More than Exist(3)

By: Bethany Lopez

What if I couldn’t do it? What if I wasn’t strong enough?

I saw a sign for In-N-Out, and figured now was as good a time to grab a bite to eat as any.

Since I was stopped, I went by a station and topped off my gas tank, then went to the restroom. Fifteen minutes later, I was back on the road to Vegas, an animal-style burger, fries, and chocolate shake my only company.

A couple hours later, it was dark, and I was coming though the mountains, excited to experience my favorite part of trips to Vegas. That moment when you come through the pass, your view becomes clear, and the night is filled with the twinkling lights of Las Vegas.

Just because you see the lights, doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. It’s very deceiving, and no matter how many times I drive there, I’m always surprised at how much longer it takes to actually get there, even though it looks so close.

I was still smiling when I finally neared the city, and when my gaze landed on the tall tower of the Stratosphere, I knew that was where I had to stay. Yes, it is one of the older buildings, and it’s not that close to the flashy new, desirable part of the strip, but it’s where Ricky and I stayed on our first trip to Vegas.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and we’d never been to Vegas before, but we wanted a getaway so we decided to splurge.

I took advantage of the complementary valet parking, smiling at the valet as I slid out of the car, grabbing my bag out of the back seat.

The fact that I was able to book a room for $37 told me things had definitely changed, but the feelings that hit me as I made my way to my room made me feel like I was twenty-three again, and totally in love. My heart pinched as the feelings coursed through me, and I worried that I made a mistake coming here.

I needed a drink. Pronto.

As I opened the door to my room, I concentrated on breathing in through my nose, and out through my mouth, like the doctor told me to do whenever I felt overwhelmed by loss.

I threw my bag on the bed and went to the bathroom to splash water on my face. When I stood, I took in my appearance in the mirror. Long, light-brown hair, pulled back into a messy tail, which hadn’t seen a trim or highlights since the day my world imploded. Makeup was no longer a part of my daily routine, but my face held color from the San Diego sun, and my hazel eyes were a large and pleasing attribute. At five foot five inches, I’d always felt pretty average, especially since Ricky was only a few inches taller than me.

I guessed that I looked younger than my thirty-two years, especially without makeup, but I felt more like fifty.

I went down the elevator to the casino floor, then looked around until I saw what I was looking for, the C Bar. I weaved through the rows of slot machines until I reached my destination, my heart starting to pound in anticipation of a drink. I was almost salivating as the rows of bottles became closer.

“Long Island Iced Tea,” I told the bartender when she came over to where I was standing.

I looked around the casino as I waited for my drink. It looked nicer than I’d expected, like they’d recently updated the floor.

“That’ll be ten dollars,” the bartender said as she slid the tall drink in front of me.

“Can you go ahead and ring me up for two?” I asked as took my wallet out of my purse and handed her my card.

She said, “Sure,” without batting an eye, then took my card as I took my first, long drink.

It was good. Perfectly mixed so that the high content of alcohol was barely noticeable.

By the time she brought back my card and the second drink, I was already done with the first. I said, “Thanks,” then took the plastic cup and drank it as I made my way toward the exit.

Deciding I needed to stretch my legs and get some fresh air, I exited the hotel before any feelings hijacked me.

March in Las Vegas is manageable. I’d been here in the summer before and hated the torturous heat, but the weather right now was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold.

I started walking, looking around but not really paying attention, when I realized how dark it was, and that I was unfamiliar with my surroundings. I looked up, and saw the glow of lights off to the right, so I turned and started back the way I came.

The massive amounts of liquor I’d just consumed in such a short amount of time began to make their effects known, and I welcomed the numbness as it floated through me.

I was hyper aware of the sound of my Toms slapping on the cement, when my ears picked up the sound of footsteps behind me. Suddenly, my heart began to pound, and my skin became heated as sweat started popping out on my body.

I may have been paranoid, but I quickened my pace.

So did the person behind me.

I was about to break into a run, when I was shoved from behind and went sprawling onto the ground. I shielded my face from the cement, but felt my arm being jerked behind me as my attacker pulled the purse off my shoulder, before I was released and I heard the sound feet running away from me.

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