I was staying in a cheap motel in Portland, Oregon. Even cheap motels in Portland are clean. And the name of the river going through town is the Willamette river and I’m French and you have no idea how sexy such a name is. Willamette? For a river? I want to be the god of that river.
The Portlanders can go fish salmons right downtown. Here’s your financial executive getting up early, going to the Willamette and coming back home with a clean fish right out of the water. “Yeah yeah”, says the wife having coffee, “put it in the fridge.”
“With what would you like to have it with for dinner tonight?” she’d ask.
The financial executive would take a shower, get his suit on and go work as a trader or something. In Portland! You know this guy cannot be a bad guy.
All that to say I was feeling good in my Portland’s motel room.
I was a writer, so I thought. At least it paid for the room. So I was mostly out at night drinking with the Portlanders, wondering if this was a good time to buy a skin coat, animal skin, with fur, before waking up, hungover, in a clean and cheap motel room.
I’d get up late, have breakfast at some Waffle House and get on the typewriter in my room. I had just somehow started working, or maybe later, anyway, every afternoon, there would show up the cleaning lady.
She was a bit older than me but she had very nice features and she was full of joy and efficient in her work. A true Portlander! As far as I was concerned, she had beautiful face and figure and she was hot.
A good looking white cleaning lady in a cheap motel!!!! God, what kind of town was this? Even the weather was nice!
One day, two days, three days…
She could see me typing, acting as if I was Hemingway or Camus or something. She was wiggling that ass and everything else while vacuuming or working on a hard stain. We were both curious because we were both there and it was 4pm on a Tuesday and her name was Antoinette and she seemed to like me.
She’d ask questions and we’d talk. She loved to hear stuff about France, Paris, and she would crack up when I would speak in French to her. For the next few days, it remained the same, fun and nice and me hardly working, just pretending. Mine must have been the last room to clean because she would hang in there much longer than it takes to clean a room.
Antoinette was sweet really and she had no hard angle or sharp edges. She seemed sincere as she was wiggling her assets right into my face every chance she got and I liked it, a lot. But, French as I am, I was being a gentleman!
Although I never saw her in those places, she told me where to go eat good salmon and not starve, where to go drink coffee and beer, where to smell the roses. I was starting to like Portland.
Really I didn’t speak the Portlander but, in my motel room, I got ideas.
The next day, there she was again with the vacuum cleaner. She wasn’t married I knew, never mentioned a boyfriend, and I didn’t care much about some asshole French editor’s deadline.
“Say,” I said to Antoinette, “would you like to make love with me?”
Again, I thought I was being gentlemanly.
Now I know I should have said something different, more along the lines “why don’t we fuck the living shit out of ourselves?”; more manly, more American, less French.
By then she was used to my accent and she didn’t seem surprised by my question. Maybe she was wondering how come it took me so long to spell it out, maybe she was thinking all French men are assholes. Maybe there was a price and I just needed to pay.
But, “no,” she said with a Portlander smile that was wet like would a salmon goddess bursting out of the Willamette river, all shiny and screaming love in the northern sun.
“I thought of it,” she said. “Maybe if you had been a bit more daring, you would have swept me away a couple of days ago. I know you wanted it and I was ready but you didn’t. Now, I had time to think about it and I know now that you will soon be gone and that I will stay here with my shitty job in this shitty motel.”
There was no arguing and I was pissed, why didn’t SHE say something! Shit, what was I supposed to do? Jump her ass? Shit, that’s what I wanted to do since day one.
I really didn’t have a chance to explain that I had imagined things, that I could live in this town, that I could imagine for example a Portlander son of mine becoming pilot for Air Alaska, everyday doing the liaison from Portland, Oregon, to Moscow, Idaho. I wanted to tell her it was OK for me if my French children were to become trappers or salmon fishermen or sales managers or whatnot in Portland. It was OK for me to imagine a life with her because I knew she was a good woman and I could love her, probably even more so as days would have gone by. I meant it and I sure wanted to get lucky with her, to know for sure.
The fact remains, when I finally gathered enough balls and asked her, “no,” she said. The moment had past.
She was right off course. I should have taken my chances and gotten lucky while it was there and the hell with what was next. That was the normal way of things. What’s fucking wrong with me?
The next afternoon, she came as usual to clean the room but it was not the same anymore. So, the next morning, I paid my bill, got into my car and took off.
As I left the city, once up into the hills, I saw the Willamette river shining: fishermen, joggers, suits were strolling its banks. Goddamn, I thought, what town is this where cleaning ladies in cheap motels are nice like that?
So I ended up that day in a cheap motel room in Seattle, Washington.
Next morning, his time, my asshole French editor got for his deadline a quick and inconsequential story out of Seattle.