I didn’t have a great epiphany or anything. Thank, God. The last epiphany I had was the creation of The Grand Plan which had, for the most part, helped lead to said depression. No, I think I just got bored. I mean, how much lying around in a hotel room and feeling sorry for yourself can one man do? Especially, when they have to make sure they get back to work expressing their misery for the purpose of sharing it with others (that would be you). And making sure said others are dragged down with him…I mean, said others can feel the joy of empathizing and connecting with their fellow human beings in this richly rewarding, post-modern masterpiece.
And so, here we are. Back again. Just you and me at a roulette table with $10,000 on black. That’s right. I said ten grand on one bet. Why not? It’s not like I had anything to lose…Well, besides the ten thousand dollars. The way the odds work statistically in gambling is that the house has only a very, very slight edge on any given bet. However, and this is the huge “however,” and how all these big, tacky hotels get built, the more rounds of any game played the more the likelihood that those odds will show and the house will win.
What do you mean you’re confused? That’s MY job. It’s really simple. The more hands of cards you play, or dice you roll, or spins on the wheel you take, or whatever, the more you are assuring the slight statistical edge the casino has in the game will become the determining factor. Got it? Therefore, wherein, ipso facto, per se, your best chance, statistically, of winning is to bet everything you have on one turn. Hence the ten thousand dollars placed on black.
Actually, Roulette was one of the worst games in terms of odds you could play. Nothing as stupidly geared against you as slot machines, which were truly for suckers and old ladies, but still, not great. Baccarat was supposedly the best but I could hardly spell it, yet alone play it. So here we are watching a little ball spin around whose randomness would decide if I walked out with twenty thousand dollars or just donated ten grand to this tacky monstrosity.
I kept thinking that I should let it decide something else for me too. Maybe if black came up I would tell Nancy everything. No, couldn’t do that. Her guilt about my suicide. Maybe if black came up I would tell Nancy everything and then NOT kill myself the way I planned. I would tell her and just take my chances with The Freaky Man Killer Gene and risk fate. Not that anything good would come of that, anyway. There’s the little matter of Josh and her being married and so forth. Could I do that? Could I really walk away from ending it? After all this? I was just scared and I knew it. I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to end things on some cliff in Los Angeles the way I planned. Then again…It came up red. I guess that’s a sign. Ten thousand dollars gone, just like that. And any thoughts of taking the coward’s way out along with it. I had to follow through with this. Finish what I had started. After all, rules are rules.
I’ll give you a few minutes to appreciate the subtle yet effective symbolism, of the previous paragraph. Not to mention its implied commentary on mankind, love and fate. Not buying it are you? Yeah, me either. I didn’t think of any of that shit until the day after I wrote the paragraph. It sounded good though, didn’t it? What do you mean, not really? Fine. Moving on…
“Moving on up…To the East Side…To a de-lux apartment in the sky-yyyyy…Sorry, just having a “Jefferson’s” flashback since I said “Moving on.” Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Although, come to think of it, it is strange where people find happiness. Who would think that moving to a bland skyscraper on the Upper East Side of Manhattan would mean so much to someone? How come I could never find something that simple to satisfy me…You’re waiting aren’t you? For me to say something really crude and sexist right now, since I said “satisfy me.” Get your mind out of the gutter, People. I have real issues to worry about.
For one thing, I was headed toward Los Angeles. I was driving down a really dull stretch of highway with my stomach doing its thing in full Technicolor glory…And I had no idea what I was going to do once I got there. I had been unable to contact the LA-X. Ever so comely, Kristen. Yes, I said “comely” but “cumly” is also quite accurate. Those legs just…Anyway, I hadn’t been able to reach her or find out where she lived or anything.
And Saint Melissa. She was probably still in a clinic receiving intensive therapy for the ordeal of spending six years with me. All saints must endure torture, apparently. At least according to all those nasty paintings of the poor sods being burned, slashed, beheaded, ripped apart and so on. Pretty gross if you ask me. Anyway, in terms of sainthood, she certainly qualified, the enduring torture part included. So far, I had been completely unsuccessful in reestablishing contact. But another try to the e-mail address of her office at the University led to a lovely little exchange of “hi, how have you been..” and so on and so forth. All of which, ultimately, resulted in the revelation that she wasn’t sure it was a good idea for the two of us to meet.
No, not because she hadn’t forgiven me for the agony I made her endure by spending six years with me. That I would have understood. No, this was far more bizarre. Her husband, Andrew, “felt uncomfortable” with the idea. How Victorian of him. I mean, I am the first to admit that letting a lech like me around your wife is a little like putting heroin in front of a supermodel. But that’s not the point. How could you not respect your wife enough to let her make the call on her own and to defend her own honor? I mean, Melissa was certainly bright enough and strong enough to have no trouble fending for herself against anyone. How insulting to her. Not to mention the fact, that she was far too well aware of what I was really like to ever let herself make that mistake again. Ever.
