The tile in the small hotel room is always warm when my feet shuffle in, tired from a day of hiking in the city, or still sleepy from staying up too late working on my pitch for Immuno. This is the thing I love most about my hotel room. The ground is warm and it reminds me of Texas sun on winter carpet.
The glass shower partition makes it hard to reach the shower controls without climbing all the way in (clothes on), and that first cold blast of water is hungry to surprise me. It doesn’t give me much time to duck back behind the glass wall, but thirty-five is still young . . . As long as I don’t slip. When the water steams, I close my tired eyes and crawl in to wake up, or warm up, depending if I’m coming or going.
At lunch, I tell my new friend Matt that he’ll sleep better if he wears earplugs at night, and he laughs over his tacos. We’re eating right next to Penn Station, taking in the March snow and the crazy crowds.
I love walking through the city and hearing all the voices, throats from another world, raucous and loud, quiet and timid, rolling out on the near-frozen air in ways that I’m not accustomed to.
Of course I’m going to a show. I’ll do conference homework ‘til three in the morning if I need to, but I’m establishing tradition now: Broadway Musical or die. . . Somehow I find myself buried in a crowd of Japanese adolescents, old enough to be out on their own, but not old enough to have given up the flock of familiar peers, laughing, looking, and waiting while the best English speaker in their group tries to negotiate for twenty tickets to the Lion King, which has already been sold out.
Japanese Teenager: “Twenny Leeon Keeng?”
Grumpy Ticket Lady: “I’m sorry. There are no more tickets for Lion King.”
JT: “Ten Leeon Keeng?”
GTL: waving arms. “No Tickets! Zero! Nothing! Not Five! Not one! when it’s already sold out. “
Bummer. That’s the show I wanted to see. My own English skills, though far from flawless, allow me to make peace with the Gods of the Inevitable and accept my fate. I don’t blame anyone, not even myself. Tonight might have found me dining with the other pitch conference attendees—which I still managed to do—or working on my next book. Whichever.
I love the voices and personalities: Ralph. Rachel. Jason. Nina. Clarissa. Erik. Jessica. Sami. And the strangers. English. Irish. Mexican. French. Japanese. American. I talk with them all, sometimes with just my eyes.
I love the warmth of people traveling, their bright eyes and free spirits saying things like, “Can you believe it? I’m from Yokohama and you’re from Houston and we’re here at the Phantom of the Opera together.”
Actually, it sounds more like this: “You want come Japan? You stay. My email.” Hidenobu gestures for a pen.
It’s amazing what you can discover about a person during a 30-minute wait for the show to start, what moments you can share.
The French voices are easier to understand than the Japanese, Russian, and Italian ones, but it’s a stretch say something at first. What if my French is bad? (I know for a fact that it’s worse than my English.) But Mathieu and Julien are amazed that someone in the United States can carry a conversation, which might have lasted longer, but I have to go to bed and actually sleep. I do have time to warn them about being at the booth in Times Square two days in advance for Lion King tickets. They’re surprised to hear this.
I’m not surprised. They’re guys, and they think like me apparently, and will eventually wind up smashed between a pile of Japanese adolescents that are too old for parental. . . Oh wait. I already said that.
This is my humor. The cold air makes me cough, and the snow stings my throat. There is slush on the asphalt and clouds of hot breath and cooking smoke in the air. Roasted cashews. Can you smell them?
The TV lights in Times Square flash bright enough to make daylight and I can still hear the Irish lady in the adjacent seat singing the Phantom of the Opera even though I’m on my way home.
My earplugs are waiting on the bed stand, plotting to sleep me through my alarm tomorrow so I set three, just in case, and crawl into the bed. Or the shower.
And yes. New York wants the manuscript!