I took this picture in the Las Vegas airport. I’m leaving Las Vegas. This is always my favorite part of this trip, the leaving. Vegas is not my town. It reeks to me of booze and smoke and desperation and loss and betrayal. It’s my boulevard of broken dreams. I’m rushing to get to my gate, to get out of this godforsaken city, when I see them.
I don’t know much about the couple. They’re 80, or older perhaps. I make up a little story about them; mingle what I know with my story, with what I hope is true.
They are going back to Kona, where they got married, to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Their children paid for the trip, or maybe their grandchildren even. It is going to be their last big trip because, let’s face it, they’re not getting any younger, and she is getting too frail to travel. They are just as in love now as they were when they got married. Before children, before fights, before affairs, before whatever life did what it does to people. They are more in love now.
This is the story. Here’s what I actually know:
She loves chocolate; he left her holding her bag, which he told her not to let anyone touch, so he could buy her some chocolate.
They are going to Hawaii, to Kona. They are nervous that our flight is delayed and they might miss their connection.
He wears a hearing aid.
She uses a wheelchair, though maybe just at the airport, because she can walk.
He’s funny, or she thinks he is anyway; she laughed as he popped wheelies with the wheelchair, as he told stories to their new friends who were also going to Hawaii.
She laughs a lot.
They are married; to each other I hope though the rings they wear don’t guarantee that I guess.
They are in love.
I didn’t hear them speak of their love. But I saw the declarations of it as clearly as if they had spray-painted them across the floor in front of gate 55. It was there when he stroked her hair back from her face; when she closed her eyes and tilted her face towards his touch. It was there in her smile back at him as he leaned the wheelchair back onto two wheels, as he sped up and slowed down to her amusement. It was there in their clutched hands as they walked down the aisle to seats 10 C and 10 D. It was there in their gazes at each other when neither was talking, when there was nothing to be said.
It was love.
I’m sure of it. Okay so the details of the story I created were probably false. They don’t really matter anyway. The love was the same. But I needed the story.
Maybe in this story I was projecting the imagined fantasy that I wanted for my grandparents if they both could have lived that long, for my parents if they both could have loved that long. Maybe I was projecting what I want for me. Someone who will push my hair out of my face, who will pop a wheelie with my wheelchair. Someone who will gaze at me long after all the words have been said.
Instead I watch scenes of love as an observer. I sneak pictures and overhear pieces of conversations and make up stories. I choke back tears while I chose the perfect Instagram filter and write a caption that will accurately depict this scene. But the fact remains.
I’m on the outside, looking in. I always have been. I’ve said some I love yous. I’ve heard some I love yous. And still it’s never been quite right. It’s never FELT quite right. I’ve never known the dialogue, or gotten the notes on blocking that everyone else just seems to inherently know. I can watch the scenes over and over and over and never re-create them for myself.
I haven’t, in 35 years, experienced the kind of love that I saw in 35 minutes in the Vegas airport. It’s not for lack of wanting, or lack of trying, or lack of anything I understand that makes it this way. It just is.
This could be it for me, I think. This could be all it ever is.
But seeing this today, I wonder. Maybe, just maybe, it could be out there still, somewhere between Gates 55 and 58, or between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, even between Las Vegas and Los Angeles; my very own scenes of love. Maybe the other scenes are here now, all around me, so I will recognize what they should look like when I am finally in the starring role.
Flight delayed, I’m back at that boulevard of broken dreams of Vegas, seeing the booze and the smoke and the desperation and the loss and even the betrayal. It’s all still there. But this time it’s a little different I think. This time I see the love too.
Scenes of love, at the airport, in Las Vegas. If I can find them here, I can probably find them anywhere. I can probably even find them for me.