Hearts and Hotels
When I was a girl, I used to dream about hotels. A night in a huge bed. Crisp white sheets. Room service. Slippers and bathrobes. Pool swimming. It was the stuff of magazines, of plush privilege. And so beyond my reach. Staying in a hotel meant you had arrived; I so wanted to arrive.
We never traveled, growing up, except up and down the great lakes to my grandparent's cottage. Resources, temporal and financial, were meager. In my family, we ate store brand cereal for breakfast, and dinner was cow’s tongue with raisin sauce because it was cheap, but seamed fancy. In the summer, three of us piled into the back of a red k-car, legs sticking to vinyl seats, and stop touching me! she's on my side! STOPIT as we drove four hours and hours through the Canadian shield. We didn’t stop at McDonald's for lunch, but ate brown bread sandwiches from re-used milk bags. Economizing. We slept two to a bed in a cramped cottage, and I dreamed that maybe one day we'd drive to Florida and play all day in the waves then sleep in a big hotel bed at night.
Then, at twenty-four, I found myself with my boyfriend in a car, being driven up a palm-lined lane to the soft orange light of a luxury hotel. I was terrified and thrilled in equal measure. My chef was starting a new job on a new continent, and I was coming along with less than a thousand dollars in my bank account. I had no plan, no idea how I'd finagle my legal status after my tourist visa ran out, but the pain of being apart was worse than the unknowing. I’d figure out my visa situation, and I'd find a way after my bank account ran dry.
We arrived at the hotel, and doormen in opulent silk guided us from the car. There were sleek black cars parked in front of the doors, and a Channel boutique in the lobby. I was wearing my best outfit; it was from H&M.
I always thought room service, crisp white sheets, and calculating tips for the house cleaners was beyond my reach, yet there I was living in a hotel for a month as we waited to find our apartment. I had room service palak paneer for dinner whenever I wanted it, but I never knew how much to tip, conflicted because in comparison to those who brought me my meal, I was rich, but every dollar mattered to me, and once my money was gone, there was no plan.
Now, all these years later, I’ve married that boyfriend because the pain of being apart is still greater than the anxiety of not knowing what will happen or where our life will take us next. I still watch our dollars, but I no longer fear that they'll dry up.
Tomorrow we’ll be celebrating six years of marriage, and I'll be counting the many ways in which these six years have realized the impossible, and looking forward to all the impossible possibles in the six years to come, and the six years after that, and then the next six years.
Who knows what is to come. I'm imagining starting our adventure all over again in a new city in a new country and in a new language. We’re talking about chaos, and humidity, new faces open and warm. I'm longing for markets filled with fruit I’ve never before seen, dishes pungent and spicy, rickshaws, motorcycle taxis, batik prints, heat, traffic noise, horns, dust, and adventure. And, perhaps, as a treat, a weekend away somewhere in a nice hotel on a beach with sand so white and water so warm. And crisp white sheets on a big hotel bed, and room service for breakfast. I'll tip the service staff and not worry about the dollars, and we'll three sit on the bed and eat waffles and tropical fruit, he and me and our little girl.