Swimming Home from
Las Vegas

By Wendy Wing
Published by Xlibris 
August 2001; 1-4010-1210-8; 126 pages

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Swimming Home from Las Vegas by Wendy WingChapter One

Samantha

Abandoned. I had been abandoned. Or so it felt like it. And as my therapist once told me, feelings are honest. You can't choose your feelings, you can only choose your actions. Or did I hear that on Oprah?

Well, anyway my friend Gina had talked me into coming to Las Vegas with her and now Gina was in our hotel room recovering from a night of kneeling before the porcelain god, spewing forth her offerings of half digested pina coladas and daiquiris. She was spending the entire morning moaning and trying to sleep.

Thus why I went downstairs to the hotel lobby to find something to entertain me. Anything but hear one more complaint and about how she would never drink again.

"We should go to Vegas!" she had said excitedly.

"Vegas?" I asked confused, "I thought you wanted to go to Miami."

"Yes, well," she backtracked, "Miami is my Mecca."

"Your Mecca?" I asked laughing over the bag of popcorn we were sharing, "What, so now you're Islamic?"

"No, no, silly," she said looking at me like I was the idiot, "Miami is the Jewish Mecca. And considering that I am the only Jewess in Denva from the greata New Jersey area, I was thinkin' that Miami would be good."

"So," I asked, "why the change of heart? Why Vegas?"

 

"Well," she paused and adjusted her large gold earrings, "goin' to Miami is like goin' home for me. But just like goin' home it gets old really fast. Why go all the way to Miami to be hounded with `So why aren't you married yet?' `Don't they have docta's in Denva?' It's more than I can deal with right now. I'm in fragile place in my life." The only thing fragile about Gina was her silk leopard print blouse.

"I see," I said smirking.

"Plus, well," she pulled the ever present gum from her mouth and loaded her mouth with another handful of popcorn, "the tickets to Vegas were cheap and it was gonna cost a fortune to get us to Miami. Anyway, the air in Miami does horrible things to my hair."

So that was how I got here. Gina and I were getting out of Denver to come here for a weekend of fun.

The night before had been fun. I'd forgotten. Well, at least after several drinks, all the people dancing and the throb of loud up-tempo music, I let my mind wander for moments, sometimes long moments, and I forgot that I'd been dumped. Yet again abandoned. The last of a string of unworthy men.

Why I was with Eugene was beyond me. I spent seven months with him and for six of the seven months I couldn't figure out why I was still with him. Everyone kept telling me what a catch he was, how wonderful he was. I kept thinking that maybe I was blind, maybe I was wrong about him and he really was as good as it gets. Was I just being too picky?

"Babe," I remembered Eugene saying to me, I hated being called babe, "you're a great gal and all. There's no one else. I swear. I just have to move on. You understand? It's simple really. I've been looking at our personal P and L and there's more Loss than Profit here."

I sat at the fancy restaurant he had taken me to. Impressed that he would take me someplace where you didn't have to order the food at a counter. Instead of finally treating me well, he was dumping me.

"There's no one else?" I asked not quite grasping what he was telling me, "What, what are you saying?"

"You're a great gal and all," hadn't he already said that? "I just think that we're not working out. It's not that there's anyone else in the picture or anything," he'd already said that too, "I'm not filing an S-4 form or anything." Which in accountant-speak meant forms that companies must file if merging or acquiring someone else.

"Thou dost protest too much," I said, assuming that there obviously was someone else in the picture.

"What?" he said, "What'd you say?"

I waved my hand in the air and let it go. My humor was lost on Eugene. As a matter of fact, most things were lost on him. I should have known months ago when he got me that page-a-day tear off calendar. Three hundred and sixty five days of fart jokes. He was always disappointed that I had forgotten to tear off the past several days and would read the missed days out loud to me, laughing hysterically.

"I'm sure you'll find someone soon. Just don't eat too much and let your ass get all mushy. You have a great ass and I'd hate to see you lose one of your best assets. Ha! Get it? Ass-sets! Man, I crack myself up-I did it again. Crack myself up!" he said chuckling.

"Well, gee Eugene," I said trying to control my temper, "I'll try to remember that. Thanks for your advice."

"Sure, sure," he waved his hand thinking that I was genuinely thanking him, "I thought this was going be difficult. But you're taking it really well. Hey, well, let's dig in," he started cutting into his food on his plate, "can't let this expensive meal go to waste, eh?"

Was I a doormat? Was I really willing to lower my expectations just so I could have that wedding that every woman since the age of four has been planning? Somehow, even as I sat swallowing yet one more orange juice, with nothing clever or intoxicating in it, I knew that I wasn't missing him. But the idea of a "him." That made it worse. If I could muster up the energy and the emotion to miss him then it wouldn't feel like I'd wasted the past six months.

