I wake to the faint sound of an early Las Vegas Sunday wafting up from the streets below and burrow beneath the covers of my bed. The sun’s up and, turning my head to the left, see the room’s clock flip from 7:52 to 7:53. I sigh, remember where I am, remember Joseph and Little Honey in the living room, remember how little sleep I’ve had and tell my circadian rhythm to go to hell as I walk to the bathroom, empty my bladder, cross to and close the glass sliding door that opens onto the panorama of Las Vegas, close the room darkening curtains, lie down and, after assuring my body that the time is almost eight o’clock not ten, acknowledge that I have as slim a chance at falling back asleep as Vegas gamblers do in hitting it big.
Sighing I say, “Try, John. Just try,” as I repeat my mantra of prayers from the night before in half-hearted attempt to regain slumber, convinced that my cause is as lost as any who pray to Saint Jude, knowing full well that any second now my brain will engage in some solipsistic mental contortions that will bring and keep it on high alert. I am surprised when I look at the clock five minutes later and see that the numbers have advanced to 9:31 aka 11:31 CST. “Woah!” I say aloud, “Look at me sleeping in until nearly noon. Kids’ll never believe me.”
Thinking about the time and the kids reminds me that I have a one o’clock hike date with Jodi and I wonder how Maxxie and Shawn will respond when I tell them my Vegas tale: Wondering if they’ll be happy for me, worried or feel that I’m betraying Eileen. I gasp, a short tear dropping, throat catching sound as the thought that anyone would think I would ever betray the love of my life enters my head. “She’d want me to move on,” I remind myself, sobbing now, “She’d insist that I try.”
Composing myself I get up again, open the room’s curtains and slip back into my bathroom where I shower, shave and brush. I step out of the bathroom and hear Joe’s and what must be Little Honey’s voices through my bedroom door. I pause, naked in front of the dresser’s mirror and shake my head at what I see. Noting my badly deteriorating dad bod I say, “Guess fifteen years isn’t quite old enough to be MS Jodi’s father but I sure look like I am. Maybe she’ll be just what I need to rejoin the living. And speaking of which, do I join the two in the living room or just hope Little Honey slinks away before I need to exit for my MS Jodi rendezvous?”
Unsure of protocol I turn the TV in my room on, find CNN, crank up the volume way too loudly and get dressed. Dressed, I wait for a commercial break before shutting the set off, hoping that I have alerted my brother and his guest to my presence in anticipation of leaving my sanctum.
Opening the door I’m ready to declare, “Good morning,” to Joseph and Little Honey but when I walk into the shared living space the room is empty. Thinking that I missed Joe I’m torn between disappointment at not having seen my brother and relief at not having to go through the awkwardness of meeting his new friend when I hear Joe’s voice holler from the suite’s balcony, “Hey, John! We’re out here!”
‘Lovely,’ think I, ‘Just lovely,’ as I plant a smile on my face and walk out on the balcony.
Little Honey turns out to be just that, tiny and honey colored, which is easy to see as she luxuriates in nothing but a pair of panties, reclined on a chaise lounge soaking up the sun’s warm rays on a cool day, her pert little mammaries pointing skyward. “Good morning,” I say to Honey, nodding and extending my hand in equal proportion to her rising to meet me, i.e. not at all. “I’m John. Pleasure to meet you.”
Joe, wearing shorts and a Hilton robe, rises, opens his arms, walks to me and we embrace, each delivering the obligatory middle-aged, Midwestern male, triple back slap required whenever two men from our time and space hug. “John! Great to see you! Coffee?”
I nod, “Great to see you too. Uh, not yet. Is there some in the room?” I ask, noting the excellent dye job, solid feel and exfoliated face of my younger brother.
“Keurig,” Joe replies. “There’s some Jameson’s if you want to Irish it up,” he added with a wink. “This is Angel Reyes,” he says, his eye twitch now directed to Little Honey. “And she both is and isn’t. Angel, this is my much older brother John. He’s the one I mentioned last night.”
“Hi, John,” Angel replied languidly, her right hand barely twisting upward at the wrist in greeting. “Joseph says you’re from Idaho?”
“Iowa. Common mistake. How about you? Local?” I think ‘local talent’ but bite my condescending, morally superior tongue. Hey, just because all I’ve ever seen this woman wearing is nothing doesn’t mean I should rush to judgement, I don’t know her at all and even in my ticked-off state I realize that I’m being both childish and unfair to her.
“San Francisco, I’m on the south side of the bridge while Joe’s on the north. Funny, huh?”
“Interesting coincidence,” I concede. “You didn’t come in on the same flight did you?”
“No, I drove. Nine hours to get here. I’m heading back tomorrow.”
I nod some more. “How long have you been in California?”
“Oh, forever! Since I was three. My parents are naturalized. Me too.”
“Naturalized?” I ask. “Oh! You weren’t born here. Filipino?” I ask.
“You’re good,” Angel says.
“Since you were three?” Joe says too loudly, “What was that? Eighteen years ago?” he asks guffawing. “Hey? You want more coffee, honey? John’ll make it for you.”
Angel/Honey says, “Oh! That’s sweet. Yes. Please,” she adds, all smiles and raised eyebrows.
“No problem,” I reply. “Joe? How ’bout you?”
“Me? Yeah. Yeah, I would. Hey, let me give you a hand, these machines can be tricky if you’re not used to them.”
I glance sideways at Joe, nod and say, “Okay. Thanks,” and step back inside.
“Hey, babe,” Joe asks of Angel, “you warm enough? Need a robe?”
“No, sweetie, thanks. You and the sunshine are fine for now. There’s no wind on this side of the building.”
‘Gotta be a little cold,’ I think to myself, my eyes turning away from her supine and appealing tininess as Joe and I make our way to the Keurig, ‘it’s awfully nippley out there.’