Intro from Jay Allison: This piece was produced as part of the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2015 session. Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class here.
About “Bound To This Room”
I was led to this story through an article I read on the Cape Cod Times’ Facebook page. The local Board of Health had called a hearing, in which Cape Cod’s Craigsville Motel was ordered to close due to a long list of violations, including housing people long-term when it wasn’t licensed to do so. The article drew a lot of negative comments on Facebook about the types of people who live in motels. However, the article’s only actual glimpse into that world was a single line about an unnamed woman in a waitress uniform with two small children by her side. She had stood up at the hearing and stated that if it wasn’t for the motel, she didn’t know where she would be. I was captivated by this image. I wanted to find the nameless waitress and mother and share her story.
But, how to get access? My instinct told me there was going to be trouble. Do I go to the front desk of the motel and introduce myself? Do I skip the desk and go knocking on motel doors? Either way, motel staff may tell me I have to leave. I gambled on knocking on doors, but someone from the motel threatened to call the police if I did not leave immediately. I came back the next day to try to negotiate, but was very firmly instructed to leave and never come back. I regretfully had to let the waitress and her two small children go, but not the idea of life in a motel.
I decided to place an advertisement on Craigslist asking if anyone living in a motel wanted to share their story. Surprisingly, I got more than a dozen responses. This is how I came to meet James and Alissia. As soon as we met, I knew they were the people for my story. They had a sense of humor, they were articulate, they seemed to have a good relationship. They were normal, except for the fact that they were talking to me from their beds an arm’s length apart, the only places to sit in their “home.”
I had visions of a clear-cut story about a single father who’s fallen on hard times and just needs a break. But I realized that it wasn’t so simple. James was defensive and would get agitated at times by my questioning. I couldn’t get a clear answer as to how his situation ended up so dire. I wasn’t sure if he was hiding something, or if he really did not know the answer. The one thing I knew was that he was stuck. He is a flawed character, but I felt empathy for him. I wanted the audience to feel this. It was difficult to find the right balance and I really had to grapple with my own emotions and thoughts about this story.
However, the most challenging aspect was immersing myself into someone’s life while they were going through a seriously bad time and really anxious and upset. It made me feel anxious too. In fact, sometimes I felt as if I had embodied the emotion of the story. I grew uncomfortable about my role as an observer to someone’s suffering. But then I recalled the vitriolic comments I had read on Facebook and was reminded of the importance of story in shaping our perception of the world and all the people in it. My role is not of observer, but storyteller.
Carey’s Sonic ID
Mike Tenaglia looked a little wary as I approached with my mic, but when I asked about the dog by his side, his whole demeanour immediately softened.
“Sophie, the love of my life,” Mike responded. He then proceeded to tell me everything that he loves about her. The way Mike spoke about his unwavering love for Sophie reminded me of something you might read in an old-fashioned love letter.