All I hear in my hotel room is a hum — maybe it’s the HVAC, maybe it’s the water heater, maybe it’s the ice maker tucked in a closet in the hallway. Maybe it’s the city outside, reduced to a dull roar by the thick windows. But there’s a hum and little else. It’s nothing like home.
It’s an out-and-back trip. Train up one night, work during the day, train home that evening. It’s one night away, and my wife is a capable woman. We agreed all involved would be fine. But it’s my first night alone and away from home since our son was born, and the quiet, slow pace of the evening stands out.
I eat bulgogi at the bar and talk to a fellow traveler who has meetings in the morning. He has kids at home. He talks about not wanting to work forever, and who knows if he will. When I get up to leave, he wishes me well, and I return the hospitality. We don’t exchange business cards.
I walk through the city unburdened by the usual stroller and diaper bag. I dodge teenagers who are wandering around, smoking cigarettes and holding hands, and I dash across the street before lights change. Nowhere to go but back to the hotel, so I stroll.
I don’t see any babies out. They’re tucked away somewhere safe from the cold and damp.
Once back, I check in at home base. Our son spent the day rolling all over daycare and is out like a light. My wife is excited to hear about my trip, but cuts the conversation short so she can get some sleep. Just in case he wakes up at 3 a.m. and wants to roll some more. We say goodnight.
I read the long-neglected magazines that have been piling up in our living room. I learn about cocktails and good suits and whether or not I can wear pleated pants. It’s getting late, but I tell myself I can stay up a bit longer, knowing that I won’t need to change any diapers tonight.
I worry about it being too quiet. The din of the city is no match for the white noise machine being pumped through the speakers of our baby monitor. Loud as it is outside, I can’t imagine the city waking up crying in the middle of the night.
I haven’t slept in a quiet room for months. Who knows if I’ve adjusted in the interim.
It’s just one night. My grandfather, a pilot, would be away from home for months. He faced far more dangerous situations than me, sitting here in a quiet room behind a locked door preparing for an event tomorrow. I wonder how he felt leaving my mom and her brothers halfway across the globe. I wonder what he’d think of his great-grandson.
It’s late. I check my phone and text my wife I love her. Tomorrow, I’ll be home. I’ll sleep in my bed, in a room full of sound.
For now, I won’t say I enjoy the silence. But it’s a welcome visitor. A friend from out of town, just passing through.
Bobby McMahon is a new father and writer living near Washington D.C. He tweets @BobFrankPat.
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