THE TOTAL MEANING OF REAL LIFE

by Mitzi Gaynor

I am on my way to commit suicide. Otherwise it is a perfectly normal night in Vegas. Hot and dry as a lizard's tongue.

I'm driving north on Las Vegas Boulevard headed toward Freemont Street. The lights up ahead are making the horizon look like a war zone. I pull over and park in front of a marriage chapel called Wee Kirk of the Heather. I go in. It's the least I can do on my way to commit suicide.

This creepy little guy is in there selling ten-minute weddings. I walk up to him and say I'm in need of some pastoral counseling. He writes down my name, but he doesn't know what to do after that. So I stand there and tell him how I'm on my way to commit suicide.

"Where you gonna do it?" he says.

I tell him, "At the Golden Nugget."

He says he once saw someone die in the Golden Nugget and their family got a whole lot of money from the casino not to tell anyone where it happened.

I think about that. And I know this creepy little guy is thinking that if he can marry me before I commit suicide, he stands to make a lot of money. And so I thank him for his pastoral counseling and head on up the street.

I'm moving at a pretty good clip when I check behind me. The creepy little guy from the Wee Kirk is following me. I decide to cross the street.

That's when my fucking heel gets caught in the asphalt. Sinks right in the road like it's quicksand. Well, I can't leave my shoe there because the fucking idiot drivers from L.A. will run over it. So I stay in the middle of the street with my shoe.

Guys honk at me and yell things. I flip em off.

Then this guy in a white Beemer drives up to me and stops. He gives me one of these hands-in-the-air question marks. I give him one back and point at my shoe.

He gets out of his car to come and look. He's wearing a silk tuxedo shirt but no pants. Oh god, I think, he is gonna want a blow job before he gets my shoe out of the street.

I am just on the verge of telling him to go blow himself because he's got all the other features of a dog, when I realize I know this guy.

He's this guy I fell in love with. The only guy I ever loved. This is him.

I went to Hawaii with him once. I laid on the beach all day for three weeks and waited for him to come back and fuck me. But he never had time because he had a lot of work to do there. Or at least that's what he said. Really he just had too many other women there.

So we would sit around and drink Bacardi at the end of the day, and he would tell me about the other women. How they were gorgeous and great in bed but really fucked up. All of his girlfriends were really fucked up.

Anyway, I look at him again, here in the street, to make sure that this is that same guy. It's him, all right. I say his name. But he doesn't recognize me. He's fucked a hundred thousand women by now. How can he remember one he didn't fuck?

We wait for the traffic to clear. Then he picks my shoe up out of the street. "Get in," he says, and hands me the shoe.

But I don't move. "You owe me something," he says. "I might have saved your fucking life."

The creepy little guy from the Wee Kirk of the Heather is watching all this from the curb. So I get in. And we speed off.

He tells me he's got between here and Charleston Boulevard to collect on the blowjob. I tell him okay, but I only got till Freemont Street, because I'm going to the Golden Nugget to commit suicide.

This seems to cool him off. "Fuck it," he says, "a hundred thousand women in this town and I gotta pick up a crazy!"

I don't remind him of Hawaii. Instead, I remind him of the last time we saw each other. The time he came to my house. I was married then and living in Reno. He came through town. Someone had given him my number. He thought he was calling a total stranger. We met in the lobby of this little two bit motel called The Shang-Gre-Lah! where he was staying. And I invited him to come home with me.

When we got in the car, I reminded him of Hawaii. But he didn't remember.

It was around Christmas time, that time in Reno. And we laid on the floor in front of the fire, drank Bacardi, and he told me about the women in his life. They were all gorgeous and great in bed, but they were really fucked up.

Finally my husband came home about midnight. By then we were both drunk, and so was my husband. I remember going into the bathroom. We had a pink bathroom in Reno. I washed my face. I was going to be sick tonight or hung over tomorrow morning. I looked into the mirror and said, "I will love him forever, but I will never let on. Never again."

That made me feel better, so that when I went into the bedroom and laid myself out on the bed, I knew I was through with him, and closed my eyes.

When I woke up, he was in the room. He wanted to know how I was. I shook my head. He sat down on the bed. I looked at him with the thought that one day I would kill him. But he just picked up my head and he kissed me, deeply, profoundly. "I will always love you," he said. "I always have."

"God damn you," I said.

That was the last time I saw him. That was eight years ago. I never knew where he was, I had no way of finding him. But I thought about him all the time, and often I saw him. Or thought I saw him. Across the street, in an airline terminal, standing with other men at a bar.

But now. Here he is. In this car. Next to me. Driving west on Freemont Street. Toward the Golden Nugget.

When I finish telling him all this, he really looks at me, for the first time. But he has no memory of anything I've said. None of it rings a bell.

I take his head in my hands and I say, "It doesn't matter. You've got no memory of it, and I'm on my way to commit suicide. So far as the rest of the world is concerned, it never happened."

"But it did happen," I tell him. "So help me god, it happened. In exactly the way I've told it."

Then I get out of the car. He speeds off going west, then turns right going north.

I head into the Golden Nugget, where the creepy little guy from the Wee Kirk of the Heather is there, waiting for me. He's got a couple of security guys with him. They come up on either side of me and walk me back outside. "We don't need your business in here tonight, young lady," they say. "Take your business somewhere else."

I tell them it doesn't matter. I've just met the only man I ever loved. They shrug and look back at the creepy little guy from Wee Kirk of the Heather. I move on down the street.

Otherwise, it's a perfectly ordinary night in Vegas. Hot and dry as a lizard's tongue.

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