Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What they Loved

They loved the motel and they loved standing by the check-in counter, hands around the other, sometimes standing behind the other, hands on an ass.

They loved the motel bed, how crisp and neatly made it was, and they loved the fresh sheets and the fresh starts, they loved the little glasses, always two, with sanitized paper around the lip as if they were the first two, Adam and Eve, to drink from the cup.

They loved the clean, white towels, and they loved the ashtrays and that they were allowed to smoke, that they’d pay extra for that, and the big windows that opened wide and let them puff that smoke out to the bay

They loved the sound of cargo boats, the loading and the unloading, the sounds of commerce because they were a part of that commerce

had passed credit cards and photo IDs, triple A cards over the counter to the young Asian girl at the desk. Yes they said eagerly and nodded their heads, yes to the king sized bed and the ashtrays. Yes to the continental breakfast, the HBO and the complimentary morning paper.

They loved that the concierge never met their eye, never scrutinized, never even said goodbye as they silently slipped through the lobby three hours later and returned home, leaving beds un-maid and towels only slightly used.

They loved the privilege of being anonymous, of not having to answer questions. They loved the freedom of not needing much; a bed, an ashtray, a view of the bay; a window that opened, a working heating vent.

They loved the privilege and the freedom of not needing to answer to each other, not needing the details of where the other had been, what they had said and what they were going to do next.

They appreciated instead the sensible simplicity of a button, a zipper. Tongues were magical, there was nothing to lie about. Curfews were vague. Yes there were people who cared about them a few miles away but they would return to them soon enough.

They loved the peace of this and especially the relief after buttons came undone and boots were tossed and thrown.

They knew how to make the sounds and they knew some dirty words too. They would come hungry but they didn’t care what they cooked up, it was always what they wanted.

They never noticed the terrible brown fabric curtains or the funny little notes left on bathroom counters about forgotten toothbrushes and q-tips at the front desk

They appreciated the hotel’s concern for everything they’d brought and everything they’d forgotten, everything they’d leave behind after their three hours, after they’d mussed the bed and made the sounds, after they’d squeezed out every last bit of tension and stress.

All the things of the day.

The edges they walked, the money they owed, the people who loved them who they could not always properly love back. The lies they told and the people they paid to listen to those lies at $145 an hour. The silent prayers they uttered, the pills that helped them sleep, the tiny goodies they littered throughout their day to get them through.

This was their chance, their time

And they never wasted it

Never tried to fix the other, and if talk of a son’s basketball game went on too long or a story about a remodel glitch went on and on, one would silence the other simply with a smile and a hand placed on a hand, that might slip up to a chest or inside a blouse, and they would remember where and who they were and why they had come to the Extended Stay Hotel or the Phoenix Motel or the Comfort Inn or even the Red Couch.

Time was of the essence, there were bridges to cross and spouses to return to, surely a carpool to drive in the morning, and they loved those things too.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The 23rd Floor

He would often say, “I love you,” with just that hint of something lingering at the end of the sentence so that his statement became a question. Did she love him too?

In the beginning and for many years, sometimes still he would ask her to say it, “tell me you love me,” he would say, and she would say it to make him happy, a little like giving in to sex if she was tired because then he would be happy for a little while and she could rest her efforts.

The other night in bed he told her how he loved her, something she can’t remember now, but it shocked her, “You love me like that?” she said, astonished, not realizing that he felt that way. She wasn’t concerned, but felt silenced, unsure of what to do or say and so she put her hand on his chest and moved her body into the spoon of his and into the crook of his arm.

They were lying in her parent’s old bed, the bed her parents had abandoned for the new one a few years earlier. They knew this bed as they knew the house; the hot tub, the bathrooms, which mirrors were best for sex. They knew how to live together, knew how to pack a suitcase for a trip, how to make a driving plan. They could manage the children and get to places on time. They were friends with her whole family. Everyone liked them, and they liked each other, but his statement startled her.

Now she remembered, yes, they had been at her aunt and uncle’s house the night before and he was standing on the balcony of their 23rd floor penthouse looking out onto the lights of Los Angeles. She was drinking a gin and tonic inside with her uncle, who was on his second or third.

Her husband was on the balcony, and what he was thinking, he said, “was how easy it would be to leap off, and if I did, I’d want to grab your hand and take you with me.” And then he’d connected it to love, that she was the great love of his life, and this combination of the leaping and the love, the romantics of that, it was so perfect for him, just like him to pull pain and love together like that, which is when she put her hand on his chest, maybe to soothe him or rest him into sleep or back into himself, to take the focus away from her, the object, the loved one, the person he would reach for as he fell.

She wasn’t concerned, mostly shocked. “You love me like that?” she asked as she put her hand on his chest. It was all she could do.

And a little while later when he asked if she would like to make love, she heard the voice inside of herself say no, and the no stood there like a child in a great hall, a great big echo of no

Until she broke it weakly with a yes
Because she could
Because he was standing all alone on the balcony of the 23rd floor of a penthouse in a Los Angeles high rise looking down on Wilshire blvd and the city of angels and a million cars racing back and forth and nightlights and swimming pools and money exchanging hands a million times a second right below him.

And because he came from farmland where the only thing you could count on was the smell of manure or the shake of someone’s hand and the way they looked you in the eye. And it’s not that she pitied him and it’s not that she worried, but he was alone, alone in a way she would never allow herself to be.

“Yes,” she said weakly, and her hand on his chest came alive and it began to travel. This was what was called for.