Damned Beautiful — Sherry Barker Abaldo

by Sherry Barker Abaldo

Once I had too many lovers, and we all
took a trip to the Strip to say goodbye to
one of them. This seemed like a good idea
at the time. The 15 then was more or
less an uncluttered straight shot east from
the City of Angels to Sin City, with just
Calico ghost town and Squaw Tit mountain and
the Bonnie and Clyde death car to distract
our little caravan. That and the mimosas
we’d all downed for brunch back at the
beach. Or I had. Or I was remembering some
other lost love, or some other beach. My
father had just died at 49. My last words to
him were, “Gotta go vacuum.” I hung up.
He was flying Maine to LA to see me the next
day. All this flying and driving. My friendlover
(who was also like my brother, as far as I
knew, being an only child) was leaving by
car then ship then train then plane then who
knows what conveyance to explore the world
with his fingers and his eyes and tongue. He
was going to bring me back stories, if he came
back. I did not think he would. I became the one
with stories. But at the time, with Vegas spread
before us, we mostly just kept drinking and
checked in like James Kerouac Houdini Bond to the
Trop. (Something was ending, but we all wanted
to believe something was beginning instead.)
What I remember most are the sleeping
arrangements, those nights I could not sleep
out there in the howling, sordid, wide and
wild desert of temptation. You can’t even see
the stars because of all the whorish lights; I
think I said that, and somebody handed me
another drink. They let you sleep out by the
pool in those days, on the grass by the fake
tropical pool, or on the chaise lounges with the
sun-faded orange and white bands (or were
they?) under heaven out beneath the spray of
theoretical stars, and a sky of perpetual dusk.
One night a bunch of us slept in one bed, under
a king-sized mirror:  we giggled, until we looked
up. Then a hush. Someone said oh my God, we
look beautiful, we look like models, we look like a
Bruce Weber ad – so we posed, stretched our necks,
lifted our chins, clasped our chests and moved our
legs, swirling the snow white stiff-ish hotel sheets
around like frosting, like Greek drapery on statues
of gods (and me, sole lonely pissed off goddess). We
must have slept at some point. We must have gotten
up again. We must have gambled and drunk more.
The leaving one left. Eventually he came back, not
having traversed the whole globe after all, and I
think we ate strawberry ice cream. I remember
watching his mouth move, not being able to say
anything, less than a year later. I wanted to say,
“How did you manage to come back?” Even Vegas
changed. Even the stars. Even my belly.


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