The drive to Maine was long, so we didn’t arrive until well after dark. “I think this is it,” my husband, Francis, said pulling onto a gravel driveway off of lonely Highway 1. A nearby sign read “Twin Hills Motel,” which was a row of outdated pastel cottages, with bugs orbiting their porch lights.
“There’s ours, No. 6,” Francis said, approaching the powder blue one on the end. But a car was parked outside and the living room lights were ablaze.
Francis left our car to knock on No. 6’s door. I envisioned several scenarios. A fistfight. The motel owner absconding with our reservation money. Us sleeping in our car on the side of Highway 1, which didn’t seem half bad considering our sketchy circumstances.
Francis rapped on the cottage door until it opened, releasing a puff of smoke. The occupants, a young man and his girlfriend, were obviously partaking in a newly-legal activity that rendered them easygoing and, thankfully, nonviolent. Francis chatted with them while dialing the motel owner, who explained that there was another “No. 6” cottage on the other end of the gravel drive. This made about as much sense as the gnome statue at the base of the Twin Hills Motel sign, but we followed his instructions nonetheless.
We’d come to Maine for a friend’s birthday party, which would be held the next afternoon. I’d been excited to get away from home without the kids for a little weekend adventure with my husband, just the two of us, and I’d packed a bottle of wine and some cheese for our Friday night.
Adventures were harder to come by now that Francis was retired from the Navy. For 28 years on active duty, he traveled often for his military job to far-flung places like Japan, Italy, Spain, England, Norway, Columbia, Chile, Korea, Botswana, Hawaii, Alaska and more. When he was home, I was our family travel planner, finding charming yet affordable places for us to stay, eat and visit while stationed stateside and overseas. This weekend in Maine had been Francis’ idea, so he’d offered to book the trip himself.
Francis cursed under his breath while repeatedly punching a code into the keypad lock on No. 6 cottage — the second one, that is. While he fiddled, I noted the mismatched plastic porch chairs and a hanging pot containing dying, leggy petunias. On the fifth try, a green light blinked and I lunged for the doorknob, shouting, “Now! Open it, now!”
Francis reached inside and clicked a switch. A bare halogen bulb on the room’s ceiling fan garishly illuminated a living-dining-kitchen space decorated with dumpy brown curtains and sparse, mismatched furniture. We wheeled our suitcases in and shut the door.
Silently glancing around, I felt queasy. Was it the long drive? Had I inhaled a whiff of that smoke? What was wrong with me? I poked my head into the bedroom, which housed a sagging bed topped with flat pillows. A digital alarm clock perpetually blinked “12:00” in red.
My uncharacteristic silence made Francis nervous. He fumbled through our bags to find the wine, and opened cabinets in search of glasses. There, he found an eclectic mix of kitchen items, no two the same. He poured our Cabernet into two vessels. For me, a mug adorned with candy canes. For him, a jelly jar.
As I peered into my mug, anger as red as the blinking alarm clock display began to surface. I thought of all the texts and photos Francis had sent me during his years in the Navy from exotic locations and luxury hotel rooms, all made possible because his spouse was home with the kids. He had worked hard in the Navy and deserved to stay in nice places. But what about me? By the time I’d finished my wine, I was ready to let him have it.
I don’t quite recall what I said, but Francis got the gist. And then we had a good laugh about the ugly decor and our wine glasses. Our Motel had twin hills and two No. 6 cottages, but Francis would no longer have a double standard.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org