All my life, my heart has sought a thing I cannot name.
Remembered line from a long-
There was so much trash, it looked a bit like a junk yard. Old tires, twisted scrap metal from who-knows-what, an old phone book here, other odds and ends, all half buried in the desert sand among the occasional weed or dry brush. I unzipped and relieved my full bladder, listening to the desert wind. A couple of feet away Saul stood doing the same. He didn’t look himself, it wasn’t just the filthy white suit worn with a pair of leather sandals (it was pre-labor day so not a major faux pas), or the curious lack of aviator sunglasses (which had been broken after they were stepped on on the floor in a club), or even the lack of the beard (which there is good reason the guy gets laid more when he has the beard), mostly it was the shaved head covered in staples and stitches like a baseball which concealed newly installed metal plates from his recent brain surgery. There we stood on the edge of the world, pissing into the wind. We didn’t say much, we were both exhausted, 48 hours of partying in Las Vegas with 4 or 5 hours of sleep tends to do that to you. We were barely outside the city at this point. I shook, tapped, stuffed, and zipped back up and turned to walk back to the car, a cheap American-built sedan company car I’d borrowed/stolen from work.
“How are we going to make it? We’ve got, what? 6 to 8 hours left to go? Who’d have thought this road through the middle of nowhere would have bumper to bumper traffic coming this way,” I frowned looking at my cell phone.
“I know, what the fuck.” Saul slumped into the passenger seat.
I started the car and we drove back towards the freeway, we could see it was still bumper to bumper stretching out in the desert as far as the eye could see. We stopped at a gas station, inside where a couple of tired looking Mexican families, the parents pleading with the attendant in Spanish while the kids played in the aisles and crowded hungrily around the freezer that contained ice cream bars. Like a zombie, in my rolled up sleeves and chinos, I shambled down the aisle to the refrigerator and pulled out 4 large energy drinks, plopped em next to the register and paid. Saul was under doctor’s orders not to drive, but he was also under doctor’s orders not to travel (or drink or party for that matter), he’d thrown that out the window already, and we both were due back at work tomorrow morning. So, we had to work out a system if we were going to make it home. I’d down an energy drink and drive first, he’d sleep, then when I couldn’t make it any further, I’d pull over, wake him up, he’d chug an energy drink and drive while I’d get some shut-eye.
That first shift behind the wheel was difficult, delirious from sleep deprivation. I reflected on the trip. Our friends had been planning it for months, I’d considered not going since I wasn’t sure of hotel accommodations at the time. There was a girl I’d been failing miserably to court, but I’d fallen head over heels all the same. She’d wanted to go with me and we were going to get a room, but come to find out she was infatuated with one of my other guy friends, all the same, I was going to go with her, but then when he pulled out of the trip, so did she. Then Saul decided to split his head open and get brain surgery. At that point he was under strict orders from the doc, his mother, and his girlfriend (nice girl, except she was married to a local liquor store owner) not to go. Finally, the weekend came, and we decided, “fuck it, we’re going.” We booked a cheap hotel off the strip, I grabbed the only running vehicle we had, we packed our suits and headed on down the road in the dead of night. It was clubs, bars, gambling tables, dance floors, swimming pools, drinks, smokes, cabs, limos, and new people we’d never see again but we found ourselves staggering about the streets and casinos with. Through it all, the parts I remember most were the cutting, angry texts Saul would receive from his girlfriend and mother, and the silence I got from the girl I should have given up on a long time ago. Saul and I had no one to share our cheap, shabby room with besides each other. As expected, my virginity remained intact despite the occasional hug and kiss from a random girl. It was a good time, memorable time, and a trip I’ll never forget, but I’ll never forget how hollow I felt the drive home. I wondered where my life was headed. It seemed aimless. I found myself continually pulled between the rigidness of my faith, and the hedonism of the secular world.
I’d been out drinking and partying all Saturday, then Sunday morning came and I left Saul snoring in the room while I drove away from the strip to a small church. About 30 souls sat inside on that hot desert morning, and I sat in the pew with a hang over and sang hymns with them. I remember crying behind my sunglasses at one point. I had an old friend at that congregation, a man I’d trained with who had become their pastor. He had a family of his own now. And he was upstanding, smart, gregarious, and interesting. A missionary in sin city, where he was needed most. He told me stories of all the people that darkened the door of his church, down on their luck, it was always drugs or gambling.
The drive home blended together. Sleeping, driving, waking, it was all the same. We finally stopped at a Subway a couple of hours from home to get sandwiches, it was getting on in the evening. We got back in the car and ate as we drove. Saul looked at his phone in the passenger seat, more angry messages from his girlfriend.
“Pretty sure it is over, but it was worth it,” he said, “if this destroys the relationship, then it is probably is for the best. After all, I’ve never given her a reason not to trust me.”
Apparently the Vegas trip broke the camel’s back of his relationship. His girl would never believe him or me that he hadn’t cheated on her while he was there. A couple years later, my fiance wouldn’t let me go to Vegas for my bachelor party. I’ll never forget how the distrust over that one trip destroyed Saul’s relationship, and he walked right into it, let the chips fall where they would. In hindsight, I should have done the same with my fiance-soon-to-be-wife.