Friday, Oct. 13 is gloomy in Milwaukee. Besides a moment of sunshine peeking through clouds around noon, we haven’t felt the warmth of the sun’s rays in a few days. Taking reprieve from the gray day, I step into The Pfister, where I’ll spend the next couple hours observing. You see, I’m the guest narrator for the week and am on the hunt for a story.
As I’m trying to blend in with the hustle and bustle of a Friday evening at the hotel, a man in a wide-brimmed hat catches my attention. He’s the kind of person you can’t ignore even though he may want you to, oozing with style and a face just weathered enough to show he’s lived an interesting life. He has a mischievous twinkle about him, yet his outfit is tailored enough for a dapper English gentleman. Just a few years prior, he could have played James Bond.
The movement that initially caught my eye is the swinging of his large umbrella as it taps gently against the marble staircase in harmony with his steps. My eyes follow him as he slows partway down the staircase to admire the Victorian dress by Timothy Westbrook on display, and then he pauses to soak in BREAKFAST, a painted portrait by Léon Francois Comerre. This subtle act makes him stand out even more as most people are excitedly greeting old friends instead of admiring art.
Unlike most visitors, he bypasses the front desk once he reaches the main floor and starts through the lobby. I wait as he passes me, noticing the lamp beside me just barely flicker, and can’t help but give in to my curiosity. As soon as he passes, I get up to follow him.
I’m still the length of the bar away from the man when, without stopping or turning, he asks, “Are you Ashley?”
“Yes. How did you know that?” I respond.
Without realizing it, I’m still following him from afar when he steps onto a beautifully engraved gold elevator, pausing. I stop myself as he turns to face me and finally answers, “I saw your picture on the guest narrator poster. I hope you come across something interesting enough to write about.” And with impeccable timing, the elevator doors close between us as he flashes a wide grin my way and I breathe for what feels like the first time in five minutes.
I laugh to myself and look around, wondering if I really just experienced the interaction or if I daydreamed it. Maybe I let Friday the 13th get to my head or the beauty and history pulsing out of The Pfister’s lobby swept away my imagination. Either way, I never learned who the mischievous man was, but I watched the elevator ding to the sixth floor where I imagine he’s enjoying a martini — shaken not stirred, of course.