karen // reflections on “fate”
I didn’t want to leave Ryan´s hotel room. For one, it was way off the Strip and would be a hefty cab ride home. For two, something had changed, and I wanted to see what it was.
In any case, I had to get back to the girls, and he had plans, so I’d reluctantly found a cab and started to head back to the hotel.
Vegas looks different in the light of day — less a glittery, sparkly city that begs for high rollers, high heels, and high expectations and more like the aftermath of a drunken, debaucherous party — dirty, pale in the sunlight, and grimy. Like any other city.
Not entirely surprising. Most things look different during the day. Like Ryan.
As the cab makes its way through the city, I remember the light on his body this morning before my phone rang. In the daylight, it was skinner, paler than I remember. His features, too, were almost too sharp to be considered really attractive. Even his dick didn´t look quite as enticing in that light.
But when he woke up to the sound of my ringing phone, I forgot all of my critiques.
“What do you do?” I’d asked him after my phone had died and I´d crawled on top of him.
He smiled. “Can I answer you in about 20 minutes?” I smiled back, nodding as he rolled me over.
Approximately 20 minutes later, he answered. “I work for a non-profit that helps impoverished families buy homes. I work on the design end.”
“Ah, so you´re a Democrat?” I teased. “In bed with a Republican politico? What would your boss say?”
“She’d say, ‘way to infiltrate the enemy camp and plant the idea of affordable housing to families who’ve fallen on hard times,'” he answered without cracking a smile. I raised an eyebrow at him until he gave a small smile of concession. “Look, Karen, the world isn’t just made up of Democrats and Republicans. There are plenty more viewpoints that fall on either side. You need to stop seeing people like they’re all on different teams. The lines are too fuzzy to define people that way.”
I looked down as he reached to the bedside table for his pack of cigarettes. “That’s not how I see things.”
I waited while he lit, inhaled, passed me the pack. I shook my head.
“Look, I know we don’t talk much. Whatever this is, it’s slightly more carnal than intellectual, but every time we do talk, you’re either bashing on the people you work for, or the people your bosses are fighting against, all the while trying to act like you’re above all of them.”
His words stung a bit, but he said it laughingly, so I laughed with him, and reached for the cigarettes he’d left on the nightstand. “I don’t actually think I’m better than anyone. I just don’t like politics.”
“So why do you work in politics then?”
I sighed. “Because, I couldn’t get another job, and it’s this of pouring coffee or hanging up clothes all day.”
“Are you looking for something else?”
“I don’t have the time.”
He laughed. “If you were as miserable as you say you are and hate it as much as you say you do, you’d find time. I would, anyway.”
I didn’t answer, opting instead to smoke my cigarette and look out the window.
He sighed, took a lighter tone as he smashed out his cigarette. “So what next? What comes after the great Vegas road trip?”
I laughed. “Back to work, I guess.” I finished my cigarette, smashed it out, noting how for the first time since taking up smoking that I didn’t feel like an awkward idiot. “Maybe looking for a new job.”
“Not a terrible idea.” Glancing at the clock, he added, “I hate to do this, but I’ve gotta meet my buddy for lunch in an hour. Think you can find your friends?”
I nodded, took my cue, and got ready to leave. After I’d pulled on my smoky-smelling black dress and stepped into my heels, he pushed me back against the wall and said, “Nice coincidence.” I nodded, putting my arms around his neck while he gave his usual farewell, “Text me when you’re in Portland next.” And when he kissed me, it was different — more intense, a bit more intimate. I felt weak at the knees.
At the thought of that kiss, I smile and look from the cab window to my knees. Usually, when I’d left Ryan’s before, there was always a bit of dismay in the pit of my stomach. But now, it’s not there — there’s something else there.
His concern over my work situation helps to put things in perspective: I’m unhappy. Entirely, totally unhappy. Granted, I’d figured that much out myself, but I never saw that my unhappiness led to the pessimism that seems to have taken over my life. And I couldn’t really see the solution in front of my face — quit. Quit. Never go to another political rally. Never see Jeremiah and his grabby hands again. Never set food in the Capitol building.
Simple enough. Now I just need a plan.
But things will work out, I’m sure of that much. If, after weeks without seeing him, hundreds of miles away from where we normally spend our time together, we can find each other — then surely everything will work out for me.
For this first time in months, I feel hopeful, I think as I step out of the cab, wallet much lighter than it was when I stepped into it.
I’m smiling, oblivious to the ambiance around me, as I waltz into the lobby and onto the elevator.
“Someone got happy last night,” a voice says behind me, a mocking smile in her tone. When I look up, I see Sophie looking at me, a cup of coffee in one hand, a box of donuts in the other. “Looks like you could use a sugar rush. Donut?”