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I Am a Little Hotel

and they tell me my body is not

the home they’re looking for,

not the presidential suite—lavish décor,

wine, freshly pressed linen sheets—

but sweat-soaked, blood-stained mattress

in the basement behind locked doors,

covered in dust, abandoned,

by everyone but myself.

But sometimes, even I forget

that beneath withered, wrinkled, time-

stamped hands, there once was a woman,

who loved her guests, those who entered

and left, those who stood guard

at the door, until my floors became empty,

and the only reminder of my guests

are their footprints, first muddy,

then dried dirt, sown across my carpets,

and greasy handprints along the walls—

and no matter how hard I scrub,

they don’t leave unless I rip

out the wallpapers, but even then

I cannot escape because I am a little hotel. I

am a little hotel. I welcome you, I host you,

I cater to you, I tend to you, and you—

are free to leave without payment,

free to leave your shadows

and memories behind, free—

and I—?

I am a little hotel.

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Ai Jiang

Ai Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian writer and an immigrant from Fujian. She is a member of HWA, SFWA, and Codex. Her work can be found in F&SF, The Dark, Uncanny, The Puritan, Prairie Fire, and The Masters Review. Her debut novella Linghun (April 2023) is forthcoming with Dark Matter INK. Find her on Twitter (@AiJiang_) and online (http://aijiang.ca).

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