She stood at the front desk for a moment, hesitating. It had been a long day. At 5am, she’d run along the waterfront, cutting through the moist fog that muffled the city. Only the sounds on the water were clear, the fog horns deep and insistent, the seals occasionally protesting as they vied for space on a buoy. The air was still heavy and cold hours later when she’d dropped the girls at school, leaning down to give each a hug before they turned and disappeared into the building. And then she’d been on the plane, lifting up above layers of grey to reveal smooth air and brighter light. It was at this point she’d finally exhaled. She’d stared out the window, seeing but not seeing the birds eye view of her route.
She’d touched down north of his city, after flying low over the hills, buttes, and rice fields she knew by heart. This had been her territory too. With feet on the ground, she’d made the drive west, back toward the water but stopping just inland. She’d stood for six hours in front of an easel, ignoring the ink on her fingers, the smell of badly brewed coffee and stale donuts, and the shifting and settling of chairs as the class sighed, trying to get comfortable. She’d stayed after, in that room with no windows, to type up her notes. A beautiful landscape of vineyards lay just beyond, and as she finished, she thought about a very different kind of trip that could be had there. Instead, two more days of this to go.
Then dinner with the client, appreciatively sipping a local red wine, listening attentively and doing her best to stay as engaged and extroverted as possible. Agreeing to meet again, same time, same place the next day, she said good night to her co-workers and watched the elevator door close. And now, here she stood at the hotel desk, checking in, too tired to debate the wisdom of impulse. She slipped the extra key card into the envelope and sealed it, writing his name across the crisp white front, underneath the logo and address. Drew. She took a quick picture of the envelope with her phone and handed it to the woman on the other side of the counter. A pause at the elevator and the image was sent, the whisking sound a confirmation. The rest was up to him.
If a picture carries a thousand words, then hers was an efficient expression of a wish too fragile to say aloud. She wished that when she opened the door to her room two nights later, she might see his shoes on the floor in front of the bed. That, as she stepped in and placed her bag on the floor and her key on the dresser, she might turn to see a glass being set down firmly on the nightstand, and as she kicked her shoes off, she might hear him say hello. That might be the only word said for quite some time. Except yes. More. Please. She imagined her mind turning off as everything else turned on.
In the morning, she might wake to find an empty pillow beside her, shoes gone, ice melted in the glass beside the bed, transparent and weakened, like her resolve. But then again, she might find him next to her, a grin on his face and a whole day in front of them. He’d drive her back to the airport, but the long way.
This was a memory she wanted to make. One that might provide ongoing clarity, or give her courage, or simply delete the question mark she’d lived with so long, the one she couldn’t seem to leave behind. There were twenty reasons not to pursue this, the best perhaps the lie they’d have to tell to get there and the sobering truths that might follow. Her request was reckless, childish, and selfish, with no clear outcome. But she didn’t care.
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