ONE NIGHT ON THE ROOF
OF HEARTBREAK HOTEL
An occasional car whizzed by; otherwise, it was a quiet night on College Avenue. The wild parties wouldn't start until Friday, so there were two whole nights of peace yet to come.
I raised my window and climbed out onto the roof. It was two o'clock in the morning and I had just come home from work. Our restaurant had been busy and my pockets were full of money when I left. This fact, and a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, had put me in high spirits. My clarinet had a new reed in it and I was looking forward to running a few riffs as I enjoyed the cool, dark night.
After running through 'summertime' to warm up, I leaned back against the windowsill and scanned the empty street in front of me. A hint of mint was in the air from the herb garden below. A few windows were lit up, from the late-night studies in the neighborhood. Otherwise, this section of downtown Tallahassee was quiet, shrouded in a fine, dreamlike mist.
Suddenly, I saw two strange figures gliding down the sidewalk. I say gliding, because that's what they seemed to do. They certainly didn't swerve and sway like the drunken students that frequently made their way home this time of night. As they came closer, I saw that they were dressed in antique clothing. As there was a vintage clothing store nearby, I thought nothing of it. Until later.
Now, as they passed in front of the house next door, I could make out pieces of the conversation. Strange talk. Didn't make much sense to me. Certainly not your ordinary dialogue. So I listened closer.
They spoke of horses and the new electric wiring. Of cooks and carriages and an upcoming election. Then, they passed directly under me and I could see them very clearly in the glow of the street lamp.
The man was dressed in formal attire, complete with top hat. The lady was all frills and lace and long elaborate skirts. I watched in amazement as they climbed the front steps of the Heartbreak Hotel and entered. Frantically, I climbed back into my room through the window and raced downstairs.
Macramé hangers filled with philodendrons adorned the stairway, right where I had put them. An old rug that Fuller, the street person slept on, was still there. Several healthy looking roaches peered at me from the walls. Otherwise, the hall was empty. I went around banging on doors and waking up my housemates, asking about the unknown couple. They cursed me and went back to sleep. I crept back upstairs, embarrassed.
It wasn't long after, that the Heartbreak Hotel was sold and torn down. It's beautiful floors ripped out, and the grand old banister removed. This, perhaps, was the final heartbreak. Even now, I think of that night and the elegant couple that strolled along College Avenue arm in arm. In retrospect I have to wonder if these were the original owners, coming home one last time on the dark and mysterious streets of old Tallahassee.