valencia / bright lights



A girl stands alone, leaned against the hood of her beat-up car, a cigarette perched lazily between her two lips. Her arms are crossed over her chest and her eyes are turned to the ground. She stares listlessly, her eyes without hope, her forlorn expression a recognition of defeat.

Why had I done this to myself? In one fleeting moment of restless indecision I had walked away from my life – a good and safe and stable life that I’d spent the last eight years constructing with painstaking sanity. Sometimes I worried that I was more like my mother than I’d first believed and the thought scared me.

I shivered against the cold night and pulled my cigarette from my lips and tossed it to the ground.

“Charlie!” I called, turning in the direction that my dog had last disappeared. “Come!” He bounded out from behind a bush and met me at the car his tail wagging. At least I know I could never do wrong by my dog. I scratched him behind the ears before letting him in the car and then I climbed in behind him. He sat in the passenger seat and looked at me with an eager expression.

“To the city?” I asked him. “We need some bright lights and a little bit of a distraction, don’t you think?” If I’m going to run away from my life and responsibilities, I might as well make the most of it, huh?” He wagged his tail in response, effectively trusting me with his life.

I was still unsure of how I’d made it all the way into Nevada. I’d left San Francisco days earlier and had made it to my childhood hometown near Newport, Oregon after one night’s stay and two stretches of five hour driving. But when nothing went according to my plan – when I couldn’t find my father and after I’d discovered that my mother had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas at my estranged sisters request, I had to readjust my plans.

After twelve straight hours of driving, I found myself stopped for Charlie’s pee break in the middle of fucking nowhere – a ghost town called Coaldale with a population of about, oh… zero. Four hours ahead of me lay the bright lights of Vegas and, hopefully, answers to the questions that had been running through my head all day. Like why my sister, who had nearly died from suffocation at the hands of our deranged, mentally ill mother would sign for her to be moved to a hospital in the same city where, coincidentally, she herself had been a resident for the last five years.

Four hours and maybe a casino, a few Mai Tais, and a buffet bar or two from now, I would find out what was going on.


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