Prompt: Be inspired/Tell the Story behind your favourite song
Song: Hotel California – Eagles
After a long week at work, it was wonderful just to relax by taking a long solo drive. Living in the desert, late night drives were the most ideal; a welcome relief to the scorching heat. So right after work, I just took off without dinner or anything; a decision I would regret later.
Some evenings, when I drove out there, I would pull over on a dark desert highway, get out of my car, and standing barefoot, feeling the fading warmth. Some evenings I would sit along the side of the highway, waiting for the stars to come out. On the rare evening, I could even feel the cool wind in my hair and the lingering warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.
Driving allowed me to relax in ways that knitting or reading relaxed other people, but this evening I let my mind wander a little more than I should’ve, ending up farther than I usually went at that time. It was getting pretty late and being as exhausted as I was, driving back was no longer an option. I was in the middle of nowhere and ready to resign myself to pulling over and sleeping in my car when, up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim. Though I knew I was tired when I got off work, I didn’t realize how destructive combination of lack of sleep and of food was on me. I had no choice; I had to stop for the night. I stared again at the light flickering on the horizon, blinking a couple times and rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Nope, the light was still there.
That gave me some hope, but a nagging part of me asked, “What if it’s a psychopath living there waiting to chop you up?” I quickly shook the thought out of my head. I was hungry, I was tired and that place was starting to look pretty damn good. I didn’t care who it was in there. If I was lucky I was just overreacting, as usual.
I pressed on ahead towards the property. As I got closer, it dawned on me that it was not a house, but a beautiful limestone building that had been converted into a hotel. I was a sucker for beautiful historical buildings and pulled into the first available parking stall, noting a shadowy figure standing in the doorway. Exiting my vehicle, I approached the entrance and there she stood in the doorway. From somewhere within, I heard the mission bell and I was thinking to myself, “this could be heaven or this could be Hell.”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way down a long, well lit hallway to the reception. There were voices in the corridor. I thought I heard them say, “Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year, you can find it here.” I passed off what I heard as a hallucination from exhaustion and hunger, but as I walked into the reception area, the desk clerk greeted me with the words I thought I had heard earlier, “Welcome to the Hotel California. We have plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year, you can find it here.”
I was handed a room key and escorted to my room by another staff member. I looked around for the woman who brought me to the reception, but she appeared to have vanished. Her face, so beautiful, forever burned into my memory.
I slept quite well that night, but each time I woke I could hear the murmurs of life around me. It was as though this was the hotel that never slept. Even on the fifth floor, I could hear the desk clerk welcome people to the Hotel, regardless of time.
The next morning I went down to the main dining room for breakfast and saw the woman from the evening before already in her bathing suit, splashing in the pool.
“She’s pretty cute, ain’t she?”
“Relax. You’re not the first to think that.”
“Yeah, but you couldn’t afford her. Not for long anyways.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends.”
The stranger smiled, “And ever notice she got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, she calls friends?”
“What she does is her business.”
“I agree, but when it happens at Hotel California, it’s everyone’s business.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look how they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat…” said the stranger, changing the subject, “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.”
Before I could ask he what he meant, he got up and disappeared.
It was the weekend so I thought I’d stick around for a little bit longer. Besides, I never took vacations, this was my chance. A weekend became a week and a week became a month and before I knew it, I had been so immersed in Hotel California’s culture I didn’t want to leave. Why would I? I had everything I wanted here. It was always warm and beautiful. And there were so many interesting people around.
I was timid at the start, but that quickly changed. Days spent by the pool left me hungering for a drink, so I called up the Captain.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Please bring me my wine.”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”
“Oh…well…what do you have?”
“I meant-we do have wine. What would you like?”
“But you said-”
“Never mind that. How about the 2011 Screaming Eagle, Second Flight?”
“A glass would be fine.”
“Excellent choice, sir.”
Those months just came and went. A total blur. One day I was wondering what day it was and soon I forgot to wonder at all. The days never got colder, the sun never stop shining. Everything began to blend together. And still those voices are calling from far away. It would wake you up in the middle of the night just to hear them say “Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face. They livin’ it up at the Hotel California, what a nice surprise bring your alibis.”
My reality had become lies. Everything I did was layers upon layers of hiding who I was. Soon I learned that a tragic past and a beautiful face were all I ever needed here. There would always be someone ready to listen to your story, but not for the reasons you might think. Fake sympathy, fake friends. A masquerade. All of us, building up the ammunition, hoarding it, just to bring you down. I had to protect myself. So I became like everybody else because you never knew what and when it would come in handy.
Sometimes, late at night, when I thought no one was listen, when I was truly alone. I’d stare up at the ceiling, at the mirrors on the ceiling and think to myself, “Who am I? What have I become?”
I used to think those mirrors were for admiring myself, but as time went on, I realized it showed me who I really was underneath all those lies. And with each lie I told, a very real part me died. That mirror became a record of the ugliness I had become. That mirror was my portrait of Dorian Gray.
When the night is still with the faint call of the desk clerk in the distance like crickets and I am unable to fall asleep, I remember that day I was with her, sipping pink champagne on ice, staring off into the distance as we talked about our lives and she said, “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” Just the words and the way she said it struck me very oddly.
She was right, of course. We were all here for a reason. We were here of our own will and we could leave if we wanted. Or at least that’s what we kept telling ourselves. Many had tried.
There were whispers of a room for those trying to escape. They would go upstairs and in the master’s chambers. They gathered for the feast, and they stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.
They could not kill the beast for it was a part of them. They had fed their devils lies and stifled their angel. The beast grew stronger as the hero grew weaker until the hero was no more than a mere memory.
It was then I knew I had to leave. To go, while I still could. With the adrenaline pumping, I went for it. The last thing I remember, I was running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.
The night man saw me and greeted me with a smile, but in my panic to get away, I couldn’t return that smile.
“Relax,” said the night man, “We are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”
I looked at him in horror, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d say give it a try, but you’ll be right back here tomorrow.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“You say you hate all this. That you want to go back to the life you had before. To be the man, the woman you were before you came to paradise, but it just doesn’t work that way. Once you’ve tasted freedom, you can’t go back.”
“How can you possibly believe this is freedom?”
“You’re free to come and go as you please, but I’ve been the night man here for over 65 years and I can tell you, everyone who has tried to defeat the beast has failed. Even those who think they are better than the rest have failed, so what makes you think that you can succeed?”
I was stunned by his words. I had no answer to his question. If he had seen people as confident as I was that I was going to get away, fail and come back, he was right. How was I ever going to succeed?
I look over the best years of my life and I still regret those stupid decisions I made in my youth. They say that you will regret 100% of the things you don’t do, but as true as they may be, I look back and regret the decisions I did make. At the time they were, what I thought to be great choices. How wrong I had been. I had destroyed my own life with so much luxury. Partied way too hard. Indulged myself one too many times. Experimented with God knows how many combinations of drugs and sampled practically every alcoholic beverage known.
So many times I tried to stop, but somehow that lifestyle just kept dragging me back in. I basked in all the attention I got because of the people I got to know, the secrets I had learned. But how fulfilling were those relationships? It is nothing to brag about now. I was a fool then. To think that this was all life amounted to.
If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to never have experimented with the limelight. All the attention, all the drugs, alcohol, men, women, and money. I wanted it all, but could and would never get it. It was a vicious cycle that would repeat indefinitely, that defied all rules of nature. It was unnatural, yet it had once been my ideal, my paradise. I understand now…too late.