She’s Got My Number, And It Hurts
Life, Love, and the Curse of 17
“What number should I play at the roulette wheel?” I asked her via my keyboard.
“17!” Lea’s response flashed on my screen very quickly. 17 is both her and my birthday - February 17 and November 17 – so what better number to play?
Our only means of communication – the all-seeing, all-powerful Facebook Messenger – is a poor substitute for face-to-face chats, but it’s all we have. We chat a few times a year, wish each other Happy Birthday, and share a few funny stories, but that’s about it. Good enough, I guess.
“Excellent choice!” I typed back. Three days later, I was 30,000 feet in the air, on the way to Las Vegas, and with mixed emotions.
This girl – or woman, I should say, as she’s turning 40 this coming February – has had my number for almost twenty years. From the first French class we took together in college, seemingly a lifetime ago, to the present day, she’s had me. I haven’t seen her in almost fifteen years, but just one “Hello” from her on Facebook can make me forget who I am today. Fifteen years of disciplining myself, a decade and a half of learning to enjoy life without her….and yet, she still sneaks back into my mind, my dreams, and my life.
“We have to get together one of these days,” she would say from time to time, even though she lived hours away.
“Sure,” I would tell her with not much sincerity. Why on Earth should I hurt myself by seeing her again? We graduated, she moved away, and then married another man. “It’s time to let me go,” I wrote her as a response to her wedding invitation. No way will I be her old pal from college, be “Uncle Larry” to her kids, and act like I’m her husband’s good buddy….no way in Hell! Life went on, and I stayed away. I still loved her, but from afar.
Life certainly went on. Hair turns gray as life goes on, I discovered! Not just for everyone else, but for ME, too! Lots of fun times: Packer games, Brewer games, RUSH TOURS (WOO HOO!), lots of not-so-good golf, and the occasional close encounter with a girl….yes, I still call ‘em “girls”. I can’t help it; I’m still 25 in my head!
No gray hair for Lea, though. Still drop dead beautiful as ever. It seemed like every year, she would be more and more stunning. One look at a picture of her and her glorious smile, and I would do the usual – freeze in awe and want to drop on my knees.
Get out of my head! I’ve yelled at her in silence, especially after I wake up from yet another dream about her. At least once a month, she’s in my dreams, and it’s always the same plot. We’re separated, even if we’re in the same house, or something/someone is interrupting up a simple conversation between us. It’s always the same. Whatever you want to call it – Life, Luck, Fate – something always ruins it. How fitting that my dreams mimic real life – a multitude of mistakes, bad luck and missed opportunities – especially when it comes to Lea.
“I will contact you!” she announced earlier this year. She is coming to town sometime, to visit her niece, who is now attending our university. She wants to see me….still. Maybe this year, maybe next, who knows? I don’t care; I’ll be there.
“Sure!” I told her with much sincerity. I gave her my address, my phone number, e-mail – all of it. YES, I want to see her, if only for one last time. She still cares, so how can I refuse? After all these years, she still cares. She’s got my number.
The days counted down to a fun November weekend in Las Vegas with my buddies. The Strip, the Happy Hour drinks, the bookies, and the golf course are all calling! Our itinerary is all set, and our Saturday morning flight is on schedule. Last time I went to Vegas, I got creamed by the Gods of Chance, but not this time! I’m gonna WIN!!
“Hi, Larry!” the Message glowed brightly on my iPad Tuesday afternoon. I automatically KNEW who it was and what the message was. I just KNEW it.
“I’m coming to town this weekend! Would you like to get together Sunday morning for coffee?” Of ALL the weekends she had to pick, it had to be THIS ONE. I just freaking KNEW IT. I just CAN’T WIN when it comes to this girl. I DON’T DESERVE THIS.
I gave her my sincere regrets. We were both bummed about it, but more so for me, I think. Will I ever see her again? Ever? I ask myself. Of course not! …. said my inner voice. You’re cursed when it comes to her. Something will always screw it up for you.
Like I said, I flew to Las Vegas with mixed emotions. I really wanted to see her, and part of me was tempted to cancel my trip (and piss off my buddies) just to have coffee with her.....and I don't even drink coffee! I sucked it up and got on the plane. Next time, Lea. I promise.
“17!” she told me to play, so that’s what I did. It was a special number for sure. After a long flight and expensive cab ride, my buddies and I arrived at our hotel in Vegas. Several bets with the bookies and a few drinks later, I found myself walking by the roulette tables. My one buddy, whom I told the story of “17”, sat down with me and we started playing. I bought $100 in chips, and started betting ($10 minimum), with some chips on 17 every time. I won a few times on all Red, all Black and some other side bets, I even hit on 14 (for Valentine’s Day, the first time I kissed her)…..but 17 never hit.
I played for a while, but the chips started to go away, and I was down to $12. I put it all on 17, much to the amusement of my buddy and the dealer, who started the ball on its way around the wheel……and it landed on:
“ONE RED”, the dealer announced. No surprise there! As if I was going to have my/our lucky number win…..HA!! I was out of money, so I started to get up, but my buddy had chips for one more play. The dealer rolled the ball around the wheel……and it slowed and landed on…….17.
I have prided myself on being an educated, rational, well-grounded man, who doesn’t believe in jinxes or anything supernatural. That rationality was shaken badly this past Saturday night. I really began to think that I am CURSED. For hours, I was numb, confused and quite PISSED. It was as if Lady Luck gave me a running kick in the BALLS!!
It’s been a week since that night, and I’m still unsure of myself! What have I done that was so wrong! Fall in love with a girl at the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong circumstances? Christ, I’d rather cut my balls off than mess with her or her life. I just want to see her again and tell her how much she’s meant to me….and then say goodbye! Really! What’s next – getting hit by a bus when I’m walking to the café to see her?! How will Life screw me over next time?
The wise man was right. Sometimes, the target IS you.