The Trip Advisor reviews for this place didn’t mention the MISSING posters. I guess they have nothing to do with the hotel itself, but they’re hard to avoid, nailed every hundred meters to a peeled grey tree beside that cascading road. The pictures are all of different guys. I do not like these odds.
We keep driving. Well, she keeps driving. She’s focusing hard on the wavy path ahead; she doesn’t even see the posters until I mention them.
“Drug deals,” is all she says. “It’s always drugs. Nothing else to do up here.”
Like me, she’s never been here before, but her explanation makes sense. I try to catch phrases beneath the faces. KNOWN AS ‘TY’. LAST SEEN. ANY INFORMATION PLEASE.
I roll my window back up. We’re at that altitude where you can’t breathe the way your body should.
The place is just dated and shabby enough to earn its low price tag without the risk of infection. The thin green carpets and folding tables in the breakfast area make me think of a church basement.
She rubs my shoulder and goes to investigate the croissant station while I check us in. “Hey man,” says the front desk attendant. “What’s good?”
Informal, weirdly so. I assume we’re the first guests of the day. His catchphrase is “all-righty-oh.” He says it every time something goes through on the computer.
By the time I get our room keys, she’s gone out the back to feed the ducks. She tosses a whole croissant at what I’m fairly certain is an adult goose. I bring her back inside before anyone gets gored. Must be so tired from the road – her eyes are empty. The hallway is long and gets narrower as we go.
As soon as we get inside she lies down over top of the bed’s covers, shoes on, hands folded atop each other. I need a shower. Her eyes are still open when I head for the bathroom.
The water smells old, stagnant. I cut my time down from fifteen minutes to three. As I re-dress, I hear a thud and the gritty roll of a suitcase. I call to her and get no answer. The room door closes. By the time I’ve gone after her, she’s at the end of the hallway, and vanished into the elevator. I take the stairs, launching myself down with the handrails the way I used to do in high school. I burst into the lobby, briefly disoriented until I see her again, her frazzled ponytail in the light.
She’s out the front door. I start to run and yell her name, throat heavy with disbelief. “Babe,” I gasp as I catch her. Hand on her arm and she turns like she hadn’t expected it. “What the hell are you doing?”
Her mouth pinches inwards and she shakes and shivers away from me, towards the car. I stay on her heels as she tosses her case in the back seat, careless, crushing the homemade trail mix that she insisted would keep our hunger at bay. She gets into the driver’s seat and starts the car. My heels slide on the gravel in my haste to get to the other side, but the door won’t open. Child locks. Fucking child locks?
Her hands are sure, movements smooth as she backs out and pulls the car around. I just keep yelling after her, but my legs won’t move anymore. The silver Corolla flickers, then is lost between those bare trees.
I fumble for my phone. Who to call? My brain’s a riot. She doesn’t pick up. A hand lands on my shoulder and I literally leap forward. It’s the front desk guy, wearing a benign smile that doesn’t fit him.
“Did you see that?” I ask. I toss an arm behind me, as if to question the forest around us.
The dude smiles more. “Yeah,” he says. “Now we can get started.”
From behind him comes this massive tea-kettle noise that needles its way into my ears. I still can’t run anywhere. I wonder which photo they’ll get for my poster.