There are three ceiling fans in Papa’s Pantry.
Wait, aren’t I still in Los Angeles?
It feels terrifying.
I slept in Lourdsburg, New Mexico last night. A railroad town, a border town. Not a ghost walked the lone sidewalk. I drove down the main drag to one cheap motel after another. Neglected and outdated signs guiding the way. They all looked the same. Midnight and stucco. Cream and rot. Somewhere in the dark, I spotted a florescent beacon that told me that was where I was to sleep.
It takes a lot to work up my nerves, but I felt I’d seen my room before. In a movie where cops discover the body of a young woman lying on the floor. I checked underneath the bed but turned up only black beetles and locusts. The room had a distinct smell, one I couldn’t quite explain. It would be easy to say it smelled musty, but it didn’t. It smelled frightening. Like sex and death. And I longed for someone to be here with me. Dangerous, macabre motels should not be experienced alone but with cheap liquor and someone else to feel the scratch of polyester comforters on bare skin.
At 9:45AM a wake up call that I didn’t ask for. I was hesitant to pick it up. I expected to hear on the other end a crackly voice asking where Billy was and that if I didn’t put Billy on the phone right now, the crackly voice was going to come down to my room with a shotgun.
As I packed my car, an old John Wayne western on in the background, a gentleman with 4 teeth in his mouth introduced himself to me. His name was Ron and, “Yep, I am the owner of this here place.”
“Well, Ron. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Where you headed?” he asked.
“Austin, from Los Angeles. Doing some soul searching, I guess. I don’t know. You live here in Lourdsburg for long?”
“Grew up in Oklahoma, then spent some time at the casinos in Vegas, then bought this place. Now it’s my home. See, I live directly above you.”
He pointed to door above room 104. I could see through the opening that his room had the same bedding and artwork as mine. A Native American woman in pastel tones.
He wished me a safe trip and I told him that if I ever find myself in Lourdsburg again, I will stop by.
I got back in the car. Another leg. Another journey through the heart of the American Southwest. Another day of questioning. Another day of listening to “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)” on repeat.
I followed the barrelling freight train through the desert and hoped I could muster up the same energy.