My Hotel Room, Myself
The author and her hotel room: a self-portrait. Photo by Eve Epstein.
Eve Epstein comes home to New York City feeling a little less than herself. She checks into The Marlton Hotel and discovers just how restorative the right hideaway can be.
NEW YORK CITY – I don't know about you, but when I'm visiting my hometown, I always feel obligated to distill my life down to an optimistic logline for all my old friends and relatives. "I got a new job, wrote a book, and mastered some particularly challenging new origami!"
Or something like that. And on most trips home (which in my case means New York City), I have confidently delivered many such sunny synopses. To quote Joe Walsh, life's been good to me so far — if you overlook the Odd Horrible Tragedy, which you sort of have to, life being what it is. (At the very least, it's been better to me than Joe Walsh's life had been to him when he wrote that.)
But my most recent homeward journey was different. In the past year, the Segway of my life had veered dangerously close to the cliff's edge. (Too soon?) My marriage of 15 years, to a person I still really liked, was ending. I had moved out of our beautiful Los Angeles home and into a crummy sublet. The wonderful company I'd spent ten years of my life building, a brand whose voice I identified with deeply, was being shuttered. And I'd just spent twelve months in a job that had ended abruptly when we'd all agreed I was "not a good fit." Ow.
As I arrived in New York, it occurred to me that the words "not a good fit" might somehow be true of me in some deeper, broader, ontological way. The word "failure" was getting ever tougher to steer around, mentally. Unmoored and alone, I questioned all my life choices. I worried feverishly about the future. And what would I say to all those old friends and relatives? "I fucked a lot of stuff up and am currently gazing into the dark abyss where my self esteem used to be"?
It seemed like a good time to check into a hotel.
So I booked myself into The Marlton Hotel, the West Village boutique gem newly restored by Sean MacPherson, known for its relentless charm and its tiny rooms. And I mean tiny: The Petite Full, the room I chose, is all of 100 square feet.
The minute I dragged my decrepit rolly bag through the doors into the hotel's sexy, intimate lobby, I knew I'd made a good decision. To my left was a roaring fire. To my right, a quaint espresso bar. And everywhere I looked, comfy couches, banquettes, and armchairs filled with fashion types, media starter-uppers, and savvy travelers. The registration desk, manned by gorgeous, multiracial-looking Millennials, looked like something out of a Wes Anderson movie.
On top of the spell cast by all this cuteness, there was another feeling, a feeling of sneaky anonymity. I realized that a hotel in your hometown is sort of like a Cloak of Invisibility, an incognito cover in a place that's usually all about the opposite. And that seemed very, very essential at this moment. Maybe, I thought, with a glimmer of hope, this is good. Maybe it will change everything. Could two nights in the right hotel room make the end of everything feel like a new beginning?
The answer started to take shape when I saw my room. Shutting the door behind me to the adorable jewel box of a space, I felt a click of recognition: It was tiny, intimate, friendly, private. Small, but well proportioned. Adorable, but grown up. Sexy, yet tasteful. Were not these many of the very qualities I had sought to embody my whole life?
If I were a hotel room, would I be this hotel room?
Here's the thing about a hotel room that's really just big enough to fit a bed: It forces you to prioritize the things you do in a bed. Now, I know what you're thinking. Eve, you do everything in bed. And, yes, I do have certain Proustian predilections. But given that I had only two nights, I knew I wasn't going to finish a novel in there, so I kept my goals simple and intuitive:
3. TV watching.
4. Sexual congress.
5. Lying very still, staring blankly at the ceiling.
These are, as some of you may know, all of my favorite hobbies. And they were really all that was possible. There would be no early morning sun salutations. No raucous, late night parties in Eve's room. No sitting upright in a chair. Such things are delightfully unfeasible in such a space.
I'm proud to say that, over the next two days, I met all of my goals. I slept. I read. I watched TV. I spent four out of every five hours reclining. I may or may not have had very hot sex with a gorgeous person who then kindly left almost immediately afterward.
I left the room, too, but mostly only to enjoy the other spaces at The Marlton: an Americano in the café, an artichoke salad by the fire, risotto in the restaurant, cocktails with friends in the bar. But always back to my Petite Full sanctuary, feeling petite and full.
And I discovered that a funny thing happens when you spend hours of solitude in a beautiful room that feels like it was made just for you: You feel like being yourself isn't actually such a bad thing. When you fit so perfectly somewhere, you stop imagining you don't fit anywhere. When you allow yourself the luxury of being unencumbered by the remembrance of things past, you find you're amazingly open to the possibilities of the present.
After checking out, I was deposited in a cab by one of the handsome bellmen, and thanked him. "You're welcome," he said. "See you next month?"
I paused for a moment. And then I said yes.
The Marlton Hotel
5 West 8th Street
New York, NY 10011