The anxiety begins to set in as I realize what I am about to do. I turn the key in my ignition, carefully reverse out of my designated parking space and begin to make my way to the hotel that I am informed he is staying in. The greenery of the pine trees located in my neighborhood and their needles scattered across the ground are out of place on this warm summer day. I insert the open end of my USB cord that is sitting unplugged into my phone to play some tunes in a desolate attempt to settle my unease. I promptly turn the control knob to the left as the volume remained turned up a bit higher than I typically leave it prior to shutting off my engine earlier today once my errands were complete. This is not a time for loud music. Sometimes, I find shuffle mode acts as a disobedient toddler in that it refuses to accommodate my musical mood when I’m not quite sure what state I am in myself. It chooses songs that are wildly unfit although it is my fault for trusting technology to communicate telepathically. Today, however, I hear the sweet melodic tone of the Broods begin. This will do nicely.
I am already seven minutes into the 23-minute drive it takes me to get to my destination. My hands have turned a shade of white. I notice I am losing feeling from how hard I am gripping the steering wheel. I bring awareness back into my fingertips by curling and uncurling them around an imaginary stress-relieving ball. I look up into the clear blue sky hoping for a sense of direction on what I am to do, but my decision has been made. I haven’t seen this man in over a year. A year excluding the one time that I came face to face with both him and his wife while working in a restaurant, not my proudest moment running into an old flame. Over a year since I had formed words to speak to him in person. Over a year since he had told me he loved me. What am I doing? I question myself for I know what I’m doing is completely wrong of me yet here I am driving to see him as if nothing had changed. Oh, but everything had altered immensely. Truth is, I do not know what I am doing. I stare blankly at the road ahead of me attempting to clear all previous memories in order to focus on the task at hand for the time being. Down to 14 minutes left, but who’s counting?
All at once, the worst yet best memory I had ever had with this man flooded into my mental images. On a whim, I decided to text him while out for a drink after work with a few coworkers. I missed him. And in all honesty, I had suffered the worst heartbreak yet. I felt inadequate and found my self-esteem was suffering. I hated feeling that way. I received a text message back inquiring about my festivities for the evening. This was September, two years ago. He was set to marry in November. Shocked from the responsive communication from this particular individual, I resisted the urge to answer in that moment. It was my attempt to be mysterious. Shortly after leaving the bar across the street from my workplace, I noticed I did not respond to his text. Being slightly inebriated at this point, I decided to call him. He told me he had a lot going on, as did I. I had to admit that at this point in my life, the thought of seeing his familiar face comforted me. I gave into his rather infrequent request. I simply couldn’t turn off the emotions that began to cloud my better judgment.
I arrived shortly after we spoke over the phone. I walked into the house I had gotten a tour of not long before, another evening a while back that transpired when it shouldn’t have. He welcomed me with a friendly hug and offered me a beverage. We both opted for his collection of white wine laughing at the fact that we were now considered grown ups that held alcoholic beverages within our households. It seems like yesterday we were teenagers sneaking around hiding a stash of alcohol in his closet for emergency use should a party break out. He asked how I was, the temptation to weep in that moment was pushed aside. It is the one question that, when emotionally unstable, can put you over the edge. I told him what had happened in so many words, and suggested we take advantage of the pool table calling our names in the front room. I didn’t want to talk about my recent relationship status update. Or better, lack of relationship update. After playing pool for a bit and losing rather horribly, the glasses of wine that I had during our battle began to set in in addition to the drink, or two, that I had prior. He offered for me to lay down for a bit, or I said I was going to, I do not recall. Either way I eagerly plopped down onto his unmade bed trying to prevent the room from spinning in the process. Then, something happened.
I was overcome with the familiarity of being with this person, my recently ended romance, and the combination of negative events that had transpired in my life hit me like a ton of bricks. I was a pot of boiling water filling to the brim with bubbles, higher and higher, until I erupted burning him in the process. I had one of those moments that you may have now and again when shedding tears alone. But I wasn’t alone. The type of moment where you can’t catch your breath, crying becomes a scream that cannot be heard. A mixture of hyperventilation and anxiety becomes you. Tears fall uncontrollably while you are doing everything in your power to intake oxygen in order to continue to wail even harder than the moment before. He saw a side of me that no one has ever seen and in turn, he reacted in a way that I have still not been able to comprehend. He held me, comforted me. He told me that many other people do not have the strength to handle what I had gone through, yet here I am. He used clichés such as there would be no rainbows if we hadn’t experienced the rain. He told me he loved me. I fell apart at the seams when those three little words came from his mouth and began to sob even more heavily. I didn’t think it was possible in that moment. In the most disgusting, vulnerable position I had ever been in, runny nose and all, he loved me.
