Getting Into Trouble

short story by Evelyn Duboff

I rarely travel. Unless someone talks me into it, pleads with me, begs, I stay home. Maybe it's agoraphobia . . . or fear of the unknown.

Lois loves Las Vegas: loves to gamble, have fun, get away from L.A.-at least for a couple of days. She's a lawyer, and I'm a paralegal in her office. Still, she has to beg me to tag along.

"I'd rather drive," I tell her. Fear of flying, you know, in the age of terrorists.

"The longer it takes to get there," she says, "the less time for getting into trouble."

The flight from L.A. takes half an hour.

At the hotel, Lois plays the tables and I guzzle gin fizzes. When I travel, I drink.

Then Lois says, "Let's have some fun!"

"What kind of fun?" I inquire.

"Come on," she says, "don't be a wimp."

Wimp, huh? I'll show her.

Lois asks the valet guy for a happening place, and slips him a chip as a tip. He directs us to a rooftop club at the House of Blues. "Don't tell anyone I told you," he says, as if it were a drug deal.

It would have cost us twenty bucks apiece to get in, but the doorman comps us. Lois knows how to plead. Or maybe it's her red lips and round hips.

I feel like a thief walking in . . . hardwood floors, chandeliers, marble bar and cocktail tables; people in pairs, groups, and singles-all swaying to a light rap beat.

Lois laughs. "Everybody's drunk!"

"Mellow," I say.

"Dur-runk," she says.

We take a seat at the bar, and a fine looking, bald-headed, brown-faced guy sits beside me.

Lois says warmly, "Why don't you smile?"

"I'm tired," he says, and plops his bald head on my left shoulder.

His name is Charlie. He's in Vegas for a five-day conference.

"Come on," Lois says to me, losing interest, "let's mingle"-and leads me to the center of the room.

She yowls to the rhythm of the music: "Yah! Yo! Yah! . . . Yah! Yo! Yah!"

We sway-Lois in her red micro-mini and black-ribbed hose from France; me in my ankle-length rust knit dress with matching beret-until a dark-haired, smooth-faced guy from India, yellow silk scarf around his neck, grabs her and slides his knee up and down her leg, like he knows what he's doing.

"Yah! Yo! Yah!" She wraps her arms around him and yelps.

Charlie comes up from behind, doing "The Train"-a dirty dance-and choo-choos into me.

Lois notices. "Yeah!" she howls.

"That's a little wild," I say to Charlie.

"Don't be afraid of me," he says, backing up. "I want to know you." Then he saunters off to someone else he wants to know.

A tall, trim, Black-American appears from out of nowhere. He's young, no more than thirty. "I'm Jim," he says. "Care to dance?"

He looks dignified . . . sensitive.

I nod.

He starts to put his arms around me, but I step into my solo thing. The whole time we dance he stares at me, his eyes dark and mysterious.

"Can I buy you a drink?" he says.

He orders a Screwdriver for me but nothing for himself. He's an intern at a local hospital and has to be up at dawn.

"Will you be here tomorrow?" he asks.

I shake my head. "Lois and I are returning to Los Angeles in the morning."

"I don't like L.A.," he says, "the freeway gridlock." He hands me his phone number and email address, and says goodnight.

I kiss him on the cheek, surprising him and myself. But I know it's the last time I'll see him.

Moments later, Charlie appears and asks for a kiss on the cheek-and I realize he watched me with Jim. Not to be unkind, I oblige.

Then I look up to see Jim, a short distance away, looking defeated.

I ride down the elevator with Lois and the Indian, his yellow silk scarf around her neck.

Back in L.A., I start to write an email to Jim. "I enjoyed meeting you," I say, "and admire your chosen path in life." I add: "I rarely travel-unless someone begs me."

And then I delete it . . . and begin again.