There really was no one out there for me. I was doomed to walk the earth alone, searching for a man of intelligence and wit, not just a man whose only difference from the apes is his ability to stand upright.

I felt like I should hear some Disney song in the background. Then someone should pop out, maybe my glass turn into a fairy godmother and I'll have a chorus of silverware telling me to cheer up, that everything will be fine.

"Be our guest, be our guest," they'd sing, "drink your juice and make a mess. We'll clean it up, don't throw up, we'll clean it up when you up-chuck."

I've really got to stop babysitting for my niece, or at least not let her talk me into back-to-back Disney movie marathons.

So I tried to gamble a part of the day away, but all I did was lose thirty dollars and waste ten minutes doing it. I felt pitiful. Surrounded by old folks. Old and fat people dressed in the best that polyester has to offer.

Was I as sad as they were or was I sadder? I mean, I am thirty. Gulp. Man, it's still so hard to believe that I'm one of "them." Thirty something. Well, technically I'm just thirty, not thirty "something" yet. Yet. But now instead of being thirty with a man in the wings, I was alone. And alone in Las Vegas.

"Ah-lone. Ah-lone," I said to myself trying to see my pursed lips, "Ay-lone, all ay-lone," I stopped when I noticed an older woman who was going to sit next to me at the bar suddenly decide to move to a table after listening to me.

My incredible career as an executive administrative assistant, or in other words: a secretary, was not the hot rocket to the top of the corporate world as I had once deluded myself to believe. Instead I sat behind a desk all day typing away. Someone else's ideas. Someone else's "work." My busy work. Not only is my life pitiful and pathetic due to my underachieving career, or lack thereof, but now I'm in "Sin City" and I'm sitting at a bar, alone, reading a book. I sure know how to party it up.

Yes, reading a book. With the sounds of the slot machines that are every two feet, lined up like soldiers, rows and rows of them. Unbelievably huge expanses of them as far as the eye can see, filling every possible indoor space in Las Vegas. I'm surprised they haven't thought to put slot machines in the bathrooms, so while you relieve yourself they can relieve you of even more loose change. I'm also surprised there aren't slot machines in the elevators or in the hotel rooms. They're everywhere else. The white noise of the slot machines permeates the entire city. It's the call of possibilities, the promise of better times that may come. If you're lucky that is. Clink-clink-clink, clink-clink, clink-clink-clink. Ding-ding-ding, occasionally a horn and lights flashing and more clinking to announce a big winner.

Big winners everywhere, and me, a big loser. I'm not saying this because I have a horrible self esteem or because I'm lacking self confidence, I'm just saying this as a matter of fact. I realize to all the passers-by that I look like an utter loser. Oh well. I act like I am so engrossed in the trashy novel that I can't be bothered by anyone else.

Of course all the people out gambling this early have gray hair, I on the other hand have blond hair, at least as far as you and all the Q-tips know I look like I'm a blond.

It's only 11:00 a.m. so I guess it's pretty early to be sitting at the bar, but the tables that were available had horrible lighting. The bar had hideously gaudy lights that proved excellent for reading.

And let me forewarn you, I did not choose to read the latest romance novel; it wasn't my first choice of literature. Can you call this "literature" without spontaneously combusting? A romance book, that ought to really cheer me up.

You know the books, the ones with the drawings of the man catching the woman on the cover, hair blowing everywhere, his shirt open to reveal his bare chest, not to mention her cleavage. You've seen the books. We all have, and sneered wondering who the hell would read such trash.

But it was the best choice that the hotel gift shop had to offer. I don't think I was really following the plot, some period piece. People dying of disease. Lucky damn people. Instead I'm sitting here reading about how this beautiful peasant girl saves the prince, something corny like that. That and all the corpses. Reading about all the havoc that cholera worked on the people centuries ago. That's a real pick-me-upper!

Here, I'll give you a prime example. I'll open the book up to a random page and here; this is what I'm reading:

Her bosoms thrust from her frilled dress, heaving with each breath of air. He clung to her body wanting nothing more than to ravage it. To ravage her and taste her very fruit.

I can't say that I'm virginal or anything, but I'm pretty sure I've never been ravaged or that there has ever been any fruit tasting when my bosom was heaving. Had I ever heaved my bosom? Did I even have bosoms to heave?

And just like any self-respecting dime store romance book, that was when "he" walked in. He didn't really "walk" in, he seemed to sulk his way to the barstool. Sulking with a slouch and gray clouds surrounding him.

Even though his build was lean he walked as if life had weighed him down. He sat around the corner from me at the bar, only two stools away. Sunglasses still on. Like a rock star. I had to smirk. He looked only slightly better than my friend up in our hotel room. His hair was messed up. I think I'm supposed to say, "Disheveled." But I think a more accurate word would be "greasy."

