My Love at the Lenox Hotel
It wasn’t my intention to be a serial monogamist, but here I am with three long-term relationships under my belt, and countless flings with men who placed me on a pedestal. I have always found it easy to connect with people; I want people to be good, so I’ve ended up latching onto those that I probably shouldn’t have. Throughout college and into my 20’s I have been immersed in the worlds’ of various people who have taught me different ways to love. I’ve been screwed and I’ve screwed people over; even when I thought I was doing all the right things. Ultimately, people I truly cared about became temporary fixes, safe havens or collateral damage– as I know I was to others.
I was never raised to believe love was solely pure and wholesome, and yet I still thought it would be that way for me. I’ve always romanticized the concept of love just to magnify my own romantic experiences. It has led to me to love, adventure, and a lot of wasted time. Loving in my 20’s has been boring when I went for the easy ones, and explosive when I took risks. These risks were painful in the best way, and even if I stopped recognizing myself through the process, I knew I wanted to see it through.
I used to do my college homework at the Lenox Hotel. At the time it was built, the eleven-story boutique hotel stood as the tallest building in Boston. Now, she’s swallowed up by the rest of the city. When I walk in, the ambience is of a different time. Smooth jazz plays in the background, deep reds and warm gold accents cover the small lobby. The soft wallpaper is still infused with the smell of cigars, smoked by men as they discussed politics and business over after-dinner drinks (once they had shooed their wives off to bed, of course.) The lingering smell of old perfume and a fire burning rests upon the entire first floor.
Most days when I studied at the Lenox Hotel, I thought about what kind of people must have stayed there- how they dressed ,the way they spoke, if they smelled the same things I did. On one November day, I was picturing just that, when a couple sloppily plopped down on top of each other, jolting me out of my reminiscence. The two had just come in from Sola’s, the Irish pub which lies underneath the hotel. I had never been in the pub, but its small underground entrance and shady demeanor always seemed unsettling to me. Sometimes I’d peek through the foggy windows when passing by and try to make out the shapes of people drinking dark pints.
At first glance, the pair looked so in love. They were completely unaware of their surroundings, and drunk on the moment (and a few too many drinks). They were speaking close to each other’s faces, I imagined their mouths reeking of Guinness and whiskey. A few moments passed, and the couple becomes rowdy; they cry with laughter, gasp for air, and shout random phrases for emphasis as if there were no one else in the lobby. As the woman sat on her partner’s lap, stroking his hair with her fingertips, she quietly brought up his wife. Feeling uneasy and somehow lied to, I gathered my things and noticed the wedding ring on his finger as I left.
Three months later, I met Ray.
I needed a job, and had experience in the restaurant business, so it seemed fitting to apply for a hosting gig. The servers all wore collared white shirts with black ties and dress shoes, the managers wore half smiles and far too much hair product. You could see Chef Ray from the kitchen the moment you stepped in the restaurant, all the way across the dining room through the large glass window in the back. He had dark hair, dark eyes and rough olive skin. He always looked as if he rolled straight out of his bed and into work, and you could see his tattoos bleed through his collar and sleeves. I remember his firm grip shaking my small hand while his chiseled arm flexed the first time I was introduced to him. Ray never wore his chef hat, always a baseball cap, always backwards.
I met him during the mandatory kitchen training all hosts had to do before starting work and he’s the head chef. Within ten minutes of training we talked about the tattoo that rested underneath his wedding ring, his adopted parents, his motorcycle accident, his plans to eventually move out to the west coast, his sleeping habits, his frustration with small talk and how refreshing it was to meet me- someone he too thought was special.
After a month or so of getting into the swing of things at work, I noticed Chef Ray paid extra attention to me. When I’d walk in for a shift, he’d come out of the kitchen and up to the host desk to greet me. Throughout the night, he’d call me from the kitchen phone just to say hello and joke around. He changed his schedule just to work with me. It wasn’t necessarily one sided, I knew what I was doing too, and I’d find myself with excuses to go into the kitchen to see him briefly throughout my shift, or take extra time to put myself together before work when I knew he was there. The flirtation seemed harmless, until a night in March when I was closing up, and Chef Ray wanted to grab a drink with me before heading home.
I’m not dumb, but I was curious. A part of me wanted the thrill. While we were walking, we stopped in front of a small doorway to an underground building. When I looked up,I suddenly realized Chef Ray’s pub of choice: It was Sola’s, the small pub under the Lenox Hotel. I stepped in. Sola’s was everything I thought it was going to be: dark, ominous, heady air filled with secrets.
And so it became our spot, almost every weekend after work, we’d meet at the corner of Exeter and Boylston and head inside the pub that lied beneath the Lenox. One time, we decided to skip Sola’s, and drive outside of our neighborhood to a crowded bar in Charlestown. I sat at a stool with my legs uncrossed and he stood between them so I’d be able to smell the beer on his lips. It was like this most nights we’d spend together, always too close, smudging the line between friends and something else, but never fully crossing it. This felt different though, I felt outside of my reality. After one too many, we left the bar and decided to explore more of the town.
Amongst downing more cans of beers, and breathing in each other’s smoke, we came across a monument that stood in the center of the town at the top of a high grassy hill. We ran to the top of the hill and looked at each other—we were both thinking the same thing. We dropped to the ground and rolled down the hill to the other side. We toppled and sped down together, landing right in front of some old, wooden fence. We laid there for a bit with no one around, only hearing our own heavy breathing. We looked at one another, and then childishly looked up at the stars. I thought about how it had been so long since I enjoyed the company of the Lenox Hotel. With Ray, I joined the dark reverie of Sola’s and had not returned to reality since. I thought about how much I missed the feeling of the hotel’s black velvet couches against my elbows as I did my homework…I thought about how much I missed the soft aroma of the bygone cigars…I thought about how much I even missed the unfaithful couple, and how I could never be like them…
I just laid there, looking up at the top of the hill from which we blindly stumbled down.
What the hell have I gotten myself into?