What I find particularly ironic is that the main reason I want to see Melissa isn’t to get laid, again. Out of all the people in the world that had earned a hardy “thank you” it was her. Believe it or not, I really just wanted to know that she was happy. So much so, that I would even pass on sleeping with her again if the chance arose just to avoid causing her any pain. Maybe. No, I would. I wouldn’t want to cause her any conflict with her husband. Probably. Depending on exactly how hot she still looked and how open to the idea she was. God, I am a pig.
But that’s not the point. I still think it’s just plain wrong for her husband to not respect her enough to let her make her own decisions. I mean, it wasn’t like I could force her to do anything she didn’t want to do. I wonder if he was one of those sick men that never got over the fact that his wife wasn’t a virgin when he had met her. So sad.
Speaking of sad, this stretch of highway between Las Vegas and L.A. was a total drag. There was no scenery to speak of, but a whole lot of cars. Traffic in the desert. Who would have thought? Do you remember, ever so long ago, when I was going on and on about trains and high-speed rail? What do you mean you were ignoring me and skimmed over that part? Screw You! As I was saying, or trying to say, this was one of the corridors I was talking about. Las Vegas to L.A. by bullet train. Now, THAT would be cool. Not quite as cool as cruising down the road in your Mini, mind you…but damn cool. Too bad it would never happen. But at least it would still be cheap to keep driving your gas-guzzling-environment-endangering-dangerous-to-other-drivers-SUV. As long as we had a big army to defend that overseas oil, anyway.
EXT. RESTAURANT – NIGHT
An outdoor cafe in San Francisco. Tom and Julia talk over coffee as they stare out over the hills of the city. And yes, it’s imaginary. I tend to do that when I get bored driving, if you haven’t realized. Now, pay attention.
What are you thinking about?
What about me? Or don’t I want to know.
Nothing like that. I think of you in other
ways besides being naked and…
I’m already sorry I asked.
No, seriously. I think about you all
She stares down into her empty coffee mug.
I’m sorry. I know this is just incredibly
awkward for you.
No. I mean, it is. But…
She stops mid-sentence.
Come on. What?
I think about you a lot, too. And it
really scares me.
She smiles. They sit there a second in awkward silence.
So, now what?
And with that, I slam on the brakes. No, not figuratively. What sort of a book do you think this is? In the car. I’m in the car remember? Traffic was at a dead stop on the highway. Not moving. Except for me as I almost plowed right into the back of that Volvo. Lucky for me, they put some really good brakes on this thing.
Well, that would have been one way to end it. That would have sucked, though. I mean, it would have really sucked for the Yuppie Mom in the Volvo (some cliches are cliches for a reason). No, I meant for me. To be dead before I had the chance to finish. The chance to end things properly.
Right then and there, stuck in some traffic jam in the middle of the desert, I made a huge decision. I need to talk to Nancy, now. L.A. would just have to wait. It’s not like I had much to do there, anyway. Melissa had blown me off and Kristen was nowhere to be found. I mean, there was Paul. But this had to be done. I couldn’t keep playing both sides of these conversations out in my head. It was just too hard. The trick was going to be finding out a way to resolve it without totally ruining Nancy’s life or making my increasingly short one even more miserable than it already was.
And then as traffic started to move I became really hot. As in sweating. I was in a desert but this wasn’t that. This was my heart racing. My head feeling dizzy. Maybe, the Freaky Man Killer Gene had struck. I couldn’t breath. I could hardly keep focused enough to move the car, inch by inch, as traffic moved. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like my heart was going to explode. In short, I honestly and truly felt like I was going to die.
Fuck me. I was going to die right here in the desert stuck in traffic. Not exactly what I had in mind. My heart kept racing. I got more and more lightheaded. I needed to stop. I pulled to the side of the road. Shut off the engine. Turned my hazard lights on. And just sat there. And sat there. And sat there some more. And then it passed. Not quite “just like that.” More it slowly subsided and just made me feel really jittery and anxious. “On edge” does not begin to do it justice.
I gingerly restarted the Mini and pulled back out into traffic. It took quite a few cars going by before one, finally, let me in. It was an SUV. Sometimes my world really did feel like it was turning upside down. Anyway, and so off I was, once again. Me and the Mini. Both slightly shaken but determined to move on.
Many hours later I saw a sign saying “San Francisco 112 miles.” I was ridiculously tired. I had to decide if I was going to get off at the next exit. Yes, I said “get off.” Grow up, already. As I was saying, I had to decide if I was going to stop here or try to keep going until I reached San Francisco. In all honesty, even without traffic hell, this would be an uncomfortably long drive in the Mini. My back was killing me and my knee felt locked in position. Not to mention, the strange exhaustion from that other thing. In short, I wasn’t going to make it.
So, I stopped in some strip-mall, fast-food restaurant hell and got a room at a Marriot Courtyard. It suited me just fine. I thought about calling Nancy (and Josh…There was always the implied “and Josh,” lest you forget.). I decided against it since I wasn’t exactly feeling alive and alert. I thought about taking a shower but really just needed to sit down for a while. I lied on the bed and fell asleep, almost instantly.
I woke up twenty minutes later and felt even worse. In fact, I felt like hell. I made myself some bad coffee in the little maker they had in the room. That helped a little. A shower and some food and I would be fine. Well, as fine as I was going to be, anyway.
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