Snow & Winter series
The Pod Coda
A lone gate attendant had been tasked with trying to placate the two dozen or so folks who’d missed their connecting flights—us included—after mechanical issues and various cancellations had sent us all over the country but to the city we were trying to reach for our vacation. The woman bit her lip and glanced up from the computer to Calvin. “We are completely out of hotel vouchers, Mr. Winter.”
Now, unlike the soccer mom who’d been in line before us, Calvin did not lose his shit and start verbally berating the poor woman. He frowned a little, then asked in his usual calm tone, “can we book a room ourselves?”
“The hotel’s informed us they are completely full,” she said. “There’s a convention in town.” She tilted her head to the side, eyed the tired and frustrated line behind us, and deflated a little. “I’m so sorry. The best I can do is book you and Mr. Snow on an 8:00 a.m. flight to Los Angeles. I can even upgrade you both to business class, free of charge.”
“That would be very much appreciated,” Calvin answered. “But I’m really not keen on sleeping at the gate. Are there any other hotels in the area?”
“Not… really. No.”
“Rock, paper, scissors who takes first sleep shift,” I told Calvin while nudging his arm.
The attendant smiled hesitantly and leaned forward. “I can’t guarantee they’ll have any availability, but there’s a pod hotel here in the airport. Head toward Zone B and take the first left at the escalators. We don’t have any sort of partnership with them, so it’d be out of pocket, but it would be a place to catch forty winks and have a shower.”
“That sounds great,” Calvin said. He took the handle of our suitcase and steered it away from the counter. “Thank you.”
I took his free hand into mine for guidance, and once we were away from the mob of irritated travelers, I asked, “What the hell is a pod hotel?”
“I don’t know, but if it has a pillow, I don’t care,” Calvin answered.
I wasn’t a flyer. At all. I had enough anxiety being legally blind and riding the subway alone. And I’d long-since memorized those trains and individual stops for my own sanity and safety. But an international airport, with hundreds—thousands—of people moving every which way, with signs I couldn’t read, and no help but for my stupid walking cane… absolutely not, and thank you very much.
At least, that’d been my opinion before dating Calvin. I’d taken my very first vacation outside of New York with him last autumn to Durango, Colorado and it’d been… good. Good to explore the country, and good to be with the man I loved, and just… good. I know that sounds lackluster in description, but it’s hard to explain what it’s like to be mobile with a partner like Calvin. He knows my hang-ups and limitations and weaknesses, but he doesn’t come to my aid at the slightest hint of struggle. Because I don’t need that. I’ve managed for thirty-four years, after all. If I sincerely need help, I ask. And Calvin has always had this quiet, loving way of supplying that support without ever making me feel… less.
Sort of like if someone tripped and their significant other reached an arm out to catch them. Instinctual but never over-bearing. Anyway. We walked hand-in-hand down the long, empty corridors of the airport until Calvin came to an abrupt halt. He studied a sign overhead.
“Mission Control Pod,” he read.
“Beam me up, Scotty,” I said.
His mouth quirked a little. “Come on.” Calvin turned left and led us toward a sliding glass door at the end of the hall. It opened with a quiet whoosh and we made our way down a narrow corridor to a lone check-in counter, brightly backlit by an array of different densities of gray.
A bored young man glanced up from his phone. “Welcome to Mission Control.”
“Houston sent us,” I stated.
“Don’t antagonize,” Calvin murmured. He let go of my hand and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. “Would you happen to have an available room for the night?”
“You don’t have a reservation?” the clerk asked.
“No,” Calvin replied. He held a finger up to stop me from speaking, and it was sort of terrifying that he knew I had a smart-ass remark ready to go.
The young man sighed, shifted in his chair, and started click-clicking on his computer keyboard. “Hmm… well, we book by the hour.”
“It’s a love hotel,” I whispered.
“Shush,” Calvin retorted.
“And we only have one pod free. A suite available until seven o’clock.”
“We’ll take it,” Calvin answered. He put a credit card on the counter.
The clerk gave us a dubious expression as he took the card. “You’re okay with sharing?”
“Sharing is caring,” I stated.
He shrugged, ran the card, gave Calvin a receipt to sign, then handed over two room keys. “Number sixteen. Have a good night.”
Calvin thanked him and we took a right as directed by the clerk. We walked single file down a tight hallway, barely wide enough for the suitcase. “This is… interesting,” Calvin murmured as we passed tiny door after tiny door on either side. They alternated between two steps up or two steps down from the walkway, with shuttered front windows that mimicked some sort of futuristic space station.
Hence the name, I guessed.
“Sixteen,” Calvin eventually said, coming to a stop. He took two steps up, swiped the key, and pushed open the door. “Jesus Christ.”
“What is it?” I quickly stepped up the stairs behind him after he lugged the suitcase into the room. I peered over his shoulder.
“It’s… a pod,” Calvin stated. “Literally.”
“I’ve seen bigger gym lockers,” I responded.
The suite—and who the fuck could say that with a straight face—was maybe five feet deep. Maybe. Calvin’s head flirted with the ceiling, causing him to stoop a little. And between the wall on the left and the foot of the bed to the right was about a two foot wide walkway—enough to shimmy the suitcase into the opposite corner. There was a stall separated by nothing but half a glass wall and a nylon curtain. Inside was the shower, sink, and toilet. The bed itself was one of those smart beds, currently in a sitting position with a mattress that appeared to be a good foot too short for my fantastically hulking husband.
