Thursday, April 25, 2013
The Night Calls
I was getting sick and tired of seeing the same pictures…of going to the same sites. It was after 11:30 PM and I was alone in my hotel room. My wife Paula was in Walla Walla visiting her parents while I attended the conference. Often, she would travel with me but this trip brought us within an hour of her folk’s place. A part of me wished she that was here with me now. But another part was glad to have this alone time, this time to surf the internet in search of images…not knowing what I was searching for or aware of the power drawing me there.
The room was quiet except for the clicking of the mouse and the tapping of the keys as I’d enter another URL into the navigation bar and the incessant grinding of the air conditioner by the windows. An ocean scene was hanging from the wall of the otherwise bare room. A second queen-sized bed had my briefcase haphazardly tossed on it. Several pair of Docker’s slacks and golf shirts hung in the small closet space. Occasionally the sound of the elevator doors opening could be heard, following by the laughter or conversation of travelers making their way back to their rooms or out into the night.
I closed the top of my laptop and went in to the bathroom. As I stood there relieving myself, I stared at the image in the mirror staring back. It was the body of a man aging. Grey hair was beginning to replace the dark, black curls that capped my head only fifteen years before. Even the thick eyebrows and mustache were showing signs of a lighter color encroaching into the once dark hairs. The smile that seemed to rarely crease the face was absent tonight, as it had been frequently in the past few years. There appeared to be some dimming of the sparkle in the deep, blue eyes.
The firm chest of the former coach, built through hours of work in the weight room with is players had begun shifting, the pecs beginning to sag a bit. The definition in the arms had become camouflaged with a thin layer of body fat. The belly had also been caught up in the avalanche of former muscle that was morphing into something completely unwanted.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of water flushing as I absent-mindedly pushed the lever on the side of the toilet. I took one last look in the mirror as I turned the light off and went back into the hotel room and began to put my clothes on. Unsure of where I was going…or even why, I pulled the locked door closed behind me and walked down the second floor hallway of the Best Western. I took the stairs and stepped out into the warm, August night air.
It was still about 80 degrees in city of Richland, Washington. Located in the high desert of central Washington, the temperature had reached triple digits earlier in the day. The parking lot was quiet and many of the parking spaces on this back-side lot were empty. I walked across the lot to my Jeep Grand Cherokee and slid behind the wheel. Starting the engine, I checked my bearings and pulled out of my space heading across the lot to the main street that passed in front of the hotel. I turned right and entered the mostly empty roadway. A mid-week night, there wasn’t much traffic. Most people were home in bed or watching Lettermen, getting ready for the next workday. I followed the street to the first main intersection and turned left. Though not completely familiar with Richland, I knew some of the major streets on this northwestern end of the city. I drove east without really caring where I would end up. I’d turn down streets randomly, feeling drawn by a power but not know what I was seeking. Careful not to get too far off a familiar street, I drove the streets of quiet neighborhoods, silently passing the dark houses of sleeping occupants. Houses like the one I lived in with my wife of 14 years.
Time passed…thirty minutes, then forty-five. I found myself back in the parking lot. Time wasted. Nothing found. My mind still unsettled. An emptiness deep within that I couldn’t seem to fill. I sat in the car staring out the windshield. As I opened the door, the music of Nsync was cut off mid- song. The parking lot was dotted with fewer empty spaces as the occupants had returned during my sojourn. I made my way back to the entry door and slid my keycard in to unlock the heavy glass door and took the stairs back to my room. The clunk of ice falling interrupted my thoughts as I walked down the hall to my room. As I twisted the deadbolt and turned and entered the room, the laptop lay there…calling to me. A quick glance at the floor and my decision was made. The room quiet save for the tapping of fingers on the keyboard.