He immediately lit up a cigarette. Letting out a huge plume of smoke and a giant sigh. Yet another strike against him. Yuck. A smoker. But it seemed to suit him. Greasy, messy and smoking. I'm pretty sure he smelled. Not that I could smell him from where I sat, but he must. I disapproved immediately.

I kept casually glancing at him, not moving my head, just my eyes so I could check out my bar mate. I instantly wondered what his story was. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers, keeping his sunglasses on. His cigarettes were in a strange pack. I'd never seen that brand before. Interesting.

Yes, I am aware that that is anything but interesting, but I was reading about cholera and a romance breaking out in the seventeenth century. I was reading about "aching loins" and "throbbing" and "bulging." So noticing that his cigarettes were different was much more interesting to me. Go figure.

The bartender moseyed over wiping a glass with a rag, so stereotypical, so rehearsed, like the lifeguards that always twirl their whistle.

"What can I get for you?" Original. Never heard that line before.

"I'll have a draft please," was his answer. His beautiful very British Isles answer. I couldn't tell yet whether he was English or Scottish or what, but he didn't say "draft" like "raft," but more like "loft." There's something about accents. They can really make an ugly man look more appealing. By no means was I saying that Mr. Scruffy was ugly. From where I sat he was in bad need of a shower and a hairbrush. But even with his sunglasses and slouching at the bar I could tell that he was handsome.

I kept pretending to read my book. Eyeing him like the clever sleuth that I was. Could I describe his arms as "bulging?" I smiled to myself. Were my "loins aching" for him? I think I actually cracked a smile at that one. Obviously I was pretty bored since this line of thinking was so entertaining for me.

The "droft" was put before him and, like a ritual that he had performed countless times before, he raised the glass, swirled the contents a bit and took a small sip, then satisfied with the taste he downed half of the malt beverage without even appearing to swallow. Again came a big sigh as he rubbed his forehead that was obviously causing him some discomfort.

I decided that I should start reading again. Focus on the book. It's got to get better. That was my mantra. "It's got to get better. It's got to get better.." But it didn't. The heroine in the story had "bosoms," no, that's wrong; they were "voluptuous bosoms." I couldn't help but look down at mine, which I could not describe as "voluptuous" or really as "bosoms" either. I would say "boobies." In my little short sundress if I had "voluptuous" anything they'd stand out and maybe even "bulge." But even the flimsy little bit of material I had on fully covered what I would call my "perky boobs." Perky boobs were more like the kind of thing a high school girl would be described as having. I could never "heave" my "bosoms" like the gal in the book.

But I was getting to a really good part in the book. Yes, the author thought it interesting to go into full detail about the throws of death from cholera. Interesting. Disgusting, but interesting. I was intrigued, it sounded a lot like what Gina spent the night doing in our bathroom upstairs. Gina swore that she was going to die.

I thought I was going to die once. It wasn't from anything like cholera, but it was death, staring right at me. I saw my life flash before my eyes. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now I imagine Wayne from "Wayne's World" wriggling his fingers and waving his hands in a downward motion in front of him over and over.

"Hey Samantha, let's go to the beach!" Tracey said excitedly peeking her head in my dorm room.

"Excellent idea, as usual," I said putting my mortarboard and commencement robe down on the bed, I definitely needed to blow off some steam.

We always drove out to the reservoir to hang out at the beach, or at least the best that an Indiana reservoir had for a beach. It had rained all that week and the flooding was spectacular. The beach, as well as the entire parking lot, was covered in water. The road that ran down the side of a steep hill disappeared into the water.

"Man everything is covered," Tracey said, "no picnic tables, even the shelters are completely covered."

"If I didn't know that all those things had been there I would never have guessed that the road ever lead to anywhere but water," I said taking in the view.

There was already another car parked at the water's edge ten feet from where the water had swallowed the road and Tracey eased her car next to it.

It was spring and the trees were green and it was warm out. But there was an amazingly strong wind. It was almost freakishly strong. The usually calm water on the reservoir was choppy and there were even whitecaps on the little waves as the wind gusted. The wind was also deafening. It was hard to hear much of anything over the rustling of the trees, at times the trees were being blown so hard that it seemed impossible that trees could bend that much and not snap in half.

We got out of the car and looked at the amazing sight. We noticed the guys who must have belonged to the car. They were on an island that the flooding had caused. Usually the island was a hill on the side of the huge parking lot area, but now it was a grassy little island about twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide. They sat there drinking beers and waved. We decided that we would join them.

We swam out into the water and the wind practically pushed us toward the island. We didn't even have to swim really, we just floated as the current and the wind took us to the island a hundred yards away. We climbed up onto the island and were offered beers by the guys.

