by Maraya Loza Koxahn
I had been driving around in the dark for over an hour, lost in a town east of Mexico City, searching for the ‘love motel’. This might sound like a tantalizing adventure if I were with my lover but I wasn’t. I was with Bill.
At eighty-four, Bill is more than thirty years my senior. He has a shock of white hair and clear blue eyes. He is a little hard of hearing, a little ‘hard of walking’ due to fallen arches and chronic vertigo, but he’s very comfortable behind the wheel. Bill has driven south to the Lake Chapala region of Mexico for the past fifteen years, to escape Calgary winters. This spring we’d agreed to share a road trip through the Mayan ruins of Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Frugal and seasoned travelers, we felt we knew each other well enough as friends to be able to take on the challenge of sharing costs and close quarters for several weeks.
At the beginning of our journey across Mexican highways and byways I noticed what looked like storage locker facilities, some with entryways covered with heavy hanging plastic strips like a car wash. Bill told me they’re ‘love motels’. They have protected entrances so people can go about their personal business without worrying that their license number is being recorded. Although Bill said he’d once enjoyed a much-needed sleep in that kind of motel by himself, he vowed (as if he were protecting my ‘innocence’) that the two of us would never stay at one of those seedy places together.
Bill doesn’t like to drive his car at night so we usually stopped at the closest urban area late afternoon. Finding nothing in our guidebook for the particular town we’d found ourselves in, we pulled into what suspiciously looked like one of those places that he promised never to take me. As we entered the hidden courtyard, a young woman appeared with a clipboard. We tentatively asked the price for a whole night. It would be 450 pesos (+/- $40 CAD) for twelve hours. Since it was only five o’clock we would have to leave before five the next morning – and we would not be allowed to go out for a meal – if we checked in. We left to search for other, more appropriate, accommodations and dinner. In el centro we found no hostels nor hotels. Widening our search, we found a pleasant, upscale motor inn at 800 pesos per night. Too much. We decided we’d go back to the love motel after dinner.
By the time we’d finished eating it was dark so I took the driver’s seat. I thought I remembered seeing a motel sign when we arrived during daylight, and expected it would be lit up by now high in the sky to direct us to our room. I looked up and saw nothing. I drove to where I thought it was … and found nothing. Bill couldn’t remember any more than I could about the location or the sign; we were stumped. I returned to the restaurant and widened our search - nothing. I took a slightly different route and came around from another direction - nothing. I kept driving around rather aimlessly in the dark through sketchy looking residential areas hoping something magical would happen while my dinner wrestled with my stomach.
Bill suggested we ask a taxi driver for directions so we drove around in search of an elusive taxi. Eventually, we found one. Bill got out to converse in broken Spanglish while I sat alone in the car trying to slowly deep breathe back my composure. I wanted the evening, and my Mexican adventure, to end well and soon.
Satisfied that he’d relayed his message successfully Bill returned to the car. I pulled myself together enough to follow the taxista, who, likely expecting a kickback, took us directly to the fancy 800 peso per night motel. Unsatisfied, Bill begrudgingly paid the taxista. The hotel was now full and the proprietor professed to know nothing of a so-called ‘love motel’.
Nothing to do but persist in our search, Bill flagged down another taxista. He got into the cab to explain our situation. The two of them took off with me following closely behind. Within a few blocks, the taxi stopped and Bill returned to our car. We were at the back entrance of the love motel. There was no sign. Love motels, after all, are supposed to be discrete. We had probably driven right past it over an hour ago.
The same woman directed us to one of the private garage doors and it welcomed us by opening. Bill paid and we breathed a sigh of relief - safe for one more night. The door closed behind us and we lugged our suitcases up the stairs to the room. Thankfully, the king-sized bed would afford us each lots of personal space. The room appeared comfortable, better than most that we’d stayed in. The only obvious clue that we were staying somewhere naughty was the glassed-in shower stall looking out to the rest of the room. I could wait to have a shower until the next stop. Bill, not as shy as me, showered while I busied myself looking the other way.
There was a window overlooking the driveway and another row of windows with one-way glass; there was a television with nothing to watch but porn; there was no WiFi. Lying close to the far side of the bed, I put my nose to my journal and tried to decompress from the night’s adventure. I was looking forward to a couple of days hence when I would be going home - alone. I welcomed sleep and I vowed that on my next trip to Mexico - I would bring my lover. He would have to drive.
Maraya Loza Koxahn is a writer, artist and tango therapist living in Calgary, Canada. She has published three books of poetry and is currently working on Love, Death & Tango: A Buenos Aires Memoir. She can be reached through www.SpeakingTango.com
[photo by ehoyer via Flickr CCL]