I walk through the casino slowly, only because it’s been less than a month since I turned 21 and I want to cherish the feeling of knowing I won’t be shooed out. I’m carrying $22.01 in cash and change, my room key, debit card, and driver’s license. Looking at the names of the machines I repeat in my head “I’ll know it when I see it.” Casinos are the ultimate testament to the notion that all of the glitz and flash in the world doesn’t mean shit. I am surrounded by lonely people and hopeful losers. Not the losers that steal from old women and mooch off of the welfare system; the losers who simply don’t win. Every bing from a slot machine and flash of a light is a dismal hint that we were sinking. I inhale someone else’s cigarette smoke.
I’ll know it when I see it.
I find an escalator that takes me to a floor of various rooms and stores. That’s when I see the movie theater. I have no idea what’s playing, and even more importantly haven’t known what time it is all day. My phone is dead, and even if it weren’t, the time zone between Arizona and Nevada is so close that I never really know for sure which is which. I pick a poster, I wait in line, I walk into a dark theater where the movie has already started. It feels as if the theater has been waiting for me the whole time. I sit in a row all by myself, take my shoes off, and prop my feet up on the seat in front of me.
I’ve cried at three movies in my life. The first was the cartoon version of “Charlotte’s Web” in fifth grade. The second was “My Sister’s Keeper” three years ago. The third was “50/50” a few months ago. I’m unsure whether the cancer theme in the last two movies was a coincidence or not.
The fourth was tonight.
For a long time I’ve felt like a robot. You can hear the bit of hollowness in my “thank you”s and “sorry”s. I want to be thankful, I want to be sorry, but even my most calculated voice inflections leave a bit of artificial behind. Don’t get me wrong, my brain knows how special it is that you put the thought into replacing my favorite snow globe that I’ve had for years that you broke accidentally. My brain can appreciate the chunk of heart that falls off when you have to put your dog down even after the surgery to remove the tumors. It is my heart that has been frozen for years.
So imagine my surprise when I start crying tonight. And my surprise when I realize that three days ago when I was scared I felt a balloon expanding in my chest, a sickening ticklish feeling growing in my throat. Imagine my surprise when I recall how at my grandfather’s 80th birthday, when my mom started crying out of the blue how I started crying, too.
Imagine my surprise when I figure out that my heart has finally begun to thaw out. That after years of my mind protecting me from things too horrid, I have finally come back to myself.