When she kicks off her red heels under the table and runs her foot up the hem of your jeans, you whisper that you know a place. “It’s called The Kozy 7,” you say, “but it’s a little seedy.”
“It sounds perfect,” she says as the lights dim and a cover band of forty-something ex-rockers start their second set by playing the piano solo to “Home Sweet Home” in the wrong key.
You pull into the parking lot, and there’s a stretch of dilapidated motel rooms with chipped white paint and weak wooden awnings that an asthmatic breath could blow down. You can tell by her sigh that she didn’t anticipate this type of seedy. A red “Vacancy” sign blinks in the window of the main office, and you cut the engine in your old sedan, realizing you’re drunker than you thought when you left the bar. You fondle your wedding ring, then check your wallet, stunned by your own stupidity. “I don’t have enough cash,” you tell her. “And I can’t use my card. My wife checks our bank account every morning.”
“So does my husband.” She reaches into her purse and produces three twenties. “Will this be enough?”
You nod and take the cash and kiss her on the nose. “I have some Jameson in the trunk.”
“Do they have ice?”
As you walk into the front office, there’s a small dog—a Pomeranian, maybe—yipping at you, and an old Vietnamese woman behind the front desk shushes him. Everything is tawdry, from the heavy red curtains covering the picture window to the black velvet painting of a hyacinth bush on the wall beside a digital clock that reads 11:12. And while you hand the clerk the cash and your driver’s license, proof of who you are—a father of two teenage sons, a husband to a woman who hasn’t slept with you in six months and vacillates between counseling and a divorce—you realize you’re about to sleep with someone you hardly know, a colleague at the college where you teach, a woman as sad and frustrated and lonely as yourself. In the lobby of the main office, you quietly consent to this.
Back in the car, a key on a green plastic key-chain with the number 14 dangles like an ugly Christmas ornament from your index finger, and you notice her head hung, her eyes focused on her phone.
You say, “I know it’s not the Hilton—”
“Where are you telling your wife that you’re staying tonight?”
“I don’t know. Where are you telling your husband?”
“I don’t know.”
The motel room reeks of stale cigarettes, bleached sheets and Febreze, and a framed print of seashells hangs above the bed, dull and deaf. The mattress is high and covered in a stiff quilt with a gaudy floral design. A microwave stands atop a brown mini-fridge, and a flat screen television is mounted on the wall across from the bed. You sit on the edge of the mattress with the whiskey bottle between your legs.
“Is something wrong?” she asks, sitting beside you, kissing your cheek, reaching for the bottle.
You turn and kiss her mouth, her neck, the naked space below her neckline. She kneads your scalp and fakes a moan, such an actress. You place the bottle on the nightstand, shut off the light and, quick, you both slip out of your clothes. Now you’re naked beneath the bleached sheets and the stiff quilt, in the dark.
“Are you, you know, fixed?” she asks. “Or do we need a condom?”
“I’m fixed,” you say and remember the day you spent on the couch watching the Red Sox game with a bag of frozen peas and a bottle of Vicodin, six months after your second son, Christopher, was born.
There’s not much in the name of foreplay—some fumbling of hands seeking assurance, mouths seeking mouths, tongues seeking tongues. Then her tear drops on your nose, and your tear drops down the side of your face. They drop, and they drop.