Down to nine minutes before I would arrive onto the scene of the busy hotel belonging in Sin City. I find it comedic that the city that is referred to as “sin” also happens to be 116˚F in the blistering sun at this very moment. My eyes are fixed on the clock located on the map of my phone guiding me to the destination. The minutes had gone by more rapidly than I had thought. Then again, I know what I am getting myself into. I ignore the sudden increase of my heartbeat in my chest. It feels as if it is attempting to escape the confines of my sternum. If I weren’t holding onto my steering wheel so tight, yet again, I would find that my hands are shaking. Almost as much as his voice was the night that could have determined our forever. The night that I saw him shed a tear for the first time. Seven minutes until I reach my destination.
The next time around, he asked to see me. It was October now with his impending wedding still set in November. He told me things had changed and I was unaware of what that had meant at the time. He needed me. I admit I am a horrible human being. As much as I knew everything I did to stay in touch with this person holding on to a small fraction of my heart was inappropriate, I couldn’t stop my actions as much as he could. I planned to arrive not long after receiving his phone call. He told me that prior to confirming my arrival, there was a small get together taking place with a few friends. I almost felt special that he had booted them out so he could see me. At this point, my heart had been given back to the man that had broken it, the person he had last seen crying in his arms was a distant memory. I felt as though I could spend the rest of my life with the man who had destroyed me the last time I had seen the person I was physically with now.
We entered the kitchen to get a glass of water before sitting down onto the large black sectional opposite of his television that was tuned into ESPN. Typical. I wanted to get right to the details of his reason for having me here. Then there it was. His wedding was postponed. My heart jumped. He did not know if she was the woman he wanted to marry. He still thought of me, the life we could have together. I hadn’t believed him when he told me he loved me as I laid sobbing in his arms. I had assumed he said those words in order to comfort me at the time. Here he was telling me he loved me. He wanted to take back the time that we had spent apart, wished he had acted differently. “I was so young,” he said morosely, “I wasn’t ready for marriage and kids and hearing myself talk about them was…scary.”
This moment tugged at my heartstrings. He was far from drunk, however, I could tell that he had consumed a couple alcoholic beverages during the earlier part of the evening spent with friends. Tears filled his eyes as he told me he loved me, wanted to spend his life with me. When I met him years ago, he was a Pastor’s son. He was expected to act a certain way. I loved his family and they loved me. When this new woman came into the picture, it was a whirlwind of a relationship. Although I still had heard from him and his family, it was almost too perfect having her be who she was. She was the daughter of a Pastor as well. She had moved from Seattle to be with him in Phoenix, started getting involved with his family’s work, presenting herself as a Pastor’s wife. I always knew deep down that he felt pressured to be with her, and here he was confirming it. He wanted to be with me, yet he couldn’t take back the last two years spent with someone else. And me, if I hadn’t been so fixated on a man that I knew I would never be with, I may have said yes to a different life. But then what?
That was now over two years ago. They wed in April of last year after pushing back the wedding. Twice. He made his decision, yet for some reason I’m still driving another five minutes away to see him when I know it is entirely wrong of me. I can’t help but wonder, if I had said that I wanted to be with him too if my life would be completely different now? I make a left merging onto the 215 from Sahara Avenue. I get off onto the first exit, curving around to the left overlooking the underlying freeway. I keep to the right hand side ready to make my turn onto the infamous Las Vegas Blvd. His hotel sits on the left hand side. I turn in heading into the underground section dedicated to self-parking patrons. There it goes again, my heartbeat speeding up with anticipation. I pull down the sun visor located above my head in an attempt to look more presentable. This is as good as it’s gonna get. I text him to meet me in the lobby of the hotel since it is much easier to locate. The casinos here are far too large to find anybody within a reasonable amount of time regardless of how often you frequent the area. I find the nearest elevator and turn around one last time to take note of my parking space. I vow to not get lost finding my vehicle. Standing in the elevator I push the button marked ‘Casino.’ There is no turning back now.
I follow the many illuminated signs pointing in the direction of the lobby. There is a structure in the middle made up of replicated historical statues that I decided would be perfect to stand by facing into the casino where he will be approaching from. Easy to find. I wait for him. I’m slightly horrified of the person I am about to see. Before I can spot him, I hear music coming from my right. Oh look, I think to myself, how stereotypical of Las Vegas. The band and a group of dancers make their way towards me and I panic as realize I am standing directly in the dancer marked area. They are done up in headdresses and minimal costumes to cover their more discreet parts. I dodge the aggressive performers and turn to view part of the show that I had momentarily became a part of. I remember why I am here, and turn around facing the casino to find my reason for standing in this very spot. There he is, laughing at my short-lived appearance in the flashy afternoon show looking the same as I remember.