I checked into the first motel I found. It was on Versailles road, the main artery leading into town from the airport. From the street it looked appealing.
I should have heeded the warning in the night clerk’s shaky voice and viewed the room in advance.
The eroded air-conditioner, burnt carpet, broken table, overpowering scent of poverty and death. This was familiar territory.
Most disturbing was the absence of a bedside lamp. I had pictured myself relaxing in bed with a copy of the following day’s Racing Form.
I walked back out to the car. Shadowy forms lingered outside their rooms and on the lawns. One of them, a barechested sexagenarian, groaned at me from a doorway. The motel appeared to chiefly function as a welfare-level apartment complex, with a couple of rooms set aside for the unsuspecting tourist.
I got in the car and drove around aimlessly. Nothing beckoned. The few open bars were the exclusive domain of the college crowd.
Upon my return a police car was exiting the motel driveway.
Despite emerging from a spotless rental car I attempted to convey an impression of indigent swagger as I made my way, suitcase in hand, across the lawn, returning to the morbid reek.
I turned the shower on. No warm water issued from it. I left it running and washed my face and hands in the sink. As I did so, the sink quickly clogged up. The shower continued running cold. I grabbed a towel. It looked as if somebody had wiped their arse with it. In a fury, clutching the shitstained towel, I walked across to the office and rang the bell. I rapped on the glass to no avail. TV drone was heard but the night clerk did not appear.
It was one in the morning. I wasn’t tired. I toyed with the notion of checking into a different motel or sleeping in the car but found myself somehow sworn to a night in this sty, almost relishing the humiliation. Perhaps I should just slip into the bed with my Racing Form. I pulled back the cover. The sheet was a huge heart-shaped bloodstain. I charged out to the office again but still no response from the other side of the glass.
It seemed unlikely that I would get any sleep. The following day would be ruined. I barricaded the door with the broken table and lay down on the bed. I opened the Form but lacked the heart to read it. I just lay there. Every once in a while I got up and peered through the blinds onto the courtyard. Nothing stirred.
Eventually I must have dropped off and snatched a couple of hours sleep.
At 7.30 on a spring morning I tried the shower again, letting the water run for about twenty minutes without its warming in the least. I stepped out into the spring morning and attempted to rouse the clerk. Again no response was forthcoming.
In the daylight it was possible to observe that the lawn was covered with cigarette butts.
That was my first night in Lexington, capital of horse country.
I drove downtown. It was dull, grey and empty. A sabbath stillness prevailed. It took a lot of driving around before I found so much as a Starbucks. A line of locals in shorts streamed out of the door, deeply grateful for the luxury. I ordered a coffee and muffin.