I’m heading to Washington DC to visit my sister. I saw her about this time last year, and before that for the John Stewart rally in 2010. This has become a regular thing. I like visiting my sister and like visiting DC. We don’t do a lot of sightseeing but we go to great restaurants, see movies, and just have fun hanging out.
What my sister does not know is that this is my second trip to DC this year. I made a trip earlier this year to see a couple of escort clients, but did not tell my sister I was in town. Like the trip to Seattle I’d recalled in the last entry, only a few people knew I was making that trip. I took time off from my day job and had to provide a cover story, but they know I have family in DC.
And then there are the other trips. Three trips to Las Vegas in the past year, two to New York, another couple to San Diego and Palm Springs. Chicago too. I love traveling so it’s not the travel itself that presents the problem, it’s the “lies by omission.” Perhaps someone is talking about the High Line, and I want to share my experience and say I was just there myself recently, but that would open all the questions. “When were you in New York? Why didn’t you say something about it before? Did Scott go with you? No?” And then the puzzled looks and exchanged glances. It’s easier to just keep my mouth shut. But having been out of the closet for nearly two decades, it’s strange to fall back into editing out big parts of my life.
Each of these trips has had some fantastic, memorable experiences. On one of those New York trips, I’d been able to get a decent rate on a hotel for three of the four nights I’d be there, but couldn’t find something for all four nights that I could afford. So I left the fourth night up to a last-minute roll of the dice on Priceline. Priceline came through for me, and for my last night I ended up at a hotel directly across the street from Ground Zero.
The hotel was very swank. Although the building structure was not damaged by the collapse of the twin towers, the interior had been ruined by all the dust, soot and debris. They had closed the hotel for a few years as they gutted it and rebuilt the interiors. The result was clean and new, tasteful and stylish.
They gave me a room somewhere above the 50th floor. I can’t remember the exact floor, perhaps it was the 52nd Floor. Although the desk clerk told me it was a corner room, it did not prepare me for what would be one of the most impressive hotel rooms I’d ever stayed in. The room was huge and had giant windows affording spectacular views. Out one window was Brooklyn, or was it Queens? My sense of direction was all turned around. Out the other window was Ground Zero, in full rebuilding mode. For several minutes I looked down at the site and up into the new tower under construction.
I went back into the hall to go get some dinner. Down at the other end of the corridor were a couple of open doors, and several voices. It appeared to be some kind of work session. Loud, deliberate talking, probably attorneys or accountants on some kind of extended assignment. I could see a folding office table through the furthest door, with stacks of files and some laptop computers. A loud guy walked from room to room, with papers in his hands and a phone attached to his ear. I couldn’t tell if he was talking to someone on the phone or in one of the rooms, or maybe it was both. I walked down the hall towards the elevator and a couple of the people looked up briefly, then went back to their work.
As I went down the elevator I thought about what I wanted to eat for dinner. I would be having a client over later so didn’t want to eat too much, but needed to have something so I’d be able to perform. I’d walk around looking for a deli or something. I came out of the elevator and walked through the lobby and out the front door of the hotel and BAM… it felt like I’d been whacked in the face and all the air around me had been sucked into a vacuum, together at once. I was facing Ground Zero.
When I’d arrived at the hotel, the cab had dropped me at a side door and the proximity of Ground Zero was not really apparent. Even from the hotel room, the view into the construction site had a strangely detached quality, like going to the Grand Canyon and it looking more like a painting than a real place. The hotel room was cool and quiet and tranquil, and the view of the construction and the gardens where the twin towers used to stand seemed distant. Here on the sidewalk, it hit me hard and fast and I gasped. I tend to be a fairly composed kind of guy, but this took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting this. Everything that had happened, it felt like the agitated and chaotic energy was still here. It felt edgy, manic, and gray. How can something feel gray? I don’t know, but it did.
* * *
Later I spent a couple of hours with my client back in the room. Although he lived in New York he told me this was the first time he’d been to Ground Zero since 9/11. Before he left he looked out the window and studied the construction site like I had done hours earlier. It was flood lit and still active even though it was nighttime. He told me to be sure to let him know next time I was in New York.
After he was gone I showered and decided to go for a walk, maybe find some ice cream or something. At the end of the corridor the attorneys were still at work. There were pizza boxes piled on the folding table, at it looked like they had a long night ahead of them. The corridor felt empty otherwise, and the thought crossed my mind that maybe it was just me and them on this floor. They didn’t glance up this time, and I wondered if they had figured out what I was doing here. I walked around the streets, past the banners promoting the new WTC development and past the commuters still streaming into the PATH station at this late hour. Except for the ongoing buzz of the construction site, the streets were quiet.
The next morning on my way out I’d catch a last glance from one the attorneys, still hard at work. Had they even gone to sleep? The pizza boxes had been replaced with pastry boxes and coffee cups. I rolled my luggage to the elevator, on my way back home with a story I couldn’t tell.