Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Hotel Stories

I have many stories about both wonderful and terrible things that have happened in hotels. So many, in fact, that I felt overwhelmed by this prompt and the many directions I could take in my writing... But I've finally settled on one - a terrible one, but part of my story nonetheless.

The darkest moment in my life, the one that my girl-cat Azul helped me gut out, happened in a hotel in Copacabana. I'd fled our beautiful Casa Rosa in a taxi that afternoon, convinced that I was being pursued by an obsessed neighbor who I'd been told had a gun and had come knocking on our gate looking for me while I was out. Not knowing where to go, and not feeling safe at home or with friends, I fled to a familiar hotel on the beach- the Olinda Othon.

Years before, my mom and I had stayed in this same hotel when she came to visit me in Brasil during my exchange year. There was something comforting about being in a place where I'd spent time with my mom, almost as if residual parts of her being were mixed in with the dust on the marble windowsill of the hotel room, ready to protect me and give me strength.

In the height of my paranoia, I purchased a room using a fake name and paid in cash. Before even going up to the room, I sat at a computer in the hotel's internet café and promptly changed all the passwords for my e-mail accounts and internet banking. I'd been tipped off (by the same person that told me I was being stalked and had to leave the Casa Rosa immediately) that my neighbor, an IT genius, had hacked into my accounts and gotten access to all of my personal information. When I finally got everything changed, I went up to my hotel room, shoved a heavy wooden chair under the doorknob and took the phone off the hook. Then I started to cry.

I wasn't alone on this day in the Olinda Othon. Along with me, and not understanding anything that was going on, was my boyfriend at the time. He'd flow to Brasil to have a vacation with me before we were supposed to move to Austin together. It was supposed to be the most romantic trip ever, but it turned out horribly. He sat looking at me with wide eyes, urging me to call the police or the American Consulate, or my laywer to take care of the situation. I refused. There's nothing like feeling guilty and ashamed to make all logical thoughts get stuck in the mud, especially when you know deep down that you are to blame for the whole mess. We sat for hours on the 1940's style beds until I worked up enough courage to tell my story, the sequence of events that ended up with us in this hotel room, scared to death and confused, facing the end of our relationship.

Once my story was out, the anger came, then the pain, then more tears, then the feeling that all was lost in this world. It was a horrible night, most of which I spent perched on the edge of the blue-tiled bathtub feeling numb and wishing I could go back in time.

I made it through to the next morning, and we set out in a black car with black tinted windows to go to the airport. We'd changed our trip plans the night before were booked on the first flight back to the US. We had separate seats, at his request. I felt for the first time what it is like to have caused someone so much disappointment and grief that they literally can't stand to be in yoru presence. I flew home with a horrible feeling in my stomach, genuinely afraid that I'd single-handedly ruined my life and that I'd never again be happy.

It took a while, and the images and words from that night in the Olinda Othon still haunt me on occasion, but I'm healed and happier than I ever thought possible...

For more hotel stories, click here.

EDITED slightly about 2 hours after posting, when I realized that certain small but critical details were either missing or unclear.

14 comments:

Safiya said...

This feels like a big piece of a story that is slowly coming together. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jemima said...

I love that part about hoping to find comfort in some residual presence of your mother. Sounds terrifying, but I'm assuming your fears were not justified. Paranoia not crazed psycho tailing you. No less real or scary, I'd imagine.

paris parfait said...

What a terrible night to have endured! I agree with Safiya, it seems like part of a bigger story that you're sharing bit-by-bit. I'm sorry you had to go through all that and am so glad you emerged from the bad experiences much stronger and happier. Thanks for sharing your experience with such clarity and courage.

la vie en rose said...

thank you for being brave enough to share about one of the toughest times in your life. it's always difficult to shed one's skin and bear what we believe to be the very worst of ourselves.

Safiya said...

The edits did fill in some of the blanks.

Your story really describes so well one of those excruciating times when you just want it to be over.

Wenda said...

I'm intrigued.

Laini Taylor said...

I'm so sorry to hear that there is such a dark chapter in your life, and glad that you have come out of the shadows of it... into the African sun, no less, with the vibrant life you have now! I can't even imagine having been through something so terrifying. Sounds like the seeds of a very compelling book are there in your story.

Ali la Loca said...

Thanks, everyone, for being so kind and supportive with this piece-meal story.

~JVS - Funny you should mention the real vs. paranoia thing. At the time, I thought everything was very, very real. So real in fact that I didn't go to Brasil for 1.5 years after this incident because I was so afraid.

The thing is, most of my information that I was in danger was coming from a person that I later caught in some huge lies. His stories wouldn't match up, and I started to suspect that everything about my neighbor had been exaggerated as well. To this day I don't know either way, but the heart-pounding fear that it was all real was certainly preset.

Ali la Loca said...

~Laini - The way everything is planned in my head, this will be book number two. Book number one (to be started this month) will be about the first year I lived in Brasil as a teenager. :)

kanuthya said...

It takes courage, looking into ourselves is often painful. Writing helps to exorcize dark moments, but getting ready to make that journey is hard. I've had the story in my head for years.

Ali la Loca said...

~Kanuthya -

It IS hard, isn't it? Glad to know I'm not the only one with a dark story in her head just waiting for the right moment to get it all out.

I'm not there yet, at least with this particular story. But I know that I'm getting closer when many of my Sunday Scribblings posts end up being about this time in my life, even when I sit down to write with other intentions.

Kristine said...

Wow, you never cease to intrigue me! I am glad you made it through the darkness and are a better person for it.

Living Part Deux said...

The restrained eloquence with which you told this story holds the full intensity of your emotion at bay, but we can feel its heart beating behind the veil. That kind of terror fills every cell and becomes part of your physical being, never to be erased, although soothed. I'm so sorry for the terror that you had to endure, but honored that you have shared it here.

Rebekah

Alexandra S said...

I guess most of us have one , or sadly sometimes more, stories such as these that still leave an ache & tinge of fear in the heart. It must have been horrible and I'm glad for you that its behind you now, getting further and further away with each second.