In the white room, the daughter sits beside the bed where finally, her mother is sleeping. She calls her mother’s name, softly – once, and then again. When she is certain that her mother cannot hear her, she begins her story:
Once I waited for three hours in the lobby of a hotel to meet a man. I hardly knew him. We met once before, at a gallery party. It was so crowded. I was standing near the door, thinking about how to leave gracefully, leave the people that I had come with, and he came up to me and handed me a glass of champagne. They were passing out champagne on trays and for a moment, I thought he might be one of the staff. But then I looked up at him and he broke into this wide boyish grin. I couldn’t help but smile back. I took the glass from him and we walked around the gallery together. Thomas had been away for so long.
We stayed there for a long time. We talked about our families. It all felt easy. I felt safe. At the end of the night, he walked me to my car. I remember it had started to rain. Just a light rain, but enough to make people walk quickly. But we didn’t. We walked so slowly it was like we were hardly moving at all. When we got there, I said, I really should go. And he said yes, probably so. And I said, I don’t really want to, but I should. And he nodded, said, ok, and just like that, he was gone. I stood there at the door to my car and watched him walk away, and the rain was still falling.
Weeks passed and I thought of him sometimes. Thomas came home – just for a couple days – and then he was off again. We weren’t fighting anymore. He was so quiet. He seemed sad all the time. But this is not meant to be an excuse, an explanation. I just didn’t know where we were.
And then the man reappeared. He sent a note and said he would be passing through and wrote the name of the hotel, about thirty miles away. As soon as I saw this, I knew I would go. I didn’t know why I was going, but I knew that I would.
So when the night came, I drove out there. I brought a book and sat in the lobby. And I watched the people ride the elevator up and down. And I waited. I would get up and walk around sometimes. I would read. I bought a cup of coffee from the cart in the lobby. And I waited.
Do you know how sometimes you can look at someone and see how inside, they are so alive and they glow with this white hot light? They are radiant? And then you look at someone else and can see how small and dry and ashy they are inside? How it seems like whatever light there once was has just been stamped out of them? I was standing by the elevators and when the doors opened, I saw myself in the mirrored walls of the elevator car and I nearly gasped out loud. All I could see was this hollowed out shell of a person. Like if you opened me up all you’d find is a pile of ashes and dust.
I thought: My god, I have to go home. What am I doing waiting here for a man I don’t know. What do I think is going to happen?
And as I headed toward the door, you know, of course, what happened. There he was, just coming in. So I stopped and stood there, let him come toward me. I told him I was just about to leave. That I had been waiting so long. I told him I was crazy to come out here and crazy to wait as long as I had, and couldn’t he have called so that I didn’t have to just sit there waiting like a fool, like a crazy, hollowed-out shell of a woman who has nothing inside her but dust and ash.
And he said I’m so sorry. Please don’t go. He said: Please stay.
And so I did.