The summer before I turned 17, my family flew to Vegas. I glued my face to the window of our rental car all the way from the airport to Bally’s. I had never seen anything so marvelous and gaudy and utterly sinful. I fell instantly in love.
I followed my parents from casino to casino, jaw dropped, eyes popped. I had never been crammed in amongst so many people. This trip occurred before Vegas tried to make anything family-friendly, so there was nothing much for a sixteen year old to do, legally. Yet, I was never bored. I was awed, stupefied, entranced. The day was one long adrenaline rush, and I shivered from it.
That night, I stood at the picture window of the room I shared with my brother. I watched the traffic, both foot and vehicular. Synchronized floods of people in the scorching heat of July.
I wrote poetry about the city, about how the air was so dry that all tires squealed, how someone was always at my father’s elbow with a drink, how the lights of the Flamingo flashed in my brother’s dark, stoned eyes. I hadn’t felt so alone and yet not alone since New Years in New Orleans, but this was different. It felt good.
We left Vegas the next morning.
Five nights later, I stood outside a cabin at Grand Canyon Village, stared into the sky, and beheld a near-record meteor shower. The lights in all the cabins and buildings were off, so it was utterly dark. I stood there, holding my mother’s hand like the child I no longer believed I was, and I made wishes because that’s what you do when you see shooting stars.
I felt so completely connected with everything around me, even more so than looking over the rim of the canyon and feeling like I could catch a warm updraft in my over-sized T-shirt and hover like the eagles and condors. I felt like I could fall forever, into the canyon or into the sky. I felt like I belonged, that even though I was a tiny nothing on a tiny nothing planet, I existed and was loved. I stood there for over an hour, with my finger pointed at the sky, and cried, and I don’t cry. It wasn’t until I met Fluffy that I felt so utterly alive again.