Monday, June 14, 2004

the pretenders

On Saturday morning, my husband and I woke up, packed our bags and took a ten minute cab ride to Hotel Centro Historico in downtown Mexico City where we checked in for the night. We've done this before (just 3 weeks ago, actually). It's an easy way to feel like we're on vacation without the hassle of plane tickets and passports, taking time off from work, feeling the pressure to sightsee. We holed up in that hotel room and watched TV, ordered room service, watched TV, took luxurious bubble baths, and watched TV. It was exactly what we needed to pull ourselves out of the funky rut we've been in since we got the "bad news" a little over a week ago.

Our little 18 hour vacation made perfect sense to us, but yet we couldn't cough up the real story when the bell hop made polite conversation with us in the elevator on the way up to our room. I offered that we were visiting from DC (luckily before my husband had a chance to answer New York or Maine- the other 2 obvious choices) and that yes, we had been to Mexico before and that we had even stayed in this very hotel. When the bell hop seemed a bit disappointed that we were only there for one night, my husband comforted him with the fact that we were considering a trip to Puebla the next day and we might be interested in a tour of DF that afternoon. I felt a little sheepish when the bell hop opened our curtains to show us the view and pointed out all of the sights from our window: the Palacio Bellas Artes, the Torre Latino Americana- places we've visited many times, on a street we've traveled more often than we can count. We tipped him well and sent him on his way, promising to call down to the front desk when we had decided about a tour.

Sadly, this isn't the first time I've told bold-faced lies to complete strangers in Mexico. Normally, I'm not a strong proponent of lying. I do believe that honesty (combined with tact) is usually the best policy. But in Mexico, I have become quite the teller of tales. Usually, I do it because with my limited Spanish-speaking ability, its easier than telling the truth. The woman who does my dry cleaning thinks that my husband's name is Carlos. When I drop off the dry cleaning, she writes down this name on the pink slip. We use Carlos regularly now, when we make reservations at restaurants, when we drop off film to be developed. It's just easier than having to spell out our American names which inevitably end up butchered.

The towel lady at my gym knows that I am from the United States. I may have even told her that I am from New York. Okay, I'm not really from New York, but that was the last place I lived before coming to Mexico, so its not quite a lie. What is a lie, is that when I miss more than 4 or 5 consecutive days at the gym, and the towel lady asks where I've been, I always tell her that I was back in the United States, that I was in New York.

Sometimes I really have been back to the States. Once, I think I had actually been back to New York. A couple of times I was in Maine or Oregon, places I wasn't sure the towel lady had heard of. And sadly, there have been times when I've been right here in Mexico City, absent from the gym because of sheer laziness or because I had guests visiting or because I was sick, explanations that require too much grammar for my taste.

Similarly, when I dropped off a bunch of sweaters to the dry cleaner in early December and she asked me if I was going back to the States for Christmas, I smiled and said yes, to New York. I told her that I have family there. She asked if it has already started snowing in the States and I said yes. None of this was true. I brought her the sweaters because I had just returned from my Thanksgiving vacation in Maine where my mother lives. My husband and I were going to Hong Kong for Christmas; we've never spent Christmas in New York; we have no relatives there. I had no idea if it was snowing in New York. My guess would be that it was not. It was surprisingly warm in Maine just a few days earlier.

While waiting for the bus once, a woman admired my coat and asked me where I got it. I told her that I bought it in New York. Oh, she says and nods and smiles. New York. It looks like its from New York. I wonder what that means, especially since the coat isn't from New York at all, but from an outlet store in Kittery, a small town on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. Its an old coat, I've had it for years, but when I told the woman I bought it in New York, I made it sound like I was just there, that the coat is brand new.

I leave for my college reunion on Wednesday and I'll miss more than a few days at the gym while I am gone. And I imagine that the towel lady will once again believe that I am New York. As long as she doesn't ask me why I travel there so often, I'll be fine.


Blogger Monique said...

You are a hoot... too funny for words.

I do not live in Mexico, but in a small town that makes me feel like I am in another world. I find myself often having to tell little white lies to avoid answering 20 more questions. I can say in the beginning I was uncomfortable having to do that, but now. 4-5 years later, it's second nature. Unfortunately.

12:55 PM  
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