Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Wedding Band

Here's an idea: go lose ten dollars in poker and then head downtown to hang out with a bunch of people who are either married, engaged, own a house or are excited about turning twenty-five because their insurance rates go down. Then go home, smoke your last cigarette, try to ignore the fact that in two weeks time you really, really have to make a decision about what you may or may not do about your life, pet the cat and go to sleep alone.

While you do this, try not to think about the fact that you are fat, full of vice, unmotivated, unlovable and your own worst enemy – always have been, always will be. Try to concentrate on the fact that at least you can sleep in. Nevermind the debt.

--

It is cold in the airport. She is cold. But it's not the air conditioning that does it. It is because, sitting there alone, she has only a destination and not a direction. She thinks of him for a moment and feels herself blush; there is a vivid picture in her mind of him as he sleeps, bathed in growing sunlight, as sound as anything can be. The image fades, despite her mentally grasping at it, and with it goes her warmth. It travels down her body, slowly but steadily, down her legs (which she shaved for him), through her feet to the tips of her toes, then spills out onto the rough carpet, disappearing forever. She is cold. It is cold in here. She is freezing.

She stands up quickly, not necessarily for any particular reason, but because she knows she has to move or she is going to panic. Forty minutes to kill. Forty minutes and she will be gone from him irrevocably. She can still feel his lips on hers from just before the security check, where tired men in blue suits forced his premature exit. She thanks something nameless for the gift of object permanece. She gathers her purse and moves towards the bathroom.

As she glides thoughtlessly down the aisle between gates she passes a small airport bar, the kind of place where every slinger of suds remembers every poor soul who bothered to stop for an overpriced shot and a stale ceasar salad during their layover. A man dressed all in black, as if for a funeral, turns and catches her eye. They smile at each other and she keeps moving as he turns back to his small drink.

The man fumbles idly with a pack of matches while he searches the nearby area for a smoking room. Meanwhile the gentleman next to him is sipping from a lukewarm bottle of Miller Lite, his initial friendliness tapped and his obligatory questions about his barmate's destination run dry. This gentleman is from Texas. He wears denim, a blue button-down shirt that is tucked in, and a cowboy hat, more because people actually wear these things than anything else. He is passing through on business – the kind of nameless, shapeless business that would easily go on without him no matter where in the world he might be. The man in black is not particularly interested in his new friend from Texas, nor is the Texan wrought with desire to learn about wherever it is that the man in black is from, whose funeral he was in town for and whether or not he feels like it was worth his attendance.

The man in black actually was just at a funeral. But he skipped the wake.

It is a dark hole that the Texan is gazing into, and not even he can realize precisely what he is looking at. He is looking at whatever a man looks at when he is deep in self-analysis, pondering his destiny and taking stock of his life thus far. The only difference between his gaze and that of anyone else at the bar who may have a similar distance in their eyes is that whatever he is finding is not, he is notably unsurprised to find, amounting to much. That, and his bottle is empty.

Across the bar the clock ticks its way to 3:00 in the afternoon, and the Texan takes his cue. With little fanfare and a resolution that is purely unconscious the Texan removes his wedding band, places it next to his spent bottle and gets up, gathering his bags as he rises. He makes his way slowly towards his gate, presents his boarding pass to the attendant and wanders onto the plane. The man in black barely notes his departure, and in a few weeks won't remember him at all.

Twenty yards or so away the girl, with thirty-seven minutes left in her wait, has absentmindedly walked directly past the bathroom.

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