It just occurred to me that I love spending time in hotels. Typically, they just are a means to an end; offering a place to sleep and eat in a foreign city. But today, sitting here in the cozy lounge of the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, the people-watching and eavesdropping offered some free association that I couldn’t resist including in this week’s blog.
* * *
I have a perfect view of a young Orthodox couple at a table by the window. I guess them to be in their twenties. They are on a date. I know this venue often is chosen for these types of meetings. He’s nervous; alternating between biting his nails, pulling on the short hairs of his skimpy beard, looking out the window, and shifting awkwardly in his chair. Something about him annoys me. He’s firing off questions like he’s quizzing her. She, on the other hand, is sitting across from him calmly; rarely looking him in the eyes as she responds to his questions. From her Hebrew, I know she is not Israeli, but her speaking patterns do not have a clear underlying French, English, Russian or any other accent I might know. Maybe she moved here when she was a child. Regardless, I see no chemistry or connection between them whatsoever; maybe a few more dates will improve matters, but I doubt it.
For me, this encounter reminds me of the days when I first dated in high school. I feel myself smile. I wonder what it would be like to date him today.
* * *
Adjacent to me, two mothers (I’m guessing sisters) are sitting with five children who seem to be between the ages of five and ten. Their ages and physical characteristics are so similar that I can’t tell who belongs with whom. The kids are teasing and taunting each other as their mothers try to ignore them and engage in conversation. Their discussions and giggles are being conducted in Hebrew and French. It sounds funny to hear a question asked in French and responded to in Hebrew. I realize that I feel very far removed from the days my kids were young.
Then I see a key chain, with a dangling Eiffel Tower, lying on the table. Suddenly, my mind drifts to Paris…a place that seduces me even as it scares me. A city with a history that screams of anti-Semitism, but also of defiance and resilience. Paris…will I ever forget the recent violence there? I close my eyes and imagine myself walking the cobblestone streets…Paris…the home of impressionism, soufflés, croissants, Chanel, and spring in the Tuilerie Gardens. In Paris I know he loves me.
* * *
Across the room, I see a couple – about my age I think – dining at the bar. I sense something between them, but cannot quite define their relationship. It’s clear to me that they are not married to each other (hey, after almost thirty-two years of marriage, I know these things), yet they seem to be more than mere business colleagues. I only can see the back of her auburn head, but her posture and dress announce a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and with him. His seat is angled in a way that enables me to see his face. He is strikingly handsome with dark hair and dark eyes that stare unwaveringly into hers as he speaks. His confidence in himself and his surroundings are palpable. He’s in charge, but she enables him. They seem animated, yet also intimate. Their body language belies a conversation in measured hushed tones and makes me wonder if they are having an affair.
I feel strangely flushed and embarrassed – even a bit jealous – as I secretively peek at them above my computer screen. Though fifty feet away, I can feel heat emanating from them…or maybe I’m just having a hot flash.
I wonder what it would be like to be them.
* * *
As I sit here alone, typing on my computer and drinking a cappuccino, I notice people occasionally glancing my way. How might they tell my story?