The weekly writing prompt for Studio 30 Plus is “Hotel Stories”. My first thought upon reading this prompt was “the summer of ’95”. That summer is the most memorable summer of my teenage years.
When I was 15 years old, I met Lee. She was 16 and beautiful, with long black hair, dark eyes and more confidence than I thought one person could exude. She was a teacher’s daughter and very popular. She was dating John, who played on the football team with my boyfriend JJ.
I don’t remember our first conversation, but I know that we were instantly best friends and completely inseparable.
I always felt like her sidekick, but she didn’t treat me that way. There were always boys who wanted to date her and if they couldn’t (or when she had moved on), they would date me. I was a kind of substitute for her, or so I thought. I didn’t mind, much. I was happy to be a part of the crowd, to have friends and feel like I belonged.
Lee stayed with me almost every night that summer, and in the morning we would don our short shorts, revealing tank tops, and denim or plaid over-shirts, fix our hair and makeup, and set off for downtown. It was about a 2 mile walk, and that walk meant freedom. If we asked my mom for a ride, she would know where we were, and she would ask what time she should come pick us up. If we walked, we could just leave a note and go.
We’d walk all the way to Main Street. Sometimes we’d stop at Fuddrucker’s, where my now-husband, then-major-crush David worked. Most often we’d go straight past the restaurants and ice cream parlors to the Cabana Inn. It was a run-down, nasty little motel, the kind of rooms that you usually rent by-the-hour.
Lee’s boyfriend John lived there with two other guys, Harry and Richard. These “boys” were much older than we were and our parents would have probably had heart attacks if they knew their teenage daughters were spending long days in that motel room. Sometimes other guys would be there. I don’t remember there ever being other girls there, which meant we were the center of male attention.
We did a lot of stupid things in that motel room and got ourselves into a lot of situations best left in the past. There are chunks of time in that summer for which I have no memories. I do remember that the balcony was rusty and tilted forward a little, so I always felt like we might tumble forward into the parking lot. The bedspreads were dusty and stained on top and scratchy fuzzy underneath. The interior carpet was as prickly as AstroTurf under my bare feet. I hated using the bathroom there, because the door didn’t lock and the toilet was very loud when it flushed.
There was always pot and sometimes pills or cocaine. The TV stayed on at all times and someone was always lighting a cigarette. The curtains never seemed to be open and it was always half-light and hazy in that motel room.
We managed to survive the summer of 1995, by the skin of our teeth, it seemed. We were lucky to escape without any sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies, or other serious lasting consequences. Some of those boys ended up in jail, for various crimes involving sex and drugs. Some of them disappeared and neither of us ever heard from them again, thankfully.
Lee and I stayed best friends for another year, then our paths went in different directions. She married and had a son. I graduated the year after she did and got married. I saw her once, drove to North Carolina to meet her new husband and son. After that it was nearly 10 years before we found each other again. Her ex-husband had turned out to be an abuser, one of our motel boys all over again. She’d left him, remarried a better man, had more kids.
We are still best friends, 16 years after we first met. We sit around and talk a lot, and every now and then the conversation drifts to the Cabana Inn, which was blessedly bulldozed and replaced with a Holiday Inn Express a few years ago. I don’t think either of us realized, until many years later, how dangerous those motel boys were, how scary those situations were that we got ourselves into, and how lucky we are to be here today.
Those motel stories shaped and changed us both in ways that I can’t even pick out, but I know they must have, because they were so significant at that time. But then, doesn’t everything feel significant when you’re 15 years old?