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The Hotel Inca Real. I have a very good one. I told him I just wanted to go to the address of the bad, burned-down, out-of-business hotel. I told him I had a reservation, which was a lie. And he needed it for his children. Tourists filled the lobby, smoking cigarette after cigarette, drinking Cuba Libres. A near-empty fish tank bubbled in the corner. The hotel proprietor tried to improve the smell with rose air freshener, making a sickening smell of fake flowers, rotting fish, and cigarette smoke.
The manager showed me to a room with no windows. I was too tired to complain, paid him the 25 dollars. I dropped my bags and left to meet him in a bar, La Casa de Cerdo, The House of Pig, which was crowded with soccer fans who were shouting in an uproar because Argentina was beating Costa Rica. I ordered rice and beans with, of course, cerdo.
And coffee so strong my gums hurt. He offered to meet me, show me around before I left the next day for Quepos. It will keep me awake. And I have an umbrella. All the young people live with their parents, so at night, they come here to make out. The rain had turned to mist, the trees dripped with rainwater, and the air filled with birdsong. I was in the moment in the way you are only when you travel. And whatever there was to do, I would do it.
This is why traveling is so alluring: It untethers us from our lives. The Costa Rican brothels are not like the ones I had seen in Nevada, trailers hidden in the desert with women walking around in lingerie. Some of the hotel lobbies serve as brothels; you just have to know which ones to go to. And my expat knew. We walked into the Hotel Rey, which was full of middle-aged American men and young, beautiful Costa Rican women.
A giant man wearing wranglers and a cowboy hat was flanked by two beautiful women, girls really. Dark rings of sweat circled the underarms of his shirt, and his face shined red like a beet. I instantly hated him. In the rose-scented lobby, the hotel manager was talking to two American surfers.