I am in Las Vegas alone. It’s a Thursday night, and I want to be somewhere elegant, away from the seedy nightlife. I get dressed up, decked out in lagoon blue silk and my best high heels, and dab Chanel No. 5 on my neck and wrists. The concierge made a dinner reservation for me at 8:30. A steak house at the Red Rock Canyon Resort. The place looks like most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, but the restaurant tucked deep in the back of the casino was nice. I am seated at a table next to a large glass enclosed fireplace, which warms me from the blasting cold air conditioning that is characteristic of every hotel in town.
I am cognizant of the fact that I am the only person sitting at a table by myself. It does not bother me to sit alone, I rather like to see people as I catch their glances my way. Not sure if they feel sorry for me, or sorry that they are not me. Perhaps they wish they could get away from their dinner companions. It amuses me to wonder what they think.
I have a lovely dinner, with a gorgeous, if not wildly delicious cocktail that goes down too easily with my hearts of palm salad and perfectly cooked steak. I find myself…. tipsy.
After dinner I realize that I am not quite ready to drive. So I walk to the corner of the long bar on the other side of the restaurant. I sit at the end to people watch as they come through the door. I order a coke — not a rum and coke — just a coke. I am a tad bit disappointed that the bar tender didn’t throw any cherries in it, but oh well, c’est la vie.
As I sit and watch the younger men and women mingle, a woman enters from the rear door by the swimming pool area and sits a few seats down from me. She has salon blond hair, and I notice the lovely jewelry she is wearing. Her makeup is flawless and looks effortless. She is at least 10 years older than me. She asks if I could recommend something to order, as she forgot her glasses and can’t read the menu.
Something quite unique happened as we started talking. After not having a real conversation in several days (I’ve been on the road), I find that we are chatting like we have known each other for years. As it turns out she is originally from the area where I live, and we even graduated from the same University. She told me of her man trouble, I told her of mine. She tells me of her struggles with her kids who are kicking off their independence, leaving her with an empty and financially depleted nest. I tell her of my young daughter, and she gives advice that does not feel like lecturing. We talk about travel, and how we both like to see the world alone, because it gives both of us a sense of wholeness and rest that we don’t find when in the company of others. We listened to just how much we had in common. It’s both refreshing and frightening to find a kindred spirit here, on this anything but typical Thursday night.
She told me I reminded her of when she was my age. The softness of her voice as she spoke those words made me look up at her. I saw past the slight wrinkles around her eyes, and I realized I was looking right at me — the me I’ll be in 10 years. Her story – a need for a new self identity, not company – was my story. She told me of her new job, her new move to California, and the sense of ready to “leave the shallow, self-absorbed Las Vegas scene” behind as she begins a new phase of her life. As I looked at this stranger, I felt a kind of warm assurance that I was going to be OK, and that feeling rushed through me.
In the no more than 30 minutes that we spoke before her girlfriends showed up, I felt like I met someone who gets me. I have been struggling to open up and lean on friends to keep me company through this period of my life, but that’s not easy for someone like me. I wish I could have talked to her all night, but I politely excused myself so she could be with her friends. She wished me good luck, and as she shook my hand she looked me in the eye once more as though she was saying goodbye to an old friend.
I went on this trip to find a few days of peace, and maybe a little adventure that could give me some sense of purpose during this middle part of my life. I am convinced this was no chance meeting. This was fate handing me a look at who I’ll be, and I am starting to see that I’m going to be alright.