A Hotel Lobby, Before the Fire


If you ask me where I’m most comfortable, chances are my answer will be at a hotel bar. If it doubles as the lobby, so much the better. The Joule in downtown Dallas has such a set-up, and while it was too early for a cocktail, I sat in close enough proximity to the bartender to have him smile and ask what I wanted. After a polite declination, I took out a book and read a little, raising my eyes to watch a few people check-in, and hotel employees welcome them to Dallas. Families and couples met in the lobby to start their day. Luggage and bags were taken by porters and whisked upwards once the elevator doors closed. Large bouquets of white peonies accented by white twigs made an incongruously spring-like winter wonderland, while a large industrial gear spun slowly in the center of the room.

Biding time until lunch, I unwrapped my scarves. The bartender polished some glasses as a few seats began to fill. This was the in-between time ~ the moment before and after some clearly demarcated event ~ whether that be lunch or a meeting or dinner or a play. Life is about the in-between times. We think it’s the opposite, but it’s not.

My in-between time was almost over, as my stomach called, and the cold demanded a bowl of pho. That night, an electrical fire would rage in front of the Joule, forcing the hotel to be evacuated. But I escaped before then, bundling back up before crossing the street to a Vietnamese restaurant.

The cold had deepened, and the brief walk sucked all the warmth out of me in minutes. The ice storm was in the air ~ gray and foreboding ~ and the damp chill drained any holiday cheer. Yet salvation was on the way, in a bowl of hot pho ~ a bowl of sustenance, a bowl of love, a bowl to warm from the inside out. It was the only way to get warm.

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