Friday, March 11, 2011

We have arranged for Dad to stay at our favorite beachside resort in Mexico. He and I arrive by taxi; the driver says behind to get the luggage together and bring it along behind us. There is an expanse of sand dunes and scattered palm trees. I lead the way, telling Dad encouraging things—but the sand is heaped and humped, the palms frayed by wind. There has been a storm, but now it's just gusty wind. The hotel looks like a hulk, battered; staff hurry here and there making repairs. A woman meets us at the bottom of the front stairs. "Hay mucho viento," I say. "Sí," she says, leading the way. "Todo el día?" I ask. "Sí." I second-guess myself: "Yo quería decir todavía." She smiles at me kindly. Dad has not said a word; he follows along looking serene and incurious.I suddenly realize this isn't his kind of place, and with all the work going on he won't be able to get the rest he needs. The woman leave suss at the lobby desk, but ho one is there. We wander around the vast room, its walls flaking, the furniture covered in drop cloths, scaffolding for the painters everywhere but no painters. I nod toward a soaring, dirty window. "Look at that stained glass." Dad smiles and nodes. The desk clerk appears and we follow him. Dad stops by a wall that has wires curling out high up where apparel has been removed. "Maybe they could use an electrician, he says. He's serious: he would rather work on the place than just stay in it. Not his kind of thing—a vacation—even in the afterlife. He heads for the front desk to check in. I'm about to follow, but a guy about my age grabs my arm. "We're over here," he says. He is sly and jovial. I think he's a salesman. I know I've met him but can't think where. He leads me to some banquet tables set up in an L shape and covered with white table cloths. I've missed the meal, but there are still bottles with wine in them. I take a chair inside the elbow of the L. I feel trapped. Dad won't know how to find me. The guy who brought me here pours me a glass of wine. There are three or four conversations going on, none that I want to join. I drink some wine. It is a deep red, very dark and very sour.

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