been of Lauren, remaining open space decorated as well, the portraits appearing elevated and like reticulated versions of animal shapes appearing in actual clouds. Erica thought it was done well, yet feeling too photogenic for herself wearing such a dress against this wall.
The hotel was matriarchal, Lauren her designated queen. Erica laughed a marshmallow-coated chuckle of disbelief when made aware of this fact, moreover that there were sovereigns dating back decades, and she, Lauren, would be her final heir. “And your throne?" Erica mused. Lauren replied that residence of the halo room signified this. "Aye, to be queen,” she said, incanting. “It rearranges and reconstitutes my psychic crystalline formations." Continuing, "Erica, will you tell me the golden rule?"
"Do as you would be done by."
"Will you tell me the platinum rule?"
"Do unto others and run like a mother?"
Lauren laughed, "Treat others how they want to be treated."
"Are you a benevolent ruler, Lauren?"
"You miss the point,” she said. “Dear subject, people want to live their lives and we must let them."
"I like that," Erica said, "but it comes from left field."
"How so?"
"I mean it's uncanny or a non sequitur."
Lauren asked what Erica meant by the expression and where it came from.
"Getting thrown out at the plate," she said, "in baseball."
"From left field?" Lauren reiterated.
Lauren laughed off the affectation and showed the rest of the halo room to Erica, where to find things, the password to the laptop and how to work the appliances. Passing by the doorway to the stairs, the bell rung, the baritone of a large bell, someone in the corridor. A resident declared herself through the door to Lauren's query, a girl from downstairs and her boyfriend requesting computer time. Lauren welcomed them and introduced all as if longtime friends, very well by Erica since she disliked formal introductions. Lauren said she had to get back to work at the table. Erica filled a water bottle and headed back downtown on foot to the parking garage and her car, feeling much less removed from her own country, now fully back home and wanting for the small comforts of her phone and pocketbook she'd managed to go without in Mexico, among people of inordinate reception to the whole world of appeal.

The End

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