Hiding by Susan Tepper

It always happens this way. I make a travel plan and it gets disrupted by my inability to keep track. Strangely (coincidentally?) there is a theme of time in this hotel. Each room (at least those I’ve occupied over the years, about five, I think) -- each has an entry way that’s papered in black antique time-pieces against white. The first time I entered a room here I was charmed by this sophisticated whimsy in the décor. Clocks, watches-I said something like that out loud. Then Jack made a comment about my never wearing a watch. How he’d bought me several expensive watches over the years. I honestly don’t remember receiving a single watch as a gift from my husband. I have no idea what he was talking about.

At any rate, I’ve been in this hotel longer than I anticipated. Denis, the manager, assuring me it is perfectly fine, that my mini-suite has not been reserved by anyone as it’s the off-season.

I’ve gotten to know him over the years. Yesterday we were having a drink in the lobby bar, cozy, tucked away in a corner. Outside was turning dusky, and of course raining. I told him I didn’t know London had an off-season. He patted my hand and said my dear. That’s all. Some men can do that.

“I’ll never get enough of this city," I told him.

Every night I go alone to the theatre. Because Denis is French and married and running this hotel, he never gets to the theatre. I regale him about this or that play. I tell him London is somewhat like New York only way better. Laughing, he disputes my claim saying New York is still the best city in the world.

I tell him that I love the blue and white striped canvas summer chairs they put in the parks here. “New York would never put out chairs in Central Park. They’d all be stolen in an hour."

“An hour?" he says.

“Maybe a half hour."

The steps leading down to St. James Park are practically outside this hotel door. The waterfowl and other birds have diminished because of winter coming, and naturally the chairs have been stored away, but I still see some birds and ducks and of course the pigeons.

“It’s sad, sometimes, the winter," I say to him.

“Don’t be sad. You come here not to be sad, isn’t that so?"

“Totally." I flash him a forced smile.

One trip here I discovered a shop that sells old maps. I saw it again the other day and got a burst of happiness. Maps being a passion of mine. I’ve collected hundreds that are molding away in some storage facility, rolled into bins like tight diplomas. Clear out the place-- my husband’s idea. The new glass house he’d built had to be minimalist. It escalated the silent war between us.

Here in London I have a routine that involves nothing. I never set the clock. It’s one of the worst sounds in the world, a ringing alarm clock. I sometimes wonder if people commit murder or suicide on a day they set their alarm. The body becomes nervous and distracted, and so does the mind. In this hotel, I wake up when my body is ready to receive the day. It is the receiving that most interests me; the taking in. It occurs to me that I might be having sex sometime soon. I haven’t had sex in a while. Sex is hovering. It’s a large bird in hiding from winter.


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