Originally published August 24, 2015
I was sitting in my car listening to the raindrops patter my windshield, watching the view beyond gradually become more muddled until, swish swish, the wiper-blade smacked them away with a quick flourish. This patterned continued, like a metronome, as I sat there in the night time parking lot of the Motel 6.
That morning I had been in the Massachusetts city of Lowell; a city wishing it had the elegance of Boston to the south. I was with a friend named Armando, a feisty Puerto Rican who loved Huey Lewis and could cook the best Hispanic food as far as I was concerned. We had been the best of friends since high school and here we were now in the northeast traveling to upstate New York from central Florida. As we rolled out of Lowell that morning the rain began and it followed us north to Maine, then west through New Hampshire and Vermont, down south back into Massachusetts and then finally west again where we stopped for the night in the capital of the Empire State- Albany.
The city of Albany has its roots in pre-Revolutionary America, founded by the Dutch and later incorporated into the British colonies. It sits on the Hudson River, two hours north of New York City, where it can stay as far as I am concerned.
Swish swish, the water flung off the glass only to start accumulating once more. Swish swish. I had decided to let Armando watch television in our motel room while I went outside to make a phone call to my girlfriend. Now as I listened to her drone on about another uneventful day at work I paid more attention to the metronome of the blades and the windows of my room directly in front of me. My car was stationed across the parking lot and the curtains were drawn, but I could still make out the blue glow of the T.V. and the occasional movement of my friend inside.
Driving through the city earlier that evening, we were like policemen on patrol, on the lookout for anywhere that could offer dinner at an affordable price. Suddenly, there it was: that bastion of American cuisine, Golden Corral, and we knew we had found our manna from heaven. As a young boy, I had been to the restaurant and could remember being wowed by the never-ending smorgasbord; finding a new art in how to stack and arrange every bit of food onto my plate. Memories such as these were what drove my car into the parking lot. Armando was less romanticized but capitulated when it became clear there were no other choices.
Once inside those walls, the rose-colored glasses of my youth were smashed. Disorder reigned supreme as plates smacked, patrons pounded and children ran riot. We made our way to the buffet line and gazed upon the gruel and slop afforded to us. Slurping our lukewarm coffee and forcing down the Salisbury steak we left as quickly as we had entered and vowed to never do that again.
The next order of business was to find lodging for the evening and to that end, we found our Motel 6 and checked in. After we were settled comfortably in each of our beds I decided to step out and call my girlfriend. In the car, and only half listening to the voice on the other end, the rain began to gradually grow harder when a large black pickup truck pulled into one of the spots outside our window. It idled for a second before turning off its lights and something told me to do the same. In fascination I watched someone step out of the cab and despite the rain now free to accumulate on the window I could discern a tall man in a black coat. He wore jeans and would have passed as a cowboy if not for his hat-less head. The man paced around the truck for a minute or two before approaching the window of my room. All I could do was watch this strange event unfold; the man peering into the window, the blue glow of the T.V. and Armando completely relaxed inside.
The scene did not last long, however, as the stranger quickly hopped back into the truck, backed up and sped away into the rain. I just as quickly ended my conversation, long since forgotten, and cautiously skipped back into the room. I alerted Armando to what had just taken place and I was met with a frustrating indifference! The actions of this man were too peculiar to take lightly so I took it upon myself to abandon the room and ask the clerk for another on the opposite side of the building.
To this day I contend there were drugs cached in that seemingly innocuous room of ours. That that man in the truck was a smuggler returning to reclaim his stash before a rival could beat him to it. Unfounded as this may be, I was not going to stay and find out. The fact of the matter is that a weirdo peered into my motel room and there must have been some reason for it…