You’re suddenly stranded
outside your hotel room door without a shred of clothing. You thought you were
heading into the bathroom, but now you’re standing in the bright hallway next to
two elevators. It seems impossible for this to have happened, you think. Even
more impossible is the thought bouncing around your head — about Marianne, about
how she put you here.
instinct is to try the door again, and as you touch the cold, metal doorknob you
hear the lock click shut. “Shit,” you mutter to yourself. You consider calling
for help — but that would only bring people out of their rooms. No, you’re in it
for the long haul.
aches. You consider your options: The floor in front of you, an ashtray, an ice
machine down the hall. You can’t think clearly; your head’s swimming. You must
have been sleepwalking to end up outside your hotel room like this. (Of course
you were sleepwalking!) You’ve got to pull yourself together. You’ve got to
think of something before someone comes up those elevators or walks out of their
room. They’ll think you’re some lunatic. They’ll put you in jail.
Now it’s coming
back—what you were doing before you came back to the hotel, before you went to
bed and then ended up in the hallway without any clothes. You were at that
Chinese lounge with Ed and Thomas... and Marianne. You’re pretty sure you were
loaded when you left.
there’s a phone in the hallway where you’re standing now. You’ve seen it. Yes...
it’s on that little wooden, antique-looking table about 15 feet away, with a
lamp and vase of fresh dahlias.
You make a run
for the table. You notice the door directly in front of the table is 718. On the
floor is a room service tray with a covered plate, a few pieces of sourdough
bread, and a wine glass.
got to piss.
But that’s not
going to happen. No, you’re going to keep this one last shred of dignity. You’re
going to be strong. You pick up the phone without thinking much about what
you’re going to say.
“I seem to be
locked outside my room, number 711. Well, the real problem is...I don’t have any
clothes on. No, this isn’t a joke...not at all. Can you send someone up to help
me out—preferably a male someone?”
They tell you
they’re going to do even better. To guarantee your privacy they tell you they’re
sending up a duplicate room key on the right elevator. They’ll place it in a
small envelope. You’ll have complete, secure privacy.
You don’t tell
them about having to urinate. No, that seemed like too much information. You’ll
just have to wait for the elevator door to open—and then make a dash for it.
You’ll be able to open your door, run in the bathroom, and relieve yourself.
This will all be over in a moment. And you realize what Einstein said about
relativity—about a painful moment seeming to last a long time while a
pleasurable moment seeming to last no time at all.
You hate him for saying it.
You’re starting to remember
more about what happened earlier that night. After the conference ended at 6:00,
you walked through the cool San Francisco air. The lounge you were at in
Chinatown, before you were in this despicable situation, was called Benny Lee’s.
There were people there from work. Marianne was there. After three martinis, you
were up there singing Karaoke. What was that song?—Talking Heads’ “Same As It
Ever Was.” Marianne had a few drinks, too, and was flirting. She dared you to
get up and sing in front of the lounge. She bet you twenty bucks you wouldn’t do
It was after
she’d gone up and sung, with that rich, confident voice that filled the whole
lounge, a voice that sounded like it could win Grammy's, and people clapped and
clapped that you realized you’d been duped. And then it was your turn. It was
like following Barbra Streisand at a talent contest.
But it didn’t
stop there. Marianne challenged you to one of those college drinking games. And
in half an hour she drank you under the table. How many glasses of Scotch did
she have? No, it was whiskey. She guzzled it like it was water. You fell out of
your chair. They had to practically carry you back to the hotel. You’re pretty
sure Marianne was walking.
You hear the elevator
ding—your key, your salvation. But then you realize it’s the left elevator,
not the right, and people are getting out. You hide behind the wall next to the
elevator and pray they won’t walk toward you. You hear the other elevator ding,
your elevator, but there’s nothing you can do.
You hear the
couple kissing loudly in the hallway. They’re making obnoxious sucking sounds.
After what seems like hours, you hear a door shut—and the sucking sounds are
gone. You hear the lonely hum of the building. The lights are as bright as the
Phoenix sun. You think of Debbie and the kids back home, how they’d probably be
laughing at you right now. It is pretty funny, come to think of it.
On the other hand, you don’t
think they’d be laughing.
“I’m sorry, but
I wasn’t able to get the key,” you tell the front desk on the phone.
Once again, they
assure you that privacy will remain intact, that you have no worries.
“I really have
to go to the bathroom, too,” you tack on to the end of the conversation. “If you
could send that elevator up here soon, I’d be really happy.”
You wait behind
the cold wall by the elevator. You wonder what Marianne is doing tonight.
Perhaps she got sick after all those drinks? Perhaps she went back to her hotel
room and watched TV or ordered a movie? What she wouldn’t give to see you
stranded out here like this.
You’d like to see it happen
dings again, and you race down the hallway, all of you flapping out there,
and you suddenly understand how an ape must feel in a zoo—only the ape isn’t
naked. You are. You walk into the right elevator and see the envelope with the
hotel’s name emblazoned across the front in gold letters.
But you weren’t
No, the door has
closed behind you, and you’re heading down, down, down. You press floor 7,
thinking the elevator might bring you back without anyone else getting on. But
then you see that floors 2 through 6 are lit up, as if some juvenile got on and
pushed all the buttons and then jumped off. You stop at another floor; you move
over to one side, the wall cold against your skin. No one gets on.
continues to descend.
You stop at
another floor. Again, no one gets on. It seems like a miracle. At the next
floor, you can hear people outside, laughing from behind the closed doors.
Perhaps they’re coming back from a movie. Perhaps they’re coming back from
dinner. Perhaps they have children with them. The doors open. You’re standing to
the side so they can’t see you. You say as loud as you’ve said anything in your
life: “There’s a naked man in here; go no further!”
You can almost
hear them thinking in the silence: Is this a joke?
And then the
door shuts. You’re heading up now, up up up toward the 7th floor. Seventh
heaven. You promise yourself, as you have before, that this will never
happen again. You’ll never let anyone challenge you to drinking games.
door opens. You peer around the corner and then run for your room. The lock
opens magically. You run into the bathroom and cut loose. Jesus, a piss has
never felt so good. You think about how Alan Shepherd might have felt on that
day he relieved himself inside the Mercury space capsule before being the first
man to launch into space for fifteen minutes; yes, he had to piss so bad he just
went in his suit. Of course, Mission Control had to give him permission. You’re
proud of yourself for making it this far. You could have easily gone in the
hallway. Everyone would have understood.
Now you’re lying
down, wired and a little sobered from all the excitement. You pick up the phone
and dial the front desk and ask for Marianne’s room.
“It’s 2:30 in
the morning, sir,” the man says.
“So,” you say.
he says, and dials Marianne’s room.
Marianne’s raspy voice answer, and you hang up, laughing to yourself like a kid
after a prank call.