(From 11 Jan 2015)
You are in a motel room and it’s the middle of the night. You’re lying on a huge hard bed, sheets smelling faintly of industrial cleaner. They are both luxurious and industrial, and you’re not quite sure how that works. You lie there, thinking about the rows and rows of other rooms, other people lying straight in other beds. Other rooms – are they all identical? – stretching out in all directions from the elevator hub.
Out of all the people lying in those beds, in those rooms, how many are awake as you are? Are their curtains open or closed? Do their rooms smell of the room-service dinner they had delivered, or did they go out to eat? What do their sheets smell like?
Why are they there? Are they in town for work, or to visit someone? Or did they just need a good break by themselves for a while? Are they there for a tryst, or even to hire a prostitute? Is the prostitute still there, right now? Are they doing it, right now?
It’s hard to imagine something like that happening while you are lying there on your hard bed with your indurious sheets, looking out the window at the building across the street. There is a light on in one of the floors. You think it might be an office building over there, and you can’t help but think of all those rows and rows of unoccupied desks, with computers and phones and stacks of papers on them, and photos of loved ones thumbtacked to the cubicle walls. Is someone working late? Did they just forget to turn the lights off when they were the last to leave the floor? Is a cleaner up there, at two in the morning? Vacuuming and looking at the papers and photos and wondering similar thoughts to you, right now? Or are they just tired and wanting to get it over with so they can go home to their husbands and wives and children, tucked up in bed?
There is something about how children sleep, you think. You wish you slept like a child: taking over the bed, using every inch of it, surrounded with stuffed animals. They should make cribs for adults, you think. White wooden slats to keep you in place. Then you could roam around the bed while you sleep, in complete safety. We’ve all fallen out of bed a few too many times as adults to really let ourselves go in sleep now. But imagine it! To really let yourself go.
You’d really like it if someone would come round and check on you while you sleep, just like your parents no doubt did. That’s the other thing about how children sleep. They know, somehow, that no matter what happens, what trouble they get into in their cots, with their blankets and stuffed animals, that someone will be coming soon to look in on them. To make sure their heads aren’t jammed too hard into the corner of the cot, or worse still, shoved through the bars. Someone will come to see if you are unwell, or if you just need a cuddle or some help to fall back asleep if you’ve had a nightmare.
That would be a good hotel service, you think. Of course you’d need to make sure that these nighttime guardians would be well vetted. No criminal records, that sort of thing. No, what you’d really want is a troupe of grandmothers, the ones that wake up really early and turn on the radio. The ones who knit afghans and doll clothes even though their eyes are failing. The ones who think about their now-grown children and wish they had someone who they could stroke hair from their brow while they slept. Those sorts of people. If a hotel hired an army of brow-stroking grandmothers to come and check in on you as you slept, well, imagine how you could really let yourself go!