In Spring 2007 I published an essay called “The Low Season” in The Cimarron Review. It’s the story of how my wife and I paid for a month in Puerto Vallarta with money we made by attending timeshare presentations. Because I now live in Myrtle Beach, a place that exists largely thanks to the vacation industry, the time seems right to revisit the piece. So I’m going to serialize it here. One part every week for ten weeks. To start reading from the beginning, scroll down.
The Low Season
Part Nine: The Decision
I do want to stay someplace nice. I’m thinking of our sunny apartment at the Estancia San Carlos: the snug balcony, the huge kitchen, the mosaic-tiled bathroom. But then I smell the exhaust from the cabs lined up on Constitución. I taste the propane leaking from the stove. I feel the crunch of the fat cockroach that nearly tackled me in the shower the other morning, the one I killed and didn’t tell Kate about.
“Yeah, man.” Steve says. “Hostels. I used to dig ‘em. Believe me. But now I’m thirty-two.” He taps his finger on the brochure, on the Master Suite floor plan. “And I own three of these units…”
I think about the hotel where we stayed in Tepic two weeks ago. The shower mold. The fist-holes in the drywall.
“…understand, Kate and Joe. Ownership in the Mayan Palace is a lifetime investment. Your kids will inherit this place…
I see the bare light bulb dangling over the chintz bedspread at the hotel in Los Mochis.
“…doesn’t matter if you golf or not. The demand for golf packages is so huge, you can sell your weeks to a broker for twice what you paid…”
I hear the wild dogs gnashing outside our hotel window in Creel.
“…so you rent your unit to somebody else for one week, right? That pays for your second week. You get to vacation for free…”
I think of the night we spent broken down at a PEMEX station, sleeping in the back of the van. Suddenly I want Steve to understand that we probably could afford a unit at the Mayan Palace if we flipped priorities just a bit. Because strangely, I don’t want him to be, I don’t know, disappointed, I guess. But in what? Kate and me as consumers? This seems ridiculous, obviously, but still, I want Steve to feel optimistic about us. And about Eyder’s ability to dig up prospects like us. I want him to feel good about himself, to be content with his life, even if I’m not exactly satisfied with mine.
“Kate. Joe,” Steve says. “This deal is a money maker.” He’s got his palms flat on the desk. He’s down to brass tacks. “Honestly, and this is just me talking now, but I don’t see how you can afford not to do it.”
I don’t want to disappoint Steve, it’s true. But more importantly, I don’t want to disappoint myself. I don’t want to disappoint Kate. If we could somehow work out the money, if we could scratch together a down payment, if we could just give in to that all-powerful and ever-living yes, it would signal to us and everyone else that Kate and I had succeeded. Instead of measuring our success in slippery concepts like freedom and happiness, we could now point to a tangible asset, brochure-worthy proof of the prosperity our working lives had bought us. The payments wouldn’t be so bad. Couple hundred bucks a month. Sure I’d have to find a proper job when we got back to Ohio, and I’d probably have to cut back on my time with the band, but these are the compromises successful adults make.
Maybe at thirty-four I’ve finally figured out that being an adult means balancing freedom and responsibility. Steve is offering us the chance to take ownership not just in a timeshare, but in our own adulthood. And, yeah, he’s right: We probably will have kids someday. Do we really want to drag them into a roach den? Wouldn’t it be lovely to just laze by the pool, watching the little guys splash around while we flag down the waiter for another icy bucket of Coronas? Seriously, why do Kate and I always have to work so hard on our vacations? Don’t we deserve nice things for a change?
Yes we do.
Kate and I deserve this.
And here’s Kate. She’s smiling. She’s been thinking the same thing. Now she’ll chime in with the yes that’ll make everybody happy.
But she’s scooting her chair away from the desk. She’s leaning over for her purse. She’s saying, “Steve, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. The resort is truly beautiful, but right now, where Joe and I are in our lives, it’s just not a good fit.” She stands up, slides the brochure back to him. “So our answer is no.”
Steve shakes his head and winces like he just rimmed out a six-foot birdie putt.
“Now, if you’ll please excuse us,” Kate says, “we’ve got to be going.”