My mom and I arrived in Las Vegas last Thursday. We’re staying at a modern, clean hotel several blocks from the strip. The front desk staff is friendly and helpful, going so far as to find one among them who’s lived in Nevada long enough to vouch for my mom’s residency in the state.
She needs residency status to file for divorce. Six weeks in a hotel qualifies. That’s why we’re here.
Every other day or so, we cross the hotel parking lot to explore the city. Bus route 202 is a shiny double decker that runs up and down Flamingo Road, and we have ridden on both the bottom and top decks. We’ve walked into Caesar’s (and out again, before Cher could catch us). We’ve found a Chinese restaurant that serves General Chicken so tasty, the waitress knows us by sight.
I’ve taken advantage of the in-hotel laundry facilities, pinned photos of my brother, cousin, cousin’s baby, aunts and uncles, rabbits and cats, around our room, and finally hooked my mom on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
We’re definitely not in Buffalo anymore, Toto. Buffalo is an old city with traffic traveling in single lanes past heaps of snow and naked trees. Here, Flamingo Road is not the only “road” carrying five lanes of traffic in either direction. Blue skies are the order of every day. Palm trees front most buildings. The Albertson’s grocery store has slot machines near the front door, with a sign reading “Free beverage for players!” and an elderly attendant with a bald spot under her grey curls, leaning her stool back against the counter as she reads. Every strip mall has a games parlor. The other day, I went out in just a t-shirt and hoodie; I haven’t touched the scarf and hat I couldn’t have left the house without two weeks ago.
I like this weather better. I’m not so hot on the ten-lane roads.
Our sentence here is six weeks. I say “sentence” for dramatic effect and because our stay does have a certain finite, no-possiblity-for-parole feel to it. To be fair, the wardens are much friendlier than in the Big House. Despite the isolated, strip-malled nature of our current existence, however, I do my best to put a good face on things. I remind myself that this is an opportunity to finish creative projects, truly relax, and spend an important (albeit extremely painful) few weeks with my mom. My friend.
I also remind myself that, right now, neither my mom or I would be jumping for joy even if our hotel was inside the Louvre. She’s saying goodbye to someone she lived with and loved for thirty years. That’s a helluva commitment, and where ever I am, I will feel some of what she feels. I will have to re-plant a life in this country I uprooted and left to wither while I flew to Spain. And I will have to bite my nails, waiting for Marcus to arrive.
Stumbling out of England in such a hurry, I arrived here resistant to the new. I left behind the man I love, great friends, a nanny gig involving adorable children and an easygoing boss, in an area remarkably resembling heaven. It’s hard to let that go, and invest in, trust, or grapple with anything new. So, I’ve been short with strangers, ignored my resume, avoided Craigslist and all its networking potential. I’ve cried. I just couldn’t consider looking for a fifth job in one year, familiarizing myself with yet another town, or confiding in people who aren’t those I left behind in New York, Seattle, Reus, Totnes…
Instead, I went with my mom to Vegas. Strangers may assume such a trip constitutes incredible novelty, but the truth is (and I say this as a compliment to her), novelty is relative, and going on some weird trip to some weird place with my mom is nothing new.
Tonight, I’m grateful for the prison sentence, because prison prepare one for novelty. “Nothing,” my thinking goes, “Could be worse than the two of us spending six weeks alone in a strange town with nothing to do but watch emotidramas.” So when we leave, I’ll be ready to apply for new jobs, learn new bus routes, and look at new apartments. Talk, most importantly, to new people. I’ll be ready to settle down, even if, once again, by my choices or others’, I can only settle long enough to write a few blogs about it. That’s okay. If 2008 was any indication, even if it hurts, it will be worth it.