Boxes just the same

In Shaoxing it rains, and I stay in my little box, waiting for a phone call. From inside I could be anywhere in China, anywhere in the world. Hotels are designed to be interchangeable, and I forget my location.

In San Antonio a year later the room on the thirty fourth floor looks out over a pool. Lit and empty in the Texas January, the water shines green into the night. From this box the weather is impossible to discern, the pool’s lack of use a solitary clue. Through the glass of this Hyatt’s windows it is a hovering square of aquamarine composited with the reflections of lights beside the bed and over the desk. Above the rooftop the evening is still, save for planes landing far off in the suburbs.

In Japan, years ago, the room was tatami-floored, and the sliding glass of one wall opened on to a balcony. Through the laundry swaying from the rafters came the evening sun, and with it a view of the Saikyo line to the left and Mt. Fuji to the right. Shared with a dozen others, the balconies were sectioned off with partitions flimsier than the wind, so those on either side pretended for their privacy as they hung laundry in the mornings. Tiny on the inside, this glass wall gave the box a sense of the world, an ability to feel the breeze.

Two weeks later the hotel room in Washington D.C. could again face any city in the world, with the train tracks elevated beside it, clattering away as the light fades. With the shades wide the bed has a view of the sky, contrails and wisps of clouds in March, a blue that gives no sense of location. The furniture has the same sharp edges as everywhere, the same reddish brown wood.

In Shaoxing I check into my hotel in the evening, having found it via taxi from the train station. The air is gray, up above the street lights, and I am tired. There will come a time for exploring this city, for business and the lonely hours of solitary travel to foreign countries. For now, though, a little box of my own is all I desire, shelter from the weather and space to breathe.