My court date was on Jan. 2, 2015. For the past month, I had been working fervently, trying to save money for plane tickets and hotels. Also, I still had to go to the car rental place near McCarren International (Las Vegas) to fetch all of Camila’s gear from our trip. Souvenirs, clothes, shoes, blankets, coolers, phone chargers, as well as almost anything else one may accumulate on a long camping trip, were all sitting in purgatory somewhere in an air-conditioned office–bagged up and ready to be thrown out. It was a now or never scenario to reclaim our belongings.
Madre needed a vacation badly. She had been caught in a web of Jim Beam and depression; sulking for weeks on end. I really needed help getting all the stuff from Vegas back to the Bay Area, especially if I was to be put in jail; which I had long accepted as inevitable. At 6 a.m. on New Years Day, Madre and I once again hastily shot off in her drop top VW Bug, rushing to catch an early flight to Las Vegas.
The plan was to fly there early in the morning, get the shit out of the wrecked rental car, go to court the next morning, and return in the late evening to San Jose. Simply a two-day trip. Well, my friends, this “two-day trip” was about to quickly transform into a six-day shit show.
After almost getting stranded at LAX, Madre and I made it to McCarren International. The air around us blasted an arctic, 20-degree breeze in our face upon exiting the airport. Once we gathered all the supplies at the rental place, a whopping four garbage bags stretched to their limit, we hailed a cab to North Vegas. The cab driver informed us that it had snowed the night before. It had literally been a lifetime since it last snowed in Vegas, and the cab driver was completely in awe about this.
“I just can’t believe it,” he kept repeating with astonishment shaking his vocals. Behind gritted teeth, I tried to pretend that I was amazed by this information, but the driver snarled at me. He could smell the reality in my breath; the reality containing me not giving a shit about snow in Las Vegas. All I wanted to do was go to court the next morning and get the hell out of there. Las Vegas is a black hole, and as my skin has toughened over the years, I have come to realize that avoiding black holes is absolutely necessary. We’ve always played a love/hate game. A game I have always lost.
The night was spent playing craps, drinking tall margaritas, dancing to a zealous cover band called “Fan Halen,” and heckling Chippendale’s as they shivered nearby with their silk bow ties, meticulous diets, and frostbitten nipples. I grabbed the black hole I was faced with by its swirling horns and tamed it; forcing myself to leave the insanity on Fremont Street and get some rest. Madre stayed downstairs in The D Casino and was later 86ed for loitering.
Horror hid in my chest as I walked through the metal detector inside the Clark County Courthouse. Amidst the fear, a newborn wit approached my decision making that morning, and it cried for a change in plans. I wanted to change my flight to Austin so I could spend some time with my beloved Camila. Her departure back to Brazil was approaching, and I needed to spend as much time with her as I could before that dreaded day came and strangled my heart. Going to jail could not happen. It could possibly mean that I would never see her again, and her smile would have to nestle itself back into my dreams. Switching flights to Austin, although financially inconvenient, was a necessity.
Jail did not happen. In fact, the court hadn’t even filed charges. I was burdened with yet another future court date. Frustration crumbled my patience in the presence of this happening, but hey, at least I was a free man.
I have heard people say everything happens for a reason and always I have teetered on the fence when it comes to this idea. People, in this particular case, were right. An extended court date would be the first component of a Court Tour Cocktail. A cocktail, unlike most I have consumed, that would, for the better, change my life forever.
Only an hour remained before I was to board my flight from Las Vegas to Austin. Madre and I had managed to go to the wrong terminal. Usually, something like this would not matter, but at McCarren, one must take a bus to the next terminal, then a train to the gate. I have never been able to find that balance in catching flights; it’s either I find myself sitting at the gate for hours on end waiting, or frantically rushing to the plane, if not just missing the flight altogether.
Fatigue, luggage, and Bloody Mary’s weighed Madre and I down like a harrowing tidal wave as we deliriously hobbled to our gates. Somehow, with enough time spared to suck down a smoke in the slots room, we bid farewell to each other. Madre walked to her gate where an idling 747 would land her in San Jose that night after a brief stop in LA and I–of course being the last person to board my aircraft–entered my sky taxi. The woman who I deeply loved waited for me in Austin, Texas.
A monsoon badgered the city of Austin that night. Nervously, my spine clenched the passenger seat as Camila squinted through the heavy droplets hammering the hatchback she drove. The soothing sight of her beside me calmed this terrible nervousness. Camila was more beautiful every time I saw her, and each time was a blessing larger than the previous.
Camila dropped me off at a Motel 8 in North Austin; right off of Interstate 35. I begged her to come inside, but she could not. Work started for her at seven, and it was already almost 1 a.m. Like a puppy who’s master has just gone on vacation, or maybe a young cat, I whimpered through the pounding rain into my hotel; kicking up puddles along the way.
After grabbing some smokes and a newspaper the next morning, a shady figure’s eyes found me down the street. A block or so away, as I walked by a sign that informed me that I would be shot for trespassing, the sketchy character stared me down with a “you are about to get robbed” glare drooling in his pupils. I could tell he was trying to hide his excitement from a quick “come up” under his stern intimidation. Lightly, I chuckled to myself. There would be no “come ups” this day.
As I got closer, I grabbed his primitive glare like a rope and pulled myself in. The man was appeased by my prison response, so he decided not to rob me. Instead, he wanted to sell me a DVD of “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. I refused and gave him a couple of smokes to cool the fire in his eyes.
Camila met up with me after I waited for hours and hours as a teenage girl might wait for her prom date. Love is so exciting, and the love I shared with Camila was nothing I had ever come across. Finally, she arrived, beautiful as always.
Austin was cold that night, so we got some pizza and decided to go back to the hotel and cherish every passing second we had together. On the surface, happiness shone, but below this feeling, hiding behind cheer and feeding on it like a wild boar, dejection lingered; knowing that the moment we were encountering was going to meet end eventually. That’s when we decided to see each other one last time in a month from then in Vegas–when I would return there for court. One last dance you could say.
What a great change of plans this was, I thought over and over as Camila and I sat in the presence of Lake Travis the following evening. The sunset’s sharp pinks and soft oranges frolicked with the rippling body of water below. A server brought us some kind of Tequila Sunrise and as her lips found the straw, her head found my shoulder. Tears of happiness came parading into my eyes but were sopped up by the melancholy that knew it would all be over soon. At least for a month. After that month, I would deal with the sadness then, for I was just too damn happy in the current moment.
Ice cream was had and we stopped by Barnes and Noble so I could buy her one of my favorite books, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. In the hotel parking lot, we kissed longingly and time ripped us apart. It was late, and she had to work early. The red brake lights of her car, with the yellow turn signal twinkling, dribbled into waves within my eyes, and as I wiped the tears from my trembling cheeks, she drove away.