On the plane trip home, after we’ve been travelling, I always ask my husband, ‘What was your favourite bit?’
He always says, “The sex.”
I say, “We could’ve had sex at home.”
“I know,” he says. “I’m a simple person, really.”
It was his birthday. I considered buying him a power tool, or maybe a gift voucher from Bunnings so he could choose his own. Bunnings makes him immeasurably happy. He hums in the aisles. He denies this. He says the Bunnings experience is satisfying, but not rapturous. He says I have a misbegotten idea that he likes home renovation.
This puts me in mind of a very satisfying conversation he reported having at Christmas drinks at his work. He said that several of his male colleagues were discussing their holiday plans. Most were allocating time during their break to undertake necessary home maintenance. All agreed that their wives regarded this as an imposition. An act of selfishness. A commandeering of the family summer holiday as ‘me time’.
Apparently, wives regarded their husbands’ painting and hammering as willful and self-centred, and to have the audacity to ask the womenfolk ‘to hold something, like a ladder or a tape measure’ was tantamount to wrecking things for everybody.
I can see the truth in this. I am that wife. So, to avoid any unpleasant stirring up of hostilities, I decide to steer clear of the power-tool option and go straight for the default sex.
I book a hotel room.
We don’t live very far from the city; in some respects, it is odd to spend money on sleeping up the road from your own house. In view of this, not wanting to be wasteful, I opt for the discounted mystery hotel deal. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s only one night, after all, and seediness can have its own allure. Like a Graham Greene novel. We could pretend we are in Vietnam. Or India, in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Our mystery accommodation is standard and unremarkable, the kind of hotel where you might see John and Janette Howard coming down in the lift.
We meet in the foyer on a Friday afternoon. We kiss. We’re a bit excited. I wonder if the receptionist suspects adultery. Hannie from Accounts and Michael from Sales, embarking on a tawdry assignation which will taint their lives forever. Surely she should intervene. Surely she should caution us, before one of us hands over a credit card.
Too late. She has taken a copy of my Visa and handed over the key to Room 1573.
We go up to the fifteenth floor and marvel at the spaciousness of our apartment. We make gin and tonics and eat cashews from the minibar and pad about in our socks. We make plans to sell our house and move in here. I flick through the recommended attractions in the plastic hotel folder. We could visit the Melbourne Aquarium. We could see the world’s largest saltwater crocodile, in the state-of-the- art Croc Lair exhibit. We could marvel at the world’s only display of elephant sharks.