When the Matron was but a Young Miss, she met her beloved John. They were immediately simpatico. Love had been proclaimed, cohabitation established and friends shocked –within two weeks. That was nearly 18 years ago – so there, mother (and everyone else).
Young Miss and her future husband shared common views on nearly everything—love, art, politics, spirit and soul. With one staggering exception: sleeping naked.
John slept naked. She did not.
He always slept naked. That man dropped his pants for a 15 minute midday nap. Camping trip, complete with sleet and soggy sleeping bags? Buck naked. He simply could not catch a wink without complete exposure. Young Miss? After the lovemaking (and back then, in the Heyday, there was plenty), she wiggled away from his warm skin and put on his t-shirt. Every night.
Now, with three children under their roof, not only does the Matron not sleep naked, the t-shirt has been replaced by real pajamas, should Fire or Threat of any sort require her to flee the house, herding children. She goes to bed with an emergency mentality, slippers, phone, and eye-glasses at her side.
John still sleeps naked. And that sexual Heyday? Gone to seed. But that’s another story.
This story is not actually, only about sleeping naked -- it is also about the time the then Young Miss and John decided, on a whim, to drive from Minneapolis to Chicago and spend the night with some friends of friends of friends, sort of. Being young, they spent about one minute thinking through logistics like this “Oooo – what CDs should we bring?” and “plain or peanut?” before heading off without securing said lodgings.
Their attention to detail also meant that they brought no map. This is pre-cell phone era (remember, she’s now The Matron).
Such careful planning found them driving through Chicago’s poorest, scariest, neighborhood (she’s certain none could be worse) around 2 am—with no friend of friend of friend successfully contacted or directions, secured. They were exhausted. Still, they drove. They witnessed drug deals. Ignored waves for them to pull on over to the curb. Circled around dilapidated building after dilapidated building. They risked robbery twice to get directions at gas stations and still couldn’t understand the lay of the land.
Finally, at 3 am, the body triumphed. They needed sleep.
With some trepidation, they decided to secure a room at the only hotel they’d seen all night: The Hotel Irving. This building looked as if it had recently been fire-bombed. The neon sign out front had lost half its letters. The door didn’t even shut.
John carried the suitcase. Young Miss clutched her purse. They parked the car and ran in.
The lobby had more in common with a prison block than hotel, right down to the cement floor and industrial yellow walls with no decoration. A huge, bald, toothless man sat behind a bullet-proof window. Let’s call him Squid, sort of an endearing version of Sid.
John: “We’d like to get a room please?”
Squid: “How many hours?”
Squid: “Half an hour is $20. A full hour is $30.”
John: “Oh, the whole night.”
Squid lifted what appeared to be an eyebrow. “That’s fifty bucks.”
Young Miss: “Do you take Visa?”
Squid: “Are you messing with me?”
The couple behind John and the Young Miss required only one hour. The quite probably illegally young woman wore a skin tight leopard print body suit and black leather boots skirting her thigh. The man? He wore Eddie Bauer, a gold wedding band and guilt.
It wasn’t until this moment that Young Miss fully understood precisely what type of ‘sleeping’ establishment she had entered.
Still, a bed waited. They gingerly tiptoed their way through halls so filthy that Young Miss was offered a whole new appreciation of the word ‘organic.’
They took tentative steps into their room only to be felled by the wretched, rancid air coming from the heaping dumpster that sat immediately below a wide open, unscreened window.
Young Miss: “John? Do you feel that?”
John: “You mean the floor?”
The molding carpet was so filthy it was wet and went slurp, slurp under their feet. Needless to say, the toilet had been a DNA depository for about 50 years. The window shut but didn’t lock. There was dried vomit on the phone, feces piled by the nightstand, and a load of rotting clothes in the corner.
But the Young Miss was stumbling by this point, as the clock neared 4 am. So she went to the suitcase to find: a) clothes she didn’t care about to put on top of the bed as barrier between her body and the filth that was the bedspread and b) her heaviest coat to use as a blanket. Her strategy for emerging intact? No actual contact between her skin and anything in this bedroom. She figured she could hermetically seal herself away from any physical interaction with her environment, and sleep. She planned to throw away her shoes in the morning.
She turned from the suitcase to find John naked between the rotting sheets with his formerly desirable head on the pillow—and a look she knew well on his face.
John: “Aren’t you even just a little bit lovey?”
It’s okay to gasp in horror here.
Young Miss: “We are the only people in this hotel not having sex.” She took another look at the sheets. “I may never have sex with you again.”
The next day, she would not kiss him good-morning or hold his hand pre-fumigation. She left behind the clothes that she had slept on. Turning in the key, she gave Squid a good, outraged piece of her mind and described in sharp detail the police report and health complaints she would be filing!
Squid: “Do you have a hidden camera guy somewhere? You can’t be for real.”
Later, they finally found friends – real friends. Fumigation ensued.
See her bed now? To this day, John need only whisper “Hotel Irving” and the Matron must strip these sheets. Sorta like a gag reaction.
And now in the midst of a tested but true long marriage, when she watches this man shed his clothes, gleefully climb into bed and pitch that ever-hopeful question: “Aren’t you just a little bit lovey”? she’s not infrequently returned to the Hotel Irving, one of the earliest stops on their shared, sometimes disgusting, life adventure.
The Matron wrote this long ago when she was less busy; some day, it will appear in the Women's Colony, she anticipates!