Chelsea Hotel, No. 2 (live) :: Rufus Wainwright
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.
Those were the reasons,
and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song,
probably still is for those of them left.”
There is something about hotel rooms, and what goes on within them, that inspires memory-laden reflections, lyrical refrains, and well-imagined (or remembered) stories. Perhaps it is part of the freedom that an anonymous room gifts to its temporary tenants. We wander through the lobby for reasons varied and wide, meandering hallways and entering doorways, leaving behind who we were a mere day before. No one knows us just now, and perhaps, no one will remember us after we leave. We will wrinkle the bed sheets, let the warm water trickle down our skin in the shower, leave our fingerprints on light switches, television boxes, and window panes – but, soon enough, quicker than it takes to hail a city taxi, they will send housekeeping and we will be erased, the room being turned for the next occupant; a clean slate for someone else’s story.
Perhaps we are meeting a lover for the first time, or the last. An illicit affair that no one knows about, a shared secret rendezvous which the non-descript walls encourage. Or, maybe this is a reunion of friends, lives left behind for a night or a weekend, bringing along travel size shampoo bottles, and just as small glimpses into who we’ve become. Or, is this an overnight stay of loneliness? Business, or some other soon forgotten reason, bringing you into an unfamiliar city. We try to position the pillows just right, turn the television on to create some kind of sound, and prop up a picture of him, or her, and the “family” you two have created. Though it could be, just as easily, a well-planned escape: a place to hide, or redefine yourself (no one knows we are here, right?)
When we find ourselves unable to sleep, in the middle of the night, do we stand on the balcony and watch the city below? Do we wonder if anyone can see us leaned up against the railing? Is there someone, also sleepless, glimpsing us now and wondering if we see them, too? Do we look towards the room nearest to ours and imagine who is behind the wall? If we knocked, if they let us in, what would we say to each other? Would we remember each other the next day? A week from now? A year? A lifetime later? Would we pocket the key on our way out the door, tucking it away in some hidden spot, as a souvenir? Would we take it out later, as the stories play out like a film on the back of each half-closed eyelid, when we choose to remember that hotel room, again?
I don’t think of you that often.”
Chelsea Hotel No. 2 :: Leonard Cohen