The Red Dirt Circuit

Brad is dragged along to a convention in Texas by his parents. Left alone in the hotel while they attend the convention dinner, and told not to wait up for them, he decides to hit Sixth Avenue, take in the Austin music scene, and then return to the hotel, before his parents get back. The rewards are fraught with "complications."

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8. Painting Himself into the Corner

Jenn disappeared out of sight but not out of mind.

He stood alone in the lobby and was still awash in the vision of her entering the elevator that it wasn’t until the door closed on her, and the vision evaporated, he remembered he hadn’t bothered to get her cell number. Until now, it wasn’t important; she was with him the entire time. She never left his side—okay, once when she went to the rest room—but that doesn’t count.

The lobby was a triangle-shaped atrium, soaring seventeen stories up to a semi-transparent ceiling. The hotel hallways all opened into the atrium, so when she walked down the hall from the elevator to her room, he could call to her or, better yet, watch what room she entered. That would be great. He’s now on record as officially stalking her.

He walked over to the atrium anyway, looking up, and nudged a standing marquee holder announcing tonight’s gala. That was clumsy; glad she didn’t see that one. The elevator was empty, so she already got off. The elevator was already ten stories up so that meant she was staying one of the floors from three to ten. That narrowed the possibility to nearly 400 rooms. Geez. Maybe that was a good thing—how many heads would have turned if he yelled up to her? Plus, that would underscore his desperation.

The stark reality required a review of his current stupidity. He knew her first name but had no clue of her last. With a thousand opportunities he could have asked her cell number but always figuring there’d be another chance, squandered them all. He could have seen her at the gala tonight but he idiotically declared how lame the ball was and that he wasn’t going. How needy would it be for him to show up now when it would become obvious it was only to make contact with her?

He couldn’t ask the front desk who she was; they had privacy rules. The people running this convention had disappeared as fast as she did, so the guy with the clipboard was long gone. And how would he ask that question? Like, “who was that hot chick I was with all afternoon and forgot to get her last name or cell number?” If he was clipboard guy, would he give her name out? Not likely, and not to him.

He reluctantly accepted defeat and punched the up button on the elevator, waiting the eternity for the computer to realize he was the only one on seventeen different floors waiting to go up. Wow, really? Death by elevator wait. The doors slid open; he pushed his floor button and numbly stared through the glass wall at the lobby carpet now rapidly becoming postage-stamp small.

His ironic mistake now dawned on him: what was his real objective here? Wasn’t it to take in arguably the hottest music scene in the country—the Austen City “Limits?” Or, was it to hang out in a hotel with this hot number? He could do that anytime, he reasoned with James Bond bravado. Yeah right. She was hot. But seriously, let’s get real. He’s here now at one of the country’s rock epicenters and he’s worried about a girl? It’s not like there won’t be girls where he’s headed. The ball’s the perfect cover. His parents will be gone for hours.

Sixth Avenue, where everyone starts their rock pub crawl, was a five-minute taxi across the river. It’d be like he was stepping out to the video game room. He’d have the better part of four hours to explore. What could possibly happen? If they came back early and couldn’t find him, he’d tell them he’d walked to that fast food hut they could see out their window. He’d leave a note to cover himself, too.

Still, the thought that Jenn and he would miss, bothered him. She hadn’t offered to meet later. She didn’t give him her number or ask for his, “just in case.” If she was interested, she’d look for him tonight and then decide that he didn’t consider the ball cool enough to attend—that’s fine, but it might make him look a bit like the anti-social type,  a nerd-of-the-world compared to a man-of-the-world. Even if she looked for him at the ball, she probably wouldn’t let on tomorrow and he’d probably pick up on her coldness—then it would be obvious.

As far as Jenn was concerned, he had painted himself in to a corner and this, different from past times, was a Rembrandt—oh hell—a Remington.

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