In Twimbly Hall, the men's dorm smelled like wet towels. The rooms were nothing more than small, rectangular boxes with dove gray cinderblock walls trimmed in dark, prison-gray steel. The thick steel doors, forever cold to the touch, were so heavy, people had to lean in with their shoulders to push them open. If someone stood in the doorway and looked straight into a dorm room, they would see one long, thin window dead center on the far wall with a steel crank at bottom. There was no cross ventilation. The smell of young men would be forever concealed within the frayed edges of stained mattresses and threadbare industrial carpets.
Payne hadn't expected The Plaza Hotel, but he hadn't expected the room to be quite that dismal. It was clearly divided into two parts by a dark green, built-in Formica nightstand that separated a couple of twin beds. . .one side of each bed rested ﬂat against a cinderblock wall. The right side of the room mirrored the left with more dark green Formica built-ins. To add to all this lack of appeal, there were identical Formica closets near the bathroom door, built-in dressers with four drawers, and narrow desks with black, Danish-modern chairs that had been covered in brown Naugahyde probably dating back to the late 197O's.
It was obvious that Payne's new roommate had already arrived and claimed the left side of the room. Mismatched vinyl luggage in pale blue and mustard gold had been tossed on one twin bed. And the most ridiculous dented footlocker, in emerald green with black trim, had been set at the foot of the bed. The footlocker's lid had been left wide open, exposing piles of white socks, white boxer shorts, and several baseball caps in darker shades. A hefty white athletic cup and jock strap, with off-white straps and a thick waistband, rested on the brown tweed industrial carpet next to the footlocker. On a hook above the foot of the bed, there was a well-worn, dark brown cowboy hat.
Payne crossed to the hook and examined the cowboy hat. He'd never actually seen anyone wear a cowboy hat other than on television. His stomach tightened when he considered the fact that his new roommate might be one of those redneck types from down south. He glanced down at the footlocker and thought for a moment. Payne was tempted to sniff the jock strap. But he yawned, turned around, and set his bags down on the other bed instead. It had been a long drive up from New York City because traffic had been heavy, and Payne was desperate to use the bathroom. And thankfully, these dorm rooms had their own.
Beside the closet on the left side of the room was an opening without a door that led to a small, square bathroom that had been tiled in white from ﬂoor to ceiling. It appeared stark and cold and antiseptic—with a white toilet, a plain white sink riddled with rust stains, and an open shower area with two showerheads. There was no privacy someone had tried to conceal the aroma of urine with too much bleach. But at least Payne wouldn't have to share a common bathroom with ﬁfty other young guys like most other college dorms.
While standing in front of the toilet, Payne heard the steel door open with a clank and someone entered the room. No doubt the new roommate was back from wherever he'd gone. Payne shook his dick and clenched his jaw. He pulled up his zipper and walked to the sink to wash his hands. He was prepared for anything.