"Here's to graduating," we toasted and Tracey and I clinked our tin cans together.

The guys were merely juniors, now going to be seniors. We were pretty full of ourselves, being the older graduating women. We drank and talked and one of them lit a joint and passed that around. Ah, college. Might as well, it's not like I had said no to pot much during college, or before, so this wasn't anything extraordinary.

"Samantha, it's four thirty, let's head back," Tracey suggested letting out a little belch to punctuate the end of the sentence.

"Last one in's a rotten egg!" I said jumping into the water and heading for the shore.

The wind seemed to be even stronger. The closest shore was where the road disappeared and our cars were parked. Behind us and on both sides of the island were long stretches of water. We would have to swim into the current, but I'm somewhat athletic, I wasn't nervous.

Tracey followed me into the water with a splash and we started back both doing a slightly modified dog paddle-breast stroke combination.

"So when do your parents get into town?" I asked casually.

"Tomorrow, right before commencement," Tracey said.

"Cool," I said enjoying the feeling of the water and the major buzz I had, "did you hear Dave talking about how he's not wearing anything under his commencement robe?" We chatted casually and swam for what seemed like an hour laughing at the silliest things, more from the pot than the conversation. Slowly it dawned on me that we didn't seem to be getting any closer to the shore.

We looked behind us and we were only about fifteen yards from the island! The wind and the strong current it was creating were making it almost impossible to move through the water. We picked up the pace and soon our talking stopped as we were breathing hard and working desperately to get to the shore. We seemed a little closer and looked behind us, after about five minutes of swimming we were still only thirty yards from the island and had another seventy yards to the shore.

"Dammit," I said, feeling my ulcer start to cramp my stomach. Oops. That's when it hit me. I wasn't supposed to drink since I had a bleeding ulcer. I had worried about graduation so much that I worked my stomach into a tizzy. The pain was horrible. Stabbing pains. Worrying now about that and about how tired I was getting, and how out of breath I was, I could feel all the acid pour into my stomach, not aiding the predicament I was in any. I'm sure the alcohol and pot combination didn't help either. That's when I began to panic.

I had sandals on and I had been kicking my feet and clenching my toes to hold onto them, but finally I realized that I had to let the sandals go. I let my toes uncurl and I felt them slip easily from my feet.

"I, uh, I'm having, uh," I gasped out of breath and in pain, "uh, some problems here."

"Uh," Tracey spit water out that had splashed into her mouth, "I'm getting tired, uh, here too."

We paddled furiously. The wind blew water in our faces; we were splashing more water all around us. Panic really hit. I saw the headlines "Girl Drowns Day Before Graduation." I thought about what my family and friends would say. What a waste. To make it to twenty-one, to college graduation and for what? To drown after having a beer and a couple tokes on a joint. Oh my god! The autopsy report would reveal that I had smoked pot! I could see everyone at my funeral shaking their heads. Panic. Panic! PANIC!

I finally yelled over to Tracey, "I think I'm going to die! I don't think I'm going to make it!"

"No, no, we can do this," but every word was fraught with a total lack of confidence.

I loved my friend at that moment. We were going to die together. Was there anything noble about dying together in such ridiculous fashion? I wondered if they could even find my body in such a dark murky reservoir.

My stomach was full of stabs. My legs ached, my arms ached, my lungs burned, I was about ready to cry, to stop swimming and let the water take me to my grave. The shore was still fifty yards away; we'd been swimming for twenty minutes.

Just when I had resigned that I was going to die I heard one of the guys from the island shout.

"Stand up." I turned my head so the wind wouldn't compete with his words that came again, "STAND UP!"

My friend and I looked at each other and put our legs down and stood up in shallow water. We waded the rest of the way to the cars in water around our thighs. We could hear the guys on the island laughing at us. Us cool graduating seniors. We didn't say anything to one another, but I wondered if they had heard me yelling that I was going to die. At that moment I had wished I had drowned since I was so embarrassed.

It wasn't quite the convulsing dehydrating death of cholera, but I did look death in the face, or more like the kneecaps. So now I try to remember that when life is going rough and you feel like you're drowning all you have to do is "stand up."

Copyright 2001 Wendy Wing
Reprinted with permission. (back to top)

Synopsis

An unlikely couple meet in a Las Vegas bar. Other than an immediate dislike for one another, their common denominator is they are both suffering from an intense case of rebound. Samantha leads her life as a burned out secretary and Stephen is an international film star. Despite their occupational differences--the Las Vegas lights, wild rides, music, biting sarcasm, fine food and more than a dash of alcohol, seems to be the perfect combination for a romantic elixir.

(back to top)

Author

Wendy WingWendy Wing writes fiction, poetry and screenplays. She was in art major at DePauw University focusing on abstract oil paintings. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Andy, and two children.

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