The elevator doors opened and I walked out into the tiny corner. I turned left and followed the arrows down the dimly lit hall as my wet boots squeaked with each step.
Removing the tiny key from my purse, I swiped my way in to the first hotel room I’d ever had all to myself.
Zipped off a text to my mother who used to do this all of the time – travel for work.
She shared her routine reminders with me. First you unpack your belongings, then put out the toiletries near the sink, and then call my dad.
I remember the calls as a child – her connecting with us across time zones and space from the uncomfortable chairs in casino hotel rooms. She didn’t gamble – she was an expert in trade shows – the two spaces and industries were inextricably linked. Pre Facetime, before What’s Ap and smart phones – what a treat it was to leave a voicemail on her hotel room phone.
Mostly I remember she’d leave prizes for us – one a night to discover. Sometimes my dad would forget to hide them and we’d wonder if perhaps this trip, we’d grown too old for her treats.
“Thanks for the memories,” she buzzed back, as I put on a sweater to head up to the roof top bar.
He’s with us in spirit, she’s at home, and I’m traveling now. How things have changed.
I took a deep breath, made a mental list of my networking questions, and pressed the up button, pausing to wait for the elevator.
The doors opened and I walked into the dark bar decorated for Halloween. Creepy decorations hung in the large windows. The fog outside hovered next to the floating skeletons with gauzy dresses back lit by orange, suspended from string ten floors up.
I met new people, asked questions, and sipped my gin and tonic. Nervously, I squeezed the extra lime on the rim of the heavy tumbler between my thumb and forefinger.
The woman I was speaking with looked up and wiped her forehead.
Is it raining? she asked.
“I’m afraid I just squirted you with my drink” I blushed. She laughed, wiping again at the pulp in her bangs.
A granular burst of fruit brought us closer than I anticipated.
Time passed. We mingled and wrapped up the night. I pushed the down button, rode a few floors, followed the arrows to my room, turned down the covers and slept in the big, white bed.
When I woke to the sun fighting the fog, I saw twinkly lights fighting the approach of a new day. I stared from behind the dark curtains and pondered the path I’ve been walking. I’ve floated between loss and joy over the last three years. Each room I enter has the haunting remnants of loss near by, like the decorations looming in the enormous window panes. Feelings of fear and ache linger close and heavy fog easily wraps its tentacles around me.
And then in ordinary conversations, the limes of life offer flavor and tartness and sweet bursts. I only need to release the potential between my finger tips. Joy brings me closer to others and saying yes to the unexpected opportunities helps me grow.
Yes, this week I stayed in a hotel room, got on a plane, forced myself to be brave and network. I walked Lake Shore Drive and took photos of sparkling city lights – all beautiful things.
Two little slices of lime jolted me to realize I influence others by just showing up. I can turn my attention from the haunting spirits and surroundings to the joy with a simple pinch of my thumb and forefinger. Let’s choose the bursts rather than the ominous lingerings, shall we? There’s magic in the pulp.