She stood in front of me leaning against the smooth, finally finished concrete rail. Her left elbow rested on the curved rail, a cigarette in her right hand held between her middle and index fingers, the smoke drifting and billowing up in the wind.
The music drifted through the Las Vegas night and stood out over the traffic up and down Las Vegas Boulevard. The music of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman drifted along the pond and the water from the fountain fronting the Bellagio rose and danced across the air in time with the music. Marty stood there entranced, immune to the people milling around her, tears on her face as she heard only the music and saw only the artistry of the dancing waters.
She stood there for an hour and listened and watched as the music and the water came alive four more times. If I hadn’t insisted we leave she would have stayed longer. The music, the water, the light breeze, the night, for Marty it was intoxicating, for Marty it was her drug of choice, for Marty, it moved her, for Marty it was where she wanted to be, feeling the way she wanted to feel.
That was Marty. The music and the water drove deep into her essence. The sound and the sights rang within her like a tuning fork and made her feel, made her feel intensely and the tears, the emotions bubbled to the surface and she would not want to leave those emotions, she wanted the intensity to continue.
That was December of 2004, eleven months after Marty’s father died, ten months after we put her mother in a nursing home, nine months since one of our dogs died, five months since our daughter was mugged in Spain, two months after her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and mere days after I had been laid off from my job of 26 years. It had been a rough year and we had wanted to do something completely out of character, thus Vegas in December with our daughter and two of her friends
That day we had looked back on the trials of 2004 and we had decided to get a t-shirt that said, “We Will Thrive in 2005”. This was 90 days before Marty’s first stroke. That December trip to Vegas, that stop at the fountains at Bellagio, that sort of existential experience there, was Marty’s last trip to the fountains. I wish I had known.
Last week I went to Las Vegas with daughter Erin and son-in-law Lyle. For me, Las Vegas is a place of pure innocent debauchery and a way to completely disconnect from reality. It’s always been that way for me, the people who built the town made it that way, I go there to hide from reality and taste the wine of fantasy from time to time.
I don’t win, if I tie, I win, I don’t win. I don’t plan on winning; victory for me is losing myself in the lights, the people, the smells, and the frivolity for just a couple of days.
I never go to Las Vegas without stopping at the fountains. I go; I stand in virtually the same spot Marty stood in eight years ago. I put my hand on the smooth concrete rail with the music and the sight of the dancing water washing over me, filling me with what was.
This time it was Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be a Lady”. The song was perfect for a beautiful night, the water danced and swayed with the rhythm and cadence of the song and I thought back to the night eight years ago.
I wanted the tears to come, I wanted to feel with the same intensity that Marty had, I wanted it to be what it was to her. It is, yet different. The tears were there, the memories were there, the idea and feeling of watching something unique was there, but I will never feel as Marty felt, I will never have that same intensity. I understand that.
That December trip to Vegas eight years ago, that turn at the fountains at Bellagio, that sort of existential experience there, was Marty’s last trip to the fountains; I wish I had known it was her last time there, we would have stayed all night.