I was home for winter break. It was junior year and somehow I had ostracized myself from everyone. Let me just say that there was an incident with a couch that caught fire, and afterward I found myself without friends.
Thankfully Mom never said much about my social failures. On the third night of break she told me we were going to her company's Christmas party.
This year's entertainment came in the form of a Tom Jones impersonator who came out to the bouncy beat of "She's a Lady" and started vamping across the stage. The women in the crowd were eating it up as he started losing scarves and tossing them into the crowd.
It came as a surprise how much I was getting into it. By the time he finished "She's a Lady" I was saying to myself that he had a really great voice. Without realizing what I was doing I was bopping along to "What's New Pussycat?" and by the end of the set when the horns started into "It's Not Unusual" I was full on dancing in my seat and signing along. If you had asked me before that night if I knew the words to a Tom Jones song I would have vehemently denied it, but apparently I would also have been lying because I was singing my heart out.
As he left the stage, I found my mother on the dance floor. I had no idea if she saw my outburst but I feigned illness and begged to leave. For the rest of winter break I tried really hard to forget about Tom Jones's sultry baritone voice.
My resolve lasted about two weeks once back at school. I was bored one night and started watching Tom Jones videos on YouTube. Within minutes all the excitement from that night at the Marriott came back to me. I downloaded his entire catalog and would walk around campus listening to this man from Wales, feeling safe and loved.
Things accelerated when I found out that Tom was doing a run of shows in Vegas during spring break. I had to go. It was a nine-hour bus trip to Vegas and I spent all my savings to pay for it, but I knew it was worth it. How else could I commemorate this weird part of my life and obsession? It hurt lying to Mom but I was not sure she would approve of my plans.
The bus depot was really run down and scary and the bus smelled of rotten eggs. I had to sit next to a loud, fat man who talked to himself the entire trip, but I kept telling myself I had to persevere. I was doing this for Tom.
Las Vegas was overwhelming. The bus got in late and I took a cab to the hotel. As we pulled up to the strip, I was dumbstruck how much it looked like the movies. I had never seen something so artificially bright before. I was walking through the lobby when I hear someone yell my name.
"Oh my God, Laura? Are you Laura?"
As I turned around I saw someone I recognized, a tall, blonde girl whose name I can barely remember. I am sure we have never spoken to one another.
"Hey, um, hi. I think we have English together?" I say as she moves closer. From her swaying and the smell coming from her breath I could tell she had a lot to drink.
"Yeah! Laura! You wrote that essay about post-modern literature that the TA made you read in class! I remember you! What're you doing here?" I was a bit taken aback that anyone remembered that day, let alone what the essay was about. Instantly I felt guilty because I still could not remember her name.
"Um, just in town for spring break, you know?" I stammered trying to think up a better excuse than a crush on Tom Jones.
"Oh that's awesome! I got in a fight with my stupid boyfriend. This was supposed to be our week together but he ruined it."
"That sucks," I say, trying to think of a way to extend the conversation, "I just got in actually. If you are not doing anything tomorrow would you maybe..." I pause, anxiously before continuing, "...want to hang out? With me?"
Without hesitation she says "Totally! Brian doesn't want to go shopping and frankly, after tonight I'm not sure I want to see him at all. He always picks the worst moment to say something stupid, you know?"
I nod along, but it is a lie, I do not really know. I pretend anyway, like I think a friend would.
"Give me your number and I'll text you when I am ready, kay?" she says before handing her phone to me. It is a fancy smartphone and I have trouble entering my number on the touchscreen but eventually I get it.
"Here you go," I say, handing her phone back.
"Awesome, this is so cool that we ran into each other like this. I feel like it's fate, you now?"
"Haha, yeah. Fate. Totally."
"Oh my God I have to go take these shoes off and pass out. I'll text you later!" she says as she clomps off.
Even though I was headed in the same direction I do not want to make it weird, so I sit down at a nearby table and try to process what just happened. It occurs to me that I was so excited about the prospect of spending time with someone I completely forgot my plan to see Tom tomorrow. I cannot tell her why I came, but at the same time I am not sure I care because the idea that this might be the start of a friendship is too exciting that nothing else matters.
If only I could remember her name.