It was the middle of the night when Mr. Williams finally got to his hotel room. He was dressed immaculately, in a black suit and necktie.
Work had been tough that day.
He couldn’t wait to lose the tie.
He slid his door key into the lock. The light changed to green, and he walked in.
He barely looked around the room. He’d been to so many hotels that he automatically understood the layout: Bathroom there, bedroom there. Dresser and TV over there.
In a practiced routine, he placed his overnight bag on the bed and opened it.
He pulled out a framed photo of his wife and kids. He would have called them, but by now they were fast asleep. He missed them every time he traveled.
He stood there for a moment, not moving. It wasn’t a break in his routine. He’d been travelling for 15 years and it was wearing on him. And so, every night away from home, he took a few moments to live something else. He closed his eyes and imagined abandoning his career. He thought about returning home and never leaving again. He felt his wife’s hands, his children’s hugs and the well worn feel of the family sofa. He felt his shoulders relax. He lived for that brief spell of dream time. One day, he would make it a reality, but not today.
The hotel room, with a photo of his family next to the dresser, would have to do.
Robotically, he pulled a hanger from the mini-closet and hung up his suit. He changed to his overnight clothes – sweat pants and a T-shirt.
He considered going to the hotel bar for a drink, but thought better of it. It was late and he was exhausted and there was nothing to be gained by drinking with others.
He moved his bag to the floor, slipped into the bed, and turned on the TV. There was nothing worth watching, but he let it play nonetheless. The images and sounds informed his dreams.
And then, slowly, he drifted off.
It was noon when he heard the bang on the door.
“Mr. Williams,” said a familiar voice, “Time to get to work.”
Mr. Williams rolled out of bed.
He wouldn’t be coming back to the hotel.
He changed back into his suit, packed away his sweatpants and T-shirt and then lovingly moved the family photo to his bag.
Within three minutes, he was out the door and ready to join his team.
One of the younger guys saw him coming out of the elevator. “Yo, Williams,” he shouted.
Mr. Williams looked up. The kid’s life was simple; no family, just career. And he was a happy kid, and damned good at what he did. But Mr. Williams wouldn’t have traded roles for the world.
“You ready?” Mr. Williams asked, casually.
“As ready as I’m gonna be,” said the kid.
And so they strode out of the lobby.
Everybody’s eyes followed them. They were famous. For the onlookers in the lobby, seeing Mr. Williams and the kid walk out was something special.
But for Mr. Williams, it was just another stop in the basketball league’s 82-game schedule.