Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hotel Del Coronado




5"x7" oil on clayboard

     In 2012 I was vacationing in San Diego with some family and had the opportunity to visit the Hotel Del Coronado, a beautiful, grand hotel built in 1888.  It is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, a young woman who in 1892 arrived at the hotel, pregnant and ill.  She gave an alias and told people she was waiting for her husband to arrive. Five days later, however, she was found shot in the head on some steps leading down to the beach.  It was thought to be a suicide but . . . maybe her husband, a rather shady character in fact, had finally come for her.
     We were there on a very foggy morning and the atmosphere, coupled with Kate's story inspired me to write the following.


Beautiful Stranger

     She stares out toward the beach, seeing nothing this morning but pale, soft mist. The sea beckons her as it always does. Her inability to see it only increases its gravity.  She turns from the window and crosses to the door, hesitates before leaving the safety of her room, its warmth, and the soft snoring of last night’s companions.
     Taking a deep breath she steps out into the empty corridor. It’s too early for most of the hotel’s guests to be about. She prefers not to be seen anyway, so gathers up her skirt and races quietly down the hall. The door to the stairwell is unlocked and, as she pushes through, the hairs at the back of her neck stand on end. It’s a common sensation she experiences each morning as she makes her way down to the beach. Halfway down the steps finds the same sharp pain in her head and the lightbulb, as often happens, goes out. Once she makes it to the bottom she’s fine.
     Outside, the mist is still so thick that the edge of the water can’t yet be seen. She follows the sound of the waves until she is completely engulfed in whiteness. It’s a disconcerting feeling and would be completely disorienting if she were not able to turn and see the soft glow of the gas lamps that are still lit around the hotel - anchors signaling the way home. As long as she can still see their light she is not lost.
     She walks further toward the surf, and at last she sees the water as it rushes up to splash at the hem of her skirt. Taking a few more steps forward the next wave breaks at her knees and nearly topples her. She stops here. Death looms a few yards out. It’s exhilarating to know that she has that choice. It won’t be today though. 
     She stands here for quite some time. The fog dissipates. She begins to hear voices as the other guests file down to dip their feet in the ocean, morning cups of coffee in their hands. She turns toward the hotel. The gas lamps have been turned off.
     Guests she passes on her way back to her room pay her no mind. It’s quite rare for one to acknowledge her. How long has she been tolerating their indifference? She can’t recall. She’s waiting for someone. As time passes, she seems to be forgetting for whom that is, just as they seem to have forgotten that she is here.

     She returns to her room. Her companions are gone, probably down to breakfast.  She isn’t hungry. She returns to her place at the window, looking out onto the beach.  Waiting for tomorrow.


   

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