July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Esther checked her reflection in the rear view mirror as she and Len drove away from the Broadway Central Hotel. The makeup that had been applied so carefully just a few hours before the wedding had faded and her carefully arranged hair looked limp, but she didn’t care. She had enjoyed the wedding of her dreams. Finally, after two years of dating, she and Len were finally Mr. and Mrs. They could now start their new life together as husband and wife, no longer just the two college kids who were dating too young. No more coughs from her parents’ bedroom as Len lingered to say goodnight. No more jumping apart on the sofa when her older brother sauntered into the living room. And to make tonight extra special, they had used some of their wedding money to splurge on a room in the beautiful Summit Hotel in Manhattan. Esther couldn’t wait to waltz around the room like a movie star, a glamorous married woman at last.

The first sign of trouble came as they drove their beat up Dodge into the hotel’s circular driveway. The doorman’s quizzical gaze drifted from the wilted bridal bouquet on Esther’s lap to Len’s rumpled tuxedo jacket tossed on the back seat as he asked, “Help you, sonny”?

Shouldn’t he be opening the door for us? wondered Esther. Wasn’t he supposed to say, “Welcome to our hotel,” with a big smile on his face and then rush to help us out with our luggage? At least that’s the way she had imagined this night.

“We, um…..we have a reservation.”

Len cleared his throat in an attempt to sound assertive but Esther thought he just sounded scared. The older man towered over her new husband and laughed out loud. Len pulled himself up to his full 5”5’ inches and began again, a little louder this time.

“We have a reservation for tonight, sir. We made it months ago. I even got a confirmation…..”

Len searched through his pants’ pockets for several long seconds until he finally retrieved a wrinkled sheet of paper. He straightened it out with his sleeve and handed it to the doorman. “Here it is,” like I said. “June 16, 1964.” The man’s gaze softened as he looked over at Esther and then back again at Len who stood sweating next to his new bride, but he still shook his head.

“You gotta’ be kidding, kid. Ever hear of the World’s Fair? I don’t care what your paper says. This June, there isn’t a hotel room available at any price in this whole city! You can leave the young lady and your car right here on the side and check it out for yourself. But one thing’s for sure. You’re not going to be staying at this hotel tonight.”

Esther blinked back tears, but Len turned to her and winked. “Don’t worry, Es. I’ll straighten this out. Just lock the door and I’ll be right back. I’m sure it’s just some misunderstanding.”

The doorman shrugged, but Esther felt better. Her new husband, he would take care of her. He would fix everything.

Five minutes later a red-faced Len came walking towards her. He kept his eyes focused on the sidewalk as he spoke.

“They said they’re all sold out. Overbooked or something. It’s some kind of a law in New York. If a guest refuses to leave the hotel you just can’t kick them out.”

“What do you mean?” her voice cracked. “We arranged this months ago. Where will we go now?”

Esther tried to erase the mental image of her showing up this night at her parents’ apartment or worse, at her in-laws.

“Go back in,” she pleaded, her voice growing desperate. “Tell them we have nowhere else to stay. Be forceful….”

This time Len was gone for fifteen minutes, but when he finally reappeared he was smiling and waving a piece of notepaper at her like a prize.

“I guess the guy felt sorry for me. I explained it was our honeymoon and that my beautiful bride was sitting in the car bawling her pretty eyes out. He said that The Summit had just bought a new hotel over on Park Avenue called The Doral. It’s not officially open to the public yet, but he arranged a room for us there as a special favor.”

Esther leaned back in her seat and exhaled in relief as Len pulled the car out of the driveway and headed for the Doral. They were quiet as they drove uptown on Park and swiveled downtown on Park. They peered at the buildings in the darkness and checked the numbers. They searched… There was simply no hotel at the address scrawled on the now crumpled paper.

“Maybe they were just trying to get rid of you so that you wouldn’t cause trouble,” Esther timidly suggested. “Let’s go back and…..”

“Oh, no!” Len was shouting at her now, practically spitting the words out in his frustration… There is no way I am going to go back into that lobby again. You want to go so badly? Be my guest. Let them laugh at you and see how you like it.”

“Why should I be the one to go”? Esther was crying now, her mascara running in rivulets down her pale face. “You’re the one that was supposed to take care of the reservations.” Her voice rose. “I said I would do it. I’m not the one who messed up, you know.”

Len gunned the engine so hard that Esther jerked forward in her seat. She sat without speaking as Len shifted his gaze away from her and drove in endless circles around the same block.

Esther couldn’t believe it. It had taken all of five hours and they were having their first married fight. She swiveled away from Len and kept looking out of the window, dabbing her moist eyes with a tissue. Len stared straight ahead in stubborn silence. Suddenly, Esther screamed loudly. “There. Look. Look. Over there…. on the sidewalk”!

There it was, the sign they had missed seeing several times that long, dark night. Propped against the doorway of a large, shadowy building, it read: DORAL HOTEL-WATCH FOR GRAND OPENING-SEPT 1965

This time they parked and walked into the echoing hallway together. Len carried their suitcase in one hand and held Esther’s hand with the other. A lone security guard greeted them, confirming that the Summit concierge had already phoned and that they were to be the very first and only guests at the still unfinished Doral Hotel. The guard, walked ahead of them leading the way. The newlyweds followed, stepping carefully over rough boards and tools as he pulled on the chains attached to the naked light bulbs.

“Don’t worry, “he chuckled. “At least the elevator is working. You’re lucky, by the way. They won’t start hammering on your floor “til later in the morning, seein’ that you’re on the top. You two will be able to get your beauty rest.” He smiled again as he led them into room 1805, the penthouse.

Surprisingly, the room they were shown to was furnished and quite pretty. It was the only finished room in the hotel, the decorators’ model for the yet to be completed other rooms.

“I’m sorry I yelled,” Len said softly as he locked the door behind them. I just wanted everything to be so perfect for you.”

Esther nodded in agreement. “I know. And I shouldn’t have cried like a baby but I didn’t know where we would go. I know you tried your best. No more fights from now on, okay”?

“No more fights, ever,” he agreed.

Esther stifled a yawn as she turned to Len, a huge grin lighting up her tired features.

“I guess it is true what everyone says about successful marriages. It’s all about accommodations”!

“And it’s always under construction,” Len chimed in.

It was a lesson learned early and well.

With that Esther and Len both burst into laughter and collapsed, giggling and exhausted on their honeymoon bed.

That promise held until the next morning when the newlyweds couldn’t decide where to go for breakfast. This time, though, Esther stopped herself when she heard their voices take on a strident tone. If I’ve learned anything from last night, she thought, it’s that marriage is about accommodations. She turned to Len, “How about if I choose the place for breakfast and you decide where we go afterward?” Soon, they were happily on their way.

Estelle Glass, a Teaneck resident is a retired educator who is now happily writing her own essays.

By Estelle Glass

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