I carried Billy into our room, laying him down in his crib. The same one that had been in my family for about ten generations. It was nothing if not secure. The bars being high and wood. There was about a seventy percent chance that Billy would start chewing on the bars at some point, but at least I knew they wouldn’t have lead-based paint. Pre-dating it by several years.
“Night, Daddy,” Billy said, waving his little hand at the picture of Carl, already going past my prompting.
It usually made me feel good when he did that. Thought the action tonight was like opening a fresh wound. I slipped out of the room so my baby boy could sleep, not sure what else to do.
I went into the living room for some wine and conversation. The wine was excellent and made me feel warm. I also decided that I was going to tell Jinx about Billy. It was the right thing to do, though I had no idea if he was going to care.
The night after I saw Lila, I couldn’t sleep. The air conditioner blew heavily, but it was like I could not escape the heat of the Vegas desert. My mind raced as I tossed and turned. The constant movement annoyed Lucky, and even he abandoned me for the comfort of the couch.
I certainly had a lot to regret, most of it self-inflicted. I didn’t regret going into rehab. It was the best thing I ever did. However, I did regret not telling anyone I was going. That was an epically dick move. It wasn’t like they wouldn’t have understood. My addiction was an open secret at my dad’s Casino, where I worked. Yet they kept me on, because I was good at what I did, and people will look the other way if they’re making money.
I felt worst about Lila. She had been so good to me for so many years. First as a friend then as a lover. She never demanded anything from me. I dreaded the idea that she might have thought my leaving had been somehow her fault. If something she had said or done had driven me away.
It was about my love, strangely. Not because Lila drove me away but because I realized that I was no longer the man I had been when we had fallen in love. I had to find him again if we were ever going to have any future together.
Of course, that entire idea fell apart when I actually got out of rehab and felt far too ashamed to face her again. I wanted to see Lila but couldn’t fathom what I would say.
That idea haunted my dreams at night. That night, Lila was walking down a long highway. I was running after her trying to talk to her, to apologize for how I had acted. But no matter how fast I ran, I just couldn’t reach her. She kept getting further and further away. Then there was a baby crying.
The baby was still crying when I woke up, adding to the realism of the whole ordeal. I wondered what that could have been about. In any case, I knew what I had to do. I had to find Lila, wherever she was, and give an explanation for my disappearance two years before. I owed her that and a whole lot more. I didn’t expect a second chance and knew I really didn’t deserve it anyway, but I figured it was worth a try.
The NGO’s office wasn’t too difficult to find. There really weren’t that many NGO’s in Vegas. At least not as many as there would be in San Francisco or Portland, where it really would be like a needle in a haystack. Particularly not an environmental agency like Lila worked for. I suppose there was something about living in the desert that made people happy to be alive in general, without much of a thought for the planet at large. I had gone to college in Washington State and had a bit of a broader perspective on the matter.
Walking through the glass doors emblazoned with the Desert Protect logo on them, I planned to pour on the charm to get past the receptionist if needed. Truth be told, there really wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do to see Lila again. Even if she threw hot coffee on me, it would be great to see her and still much more than I deserved.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to charm my way past the receptionist. Lila was the receptionist — who just so happened to be on a call. Things were so crazy the day before, I couldn’t even be entirely sure I had seen the NGO bumper sticker. It really was a leap of faith, hoping the fates might take pity on me. Or at least that they might pity Lila and let me give her closure for herself if not for me.