I started laughing as I let the door fall shut behind us. “What the fuck.”
Calvin shook his head and rolled the suitcase into the corner. “It’s better than sleeping at the gate.”
“Are you sure?” I locked the… pod door behind us, slid my messenger bag off my shoulder, and dropped it to the floor.
“Yes. In fact, I’m going to take a shower,” Calvin answered. He slipped out of his Vans and poked his head into the pseudo-bathroom. “I smell like half a dozen different states.”
“Can I join you?” I asked while bending down to retrieve glasses case from my bag.
“Baby, I’m hoping there’s enough space for me in here. A plus one isn’t going to happen tonight.”
I stood and turned to see him half-standing in the stall, eyeing the barely me-wide, not him-wide, facility. I watched Calvin turn sideways, slip past the sink, and briefly stand under the shower head.
His head actually knocked it, and he swore under his breath.
“Hey, big guy. Are you sure we’re in the suite?” I sat on the edge of the bed.
Calvin grumbled something under his breath as he walked back into the room. He leaned forward, bent at the waist, and tugged his shirt over his head so as not to hit his arms against the ceiling. Calvin unbuckled his belt, quickly slid his jeans off, and managed to finish undressing without hurting himself.
I grabbed the television remote and punched the power button as Calvin returned to the stall. I flipped through a few channels, stopping when the shower turned on. I glanced toward the stall and smirked. When the curtain was pulled, it was just shy of covering the doorway, leaving the mirror in front of the sink visible. I had a front row seat to my favorite show.
“It’s a good thing we like each other,” I called.
“Why’s that?” Calvin asked over the spray of water.
“Because I can see your accessories.”
I watched Calvin’s reflection as he turned and raised his hand to give me the finger via the mirror. I laughed, changed glasses, and grabbed one of those ‘welcome to your rooms’ flyers on the bedside shelf. “Hey, Mission Control sells sandwiches,” I said. “You hungry?”
I got back to my feet. “I’ll be right back.” I picked up my room card and left the little nook and cranny.
Mission Control’s Jack Lousma was staring at his phone once again when I came around the corner. He glanced up. “Is everything acceptable with your accommodations?”
I laughed a little and avoided giving an honest answer. “Er—the room flyer says you sell sandwiches?”
The clerk turned around and opened a mini fridge. “I’m nearly sold out. Roast beef or tuna salad.”
I shuddered at the thought of our windowless pod paired with a canned fish sandwich. “Two roast beefs.”
“I’ve only got one.”
My shoulders slumped. “I’m bad enough when I’m hangry. But my partner is a six foot three cop. I have to feed those muscles.”
“There are a few shops in the terminal that are open ‘til—” the clerk checked his watched and frowned. “Oh no, they’re closed.”
Calvin was sitting on the bed in his boxer briefs when I opened the door. His hair was wet and beads of water dripped onto his shoulders and chest.
“There’s a damp and mostly naked man in my hotel room!” I exclaimed while turning the lock. “I can give you thirty minutes before my husband shows up.”
Calvin laughed quietly.
“Unless you want to fight over me,” I suggested while depositing a plastic bag on the bed.
“I think I can take him,” Calvin remarked. “What’d you buy?”
“One roast beef sandwich,” I said, taking it out and setting it on the bedspread. “One cup of instant ramen. And….” I held up a candy bar. “A Snickers.”
Calvin raised an eyebrow.
“They were out of food,” I explained. “Unless you have your heart set on tuna.”
He made a face and picked up the sandwich. “I’m having college flashbacks,” he said between bites. “Day-old, discounted sandwiches from the bodega at the corner and soda by the liter.”
“We would have gotten along great in college.”
“Baby, you were in grade school when I was studying constitutional law.” Calvin took another bite.
I filled the teeny-tiny room kettle with water from the sink before plugging it in. “The age difference is really creepy when you say it like that.”
Calvin shrugged. “It’s true.”
In a few minutes I had myself a hot cup of cardboard-tasting noodles. The two of us watched late-night infomercials while eating dinner, and then split the Snickers for dessert. I took a quick shower afterward, managing to come out the other end a lot less battered than Calvin had.
“There’s a problem with the bed,” said redhead piped up suddenly.
I’d just taken my contacts out, groped for my glasses on the edge of the sink, and put them back on. “What’s the problem?” I asked as I turned around before snorting loudly.
Calvin had dialed the mattress into a flat position for bed, was laying on it, with his legs hanging off to the shin. “Don’t laugh,” he warned.
I shook my head and put a hand to my mouth. “I’m not,” I said. Another snort escaped.
“I’m not laughing!” I protested before the dam broke. “Oh honey…. I don’t think you’re the sort of clientele they had in mind when building pods.” I went to the bed and laid down beside Calvin, which was… well… mostly on top of him, given the mattress availability. “I hope you don’t mind me invading your personal space.”
“On the contrary.”
I kissed Calvin’s mouth and dragged my hand through his chest hair.
Calvin moved both his hands to my face as he returned the kiss. He sat up a bit, using his body to roll me onto my back and—
“Holy shit!” I shouted, flailing as I reached the edge of the bed and kept moving.
Calvin grabbed my arms and hoisted me onto his chest before I fell off the bed and face-planted into the floor. “This might have to wait until we reach L.A.,” he said.
“That’s probably safest,” I agreed.