It was when she yelled at him for making noise when he stumbled back to bed after a trip to the bathroom that Bob decided he had had enough. It was her shoes he had stumbled over and, anyway, at seventy six he figured he should be treated with more respect.
So, the next day, when she went off to her hospital volunteer group he threw a bunch of stuff into a suitcase, trying hard to make it roughly resemble the packing jobs that she had done for him when he’d left for all of his sales trips in the past. He threw the stuff into the suitcase and dragged it downstairs and was halfway out the door when he realized that now they only had one car and she had it and so he wasn’t going anywhere.
He stood in the hallway, shifting from foot to foot and wondering what to do next. He felt dumb, a grown man standing at his own front door next to his suitcase. So he picked up the phone and called a taxi, a task that in the past had always been performed by his wife and, to his amazement, the taxi came within minutes and the driver took his suitcase and placed it carefully in the trunk of the car.
“Going for a trip?” the driver, a dark haired young man, asked, glancing into the mirror.
Bob was momentarily confused. Then he supposed that, yes, he was going for a trip, and so he said, “Yes.”
The driver glanced at him again and didn’t say anything more.
When he got to the hotel he unpacked his suitcase and realized that he had forgotten his toothbrush, underwear, deodorant, and after shave. He stood there at the foot of the perfectly made bed thinking that he had remembered all of the most external things, the sweater, the shirt, the pants, even a tie, but he had forgotten those items most intimate to himself.
He sat down with his feet up on the bed and clicked on the television. He had this funny feeling in his stomach, like he had done something terribly wrong, a feeling that had followed him throughout life, arising whenever he deviated from what he believed was his socially designated path, but then he told himself that he was seventy six years old and if he wanted to take himself to a hotel he could do that.
He watched a few inane game shows, slowly feeling himself falling under their spell, observing the drama on the faces of the participants and realizing, as he never did when he clicked on the set at home, that these were real people, on the stage and in the audience and running the cameras and back in the dark control rooms, pushing the buttons that made all those strange images fly through the air, and the moments of their lives were flashing past just as they were for him as he sat on the bed and watched. It seemed odd that he never had this thought when he was at home. It seemed that when he was at home his attention went from the newspaper to the television to lunch to the card game with the neighbors and he never realized that he was profoundly under the influence of some strange spell that kept him from seeing how the moments were passing by. But they were. He sat on the bed, blinking.
Then it all seemed very sad, the cheering game show participants and the obedient clapping audience and him, sitting there with his skinny feet in their socks sticking up at the foot of the bed. He stared at this toes for a while and he thought of how his toes had always been there, every day, reliably about six feet away from his head. Good old toes, he thought. Then he thought, what, I’ve been in a hotel for about four hours and already I’m going off my rocker, offering heartfelt expressions of appreciation to my own toes. He clicked off the TV and snapped open the room service menu and ordered lunch.
After lunch he sat in the chair by the desk and wondered what he should do. Perhaps he would go to Prague. He had heard that it was an interesting city and he imagined himself walking through its ancient streets. Then he imagined some robber sticking a gun in his ribs and ordering him to hand over his money. That would be a joke. He would grab the guy’s arm and bend over so the gun was against his head and tell him to do a good job. It would be an interesting death, he thought, blown away by a robber on the streets of Prague.
Then he thought about Betsy. He knew she would catch on immediately when she returned home from the meeting. She was smart like that. She would notice that the suitcase and the clothes were gone and she wouldn’t insult him by believing that he had ventured off on some dementia induced escapade. She would stand in the bedroom and look at the open closet and drawers and she would wonder. But really, she would know.
He tried to remind himself of the resentment that he felt at the various small insults he had suffered over the years. The insinuations that what he did was never enough, that he wasn’t smart enough or romantic enough or successful enough. Well, maybe he had another fate, another destiny, in Prague or Sydney or some such place, and all he had to do was unhook himself from this one.
In the evening he dressed up in his sweater and tie and went down to the hotel bar. The bartender brought him his drink and asked him if he was from out of town.
“Nope,” Bob said.
The bartender glanced at him and didn’t say anything more. Bob drank his drink and wondered; what am I supposed to say, no, I’m not from out of town, I’m seventy six years old and I’m running away from my wife?
That night he slept fitfully in the hard hotel bed. He kept dreaming that he was in Prague and people were chasing him through dark streets and he kept thinking, why am I running away, why am I running away?
He woke up feeling foggy headed and ordered orange juice and coffee and toast in his room. He clicked on the TV and found, remarkably, that some kind of demonstration was happening in Prague, students were running around shouting in an indecipherable language, while police with dark plexiglass shields stood silently before them.
Who cares about Prague, he suddenly thought as he finished his coffee, the moments are passing by there and here and what does it matter if they are filled with old buildings and demonstrations or card games and nagging. It’s something else that matters.
He went downstairs to get a newspaper and glanced over and then looked back and saw that Betsy was sitting in the lobby. She was sitting in a flowered chair with her purse in her lap and she was looking at him.
He felt something happen inside himself and he walked over to her. It was something like nervousness but it was a good nervousness, like before the big game when he was a kid. She looked small in the chair, with the back of the tall flowered chair towering over her head. He looked down at her and noticed that her eyes were glistening. He noticed the lines beside her eyes and on her forehead, so familiar to him, and he noticed the directness and clarity of her eyes. Prague, he thought, shaking his head.
“I’ve been an ass,” he said, looking at her, “It won’t happen again.”
She looked at him with her gleaming eyes. “It doesn’t matter,” she said.  She smiled, and he felt something happen in his heart that he hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Let’s go home,” he said.
She stood up from the flowered chair and took his arm and then together they walked out of the hotel.