When you’re on vacation you don’t need to wear a watch. You can go by the tide or the shadows on sidewalks or the pangs of hunger in your belly. And when you’re on vacation you don’t have to worry about people knowing you. You can do as you please. Come and go as you wish. You can be who ever you’d like to be –like Michael or Sal or Roger. It all makes no difference. So tonight I’m Randolph and I work in Wisconsin, and I’m in South Beach for the weekend. I’m also very successful, but I don’t like to talk about that because I’m humble.
I think that’s what she probably notices first: my humility. She walks over to me and leans on the bar. She gives me the look like I can buy her a drink. I do –a cosmopolitan. We speak. Her names Carmela. She has soft brown eyes and a quiet sense of humor.
“That guy over there,” she says after our second drink, “he’s looking for men.”
“Get out of here,” I say, taking a heavy sip of beer. Her eyes are serious, though. “Why do you say that?”
“You can just tell. Look there,” she points to a hot brunette making her way to the restroom. She struts her stuff by the guy. With his back on the wall, he looks at her, and then looks away toward a group of girls and guys playing pool.
“See?” she says.
“His eyes never looked down her. He didn’t even notice her tits or nothing. He was looking for eye contact and when he didn’t get it, he went back to those college boys playing pool.”
“Get out of here,” I say again. “How do you know that he’s looking at the guys? Maybe he’s looking for a younger girl. Maybe he’s just into college girls. ”
She looks at me and we both take a defiant drink. A couple minutes pass and the brunette is out of the restroom. She walks past the guy again. He doesn’t look. She heads directly to the bar, cutting in between Carmella and me, and orders herself a drink. While she’s waiting she looks at me and smiles. I look back trying not to do it. But I cave and look down at her tits. She gets her drink and walks away. Carmella looks at me and we both laugh.
If it was my humility that she first noticed, then I guess I’d have to say it was her confidence that attracted me. She’s very comfortable with herself. Even now, she lies on the bed naked, one leg crossed nonchalantly on top of her other knee, as she sucks the end of her cigarette. The position makes the fat around her stomach role up like a wave and I can see the cellulite on the bottom of her thighs, but her hands never move to cover it; the sheets lay idly by, crumpled and sweaty by the base of the bed. She wears her fat well. I turn toward her and place my hand on top and lightly squeeze. It doesn’t faze her. She sticks the cigarette in my mouth. I got a no smoking room, but no one follows that anyway –plus, it’s a vacation and Randolph likes to smoke so I inhale deep.
“I think I’ll stay the night,” she says.
“Okay,” I say, sticking the cigarette back in her mouth. “But I have to get up pretty early. I leave tomorrow.”
“No problem. I’ll be gone when you need me to.” She pats my head and we laugh.
She gets up and heads to the bathroom. She has a nice ass and I watch it until the door closes. I hear the water start to run. I close my eyes and begin to doze. A few minutes later, her phone goes off. I open my eyes. It’s a really annoying ring –it’s one of the ring tones that come with the phone. I get up and knock on the bathroom door.
“Carmella! Hey, Carmella!”
“Yeah?” she shouts back. The water turns off and she says again. “What’s up?”
“You’re phone’s ringing.”
“Would you mind bringing it to me. It’s in my purse.”
I find her purse under the covers and pull out her phone on the last ring. The caller ID says it’s Sid.
“Can you bring it?”
The door opens and I hand it to her. She takes it in and calls him back. The door closes again, but I can still hear her talking. I hold her purse in front of me, then stick my hand inside. I weed through a tampon, some gum, chap-stick, a few loose coins and some hair clips. I pull out her licensee and a cigarette. I head back to the bed, light up, and blow a puff of smoke onto her picture. Her hair’s in a bun and she’s wearing glasses. It reads: Jessica Prichet. She’s from Connecticut and her birthday is in May.
We’re delayed. The plane takes off at eight thirty. I have a magazine and don’t really care. The flight is only two hours to Newark. The flight attendant asks us to fasten our seatbelts for the landing. I buckle up and sit in quiet anticipation. The moment when you’re just about to hit the runway has an oddly calming effect on me. I can sit back and let my brain go on autopilot. Just sit as the wheels of the plane come out, hovering mere feet from the asphalt.
For that brief moment, I look at the TV in the back of the chair before me. It’s turned off along with all other electronics. I stare at the reflection before me and a guy stares back, a guy sitting in a living room with his wife and two kids, eating a TV dinner and watching reality shows. Then with a light thud, the wheels meet the runway, steadying me. Randolph disappears, and Jason steps out and takes his seat.
When you get ready for a vacation you pack everything but your baggage. When you come back, and pull your bag off the conveyer belt your surprised at how heavy it suddenly becomes.
Sometimes, usually during our TV dinners, I find myself thinking about Randolph and Carmella. They were a good match. They could have been together and have been happy. They could have been anything they wanted to be.