[The motel with no name]
Most of the time I can erect a fence to contain the images and imaginations from escaping my brain. Sometimes a little white picket fence with pink daisies in purple pots are enough to hold back the most innocent and decent imagery that my mind can create. Then, there are times when a more sturdy wooden enclosure is necessary. My thoughts have gotten a little darker and far-fetched. At the end of the line, I need to put up a stockade of lichen-covered stone, dusty bricks or cement blocks…topped by razor wire. These keep in the real demons; the ideas, thoughts, dreams, musings and nightmares that one finds along a dark path in the dark woods, deep ravines and foggy patches in misty churchyards. These fences hold my odd thoughts where they belong…in my brain. It works.
Most of the time.
I’m on Route 11, the main highway that crosses the North Country. I’ve been on this road many times heading either west or east out of Malone. This isn’t the first time I’ve spotted the old motel. I pull over. The weeds in the old lawn are chest high. The welcome sign is getting loose around the hinges and bolts. I don’t know how long this place will exist. Perhaps the next time I drive this way, the whole structure may be replaced by a Tractor Supply, a Bowling Alley or a Car Wash.
To me, that would be a shame. It’s obvious it will never again function as a motel…and that is why it attracts and charms me. Here, in what may have been the driveway, I sit in my Honda and survey the old buildings.
The style of the buildings could be 1960’s, but I’m going to place it in the mid-1950’s. It suits my narrative style better.
Then I close my eyes. I can see the phantoms that once stayed here. I can imagine their stories. I can feel their history. It’s happy and sad, tragic and fortunate. The lives that passed through these rooms, pass through me now.
I see the shadows move about.
The traveling salesman, with his valise full of brushes and combs, slips into Room 2. Once inside, he hangs his seersucker jacket on the door hook, kicks off his worn wing-tipped shoes and stretches out on the lumpy bed. He unscrews the bottle of bourbon and takes a long pull. He doesn’t want to go home.
A blushing teenage couple from Watertown just bluffed their way intro Room 9. He has a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon that is slowly getting warm. He uses his church key to open two. They sit awkwardly on the sofa before moving to the bed. In exactly ten months, she’ll give birth to a baby boy who will grow up to own his own auto repair shop outside of Burlington, VT. His parents will each die in separate car accidents in 1974.
A cheap thug who just robbed a liquor store in Plattsburgh takes Room 5. His girl has a bruise on her cheek, her arm and her thigh. They will stay one night and then drive non-stop to Chicago. There she will leave him for a chiropractor.
A family is on their way into the heart of the Adirondacks. They have driven south from Quebec City and will spend the next two weeks swimming at Golden Beach on Raquette Lake. One child will become an astronomer and the other will become a teacher. Room 10 is their final night under a roof. Tomorrow night the tent comes out.
A troubled couple from Binghamton will argue well into the night about in-law problems. The wife will turn up the radio when Billie Holiday comes on. Maybe the volume will drown out the threats from Room 14.
An insurance salesman from Buffalo will quickly enter Room 7. He knows this motel well. Room 7 is hidden from the office. Following him through the door is his secretary, Helen. He promised her many things during the long drive. Anything, he thinks, as long as she gives me a night of pleasure that he can’t find at home with his lawful wife.
Two young men in their twenties passing themselves off as brothers on their way to visit family in Lake George walk boldly into Room 11. Here they can be themselves and love each other like they have wished for the past three years.
Yes, the lawn is chest-high with Timothy grass, Ragweed and Queen Anne’s Lace. Butterflies and black flies flit from flower to flower. No more cars will be stopping here, ever. The motel once had a name, but even the sign is gone. A little VACANCY sign is visible. Those who passed through this office, slept on creaky mattresses and used the stained toilet are long gone. Some of the stories had happy endings while others ended with a broken heart or a bleeding nose. These travelers have moved on. Many are still alive, most are buried in some local cemetery or a burying ground a thousand miles away. A few who laughed, drank, sinned and prayed in these rooms are possibly being sedated by an RN in a nursing home…somewhere.
I go back to my car after taking a few photos and I notice something that may seem ironic.
The empty motel with no name is directly across the road from a hospice.
Another flood of imaginings come rushing from my brain.
[All the lonely people. All the empty rooms.]