“But I don’t want a divorce.”
On a late autumn afternoon on the outskirts of Las Vegas, an attorney showed up at a poker player’s second-floor apartment.
“Gambling doesn’t always pay off,” Sam muttered. He watched as his wife buried her head in her hands. His position was reclined and relaxed; head toward the television, beer in hand, his face glossed over her agony with an impenetrable detachment.
Alyssa was a cocktail waitress. A tall, thin woman whose prowess in the art of seduction bordered the fine line of black magic, she used full lips and gentle curves to usher an orphan into her twisted maternal grasp. With a naïve hope that the orphan possessed a sizable trust, and a lustful greed for his dark mop of hair and sapphire eyes, she saw in him the solution to her own shortcomings.
My step-brother married Alyssa in Monterey, on a rocky cliff perched above the bay. As she walked down the aisle, my father hummed “Simple Twist of Fate.” A family of New York cynics with cold stares toward the institution of marriage, my siblings and I passed around a sheet of paper placing bets on how long it would last. Gambling runs thick in our blood, especially when it comes to chancing emotion.
Two years passed, and the union reached its ultimate dissolution. Alyssa pawned off her wedding ring in order to settle a gambling debt. Sam relished escape from the prison of marriage that had lost him one of the only remaining relics of his dead mother: a simple diamond set on a thin band of gold. My father had passed the ring on to his stepson in hopes that the young man’s marriage would be as beautiful as the one he had shared with his wife — a twist of karmic debt owed between two souls.
The diamond sat on velvet, encased in glass in a small pawn shop outside Vegas. Passersby would marvel at its elegance. Much like my stepmother, it was underscored by an angular and deceptively simple exterior.
Dylan has forever been my father’s consistent companion, a sage replacement for the father he lost early in life. The day after I was born, my father went to a Dylan concert. The day after my stepmother died, my father went to a Dylan concert. Blood On The Tracks is an album whose contents smear bold red strokes across our grief, forcing us to purge the lingering sadness that frames stories of lost love. “I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring,” he croons.
What do you do when all the signs and symbols seem to point to a destiny of loss and dissolution? My father would never understand why this woman crossed his path for a moment in time. But he would do what he could to hold onto the symbols that once seemed telltale signs of a fortunate future.
The sun had just risen over the city’s skyline. My father, a man for whom integrity is as important as his attachment to the past, packed his suitcase in the lonely motel that sits quietly outside the city limits. He slipped the ring into the snug breast pocket of his coat. Having settled the last piece of karma he owed his late wife, my father headed back to Nashville. Once more, he would try returning to the glory of a languid southern life, without giving a second thought to a simple twist of fate.