I wouldn’t say this story is particularly inspiring, nor does it stand above any other, like Romeo and Juliet or How Harry Met Sally, or any other ordinary romantically framed tale of serendipity playing out, the meeting of two people, a man and a woman, who lived their lives hopelessly in love and happily ever after. (I chuckle) We all know there’s probably a small moment of truth after the moment of putting our best foot forward. The rest of it becomes a struggle with perception. Her lipstick is perfect, and he’s combed his hair for once. Beyond that, we enter a phase of shedding peacock feathers, you know, when reality really sinks in. She’s lost that glow, he’s lost that sheen. Bad habits come into play. True colors. You get the picture.
For Ted and Bonnie, neither really believed in soul mates, that is before they met. Break it down to just feeling good about someone, namely yourself, because you’re never quite sure how the other person feels. A back rub, for example. Your partner might be telling you it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or, hell, you could really be that good. Likely, if you’ve never been trained to give massage, I’m sorry to say, your partner has just ventured onto the slippery slope of telling little white lies to please you. Fickle. Get set for that. Granted, the truth is hard to hear. Like telling her she looks… well, you know, in that dress. Rooting out our shortcomings falls into the category of visiting the dentist and suddenly, without warning, having your wisdom teeth yanked out without anesthesia because your cheap insurance doesn’t cover it. Looking on the bright side, you’re avoiding the risk of accidentally dying for being fed too much sleep medication.
I digress. Coincidentally, Ted did meet Bonnie the day he had his big molars pulled. I know everyone says you come out of there looking like a chipmunk, puffy cheeks and all, but he came out looking Bob’s Big Boy or trumpet player Louis Armstrong. It was a blind date, which she fought tooth and nail. She was set up by her best friend—a killer bee as they called themselves because of the first initial of their names—Betsy. There was Brenda, but she moved away. Las Vegas isn’t for everyone.
Bonnie worked for the Transportation Security Administration at McCarran Airport, and her friend Betsy, sold chocolates at the MGM Grand Hotel. As anyone will tell you, dating is not easy in Sin City, nor anywhere, although you could add up a collection of odd adventures with the opposite sex that involved liquor and a few hours trying to make your way out of a maze of casinos.
Ted was a cop. He worked for Metro Police. Betsy knew him because he had an insatiable appetite for See’s Candy. Anything with nuts was to die for. He came back from Iraq that way after serving consecutive tours, about 14 months of standing around at checkpoints. He was a Nevada Army Guardsman. There were a few times he got “blowed-up.” That’s how he put it. Go figure. Developing a sweet tooth was the preferred method to dealing with PTSD otherwise known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not to sound morbid, but it sure beat the hell out of killing yourself.
That was happening far too often, and Betsy was more than glad to be handing out the confections, alternative medicine in her book. She made sure to give him a hug, too. He really liked Betsy, but she was off the market, promised to get married to her real estate boyfriend. Ted jokingly asked if she had a sister. She said no, but she had something close to a sister—a close friend, who knew every one of her secrets like a sister, nothing mysterious and dark, just the stories about being unlucky in love.
About a week before the blind date, Bonnie left work. She worked third shift, which meant coming out of the airport in the early morning, not her favorite time of day. Usually, the traffic was light, and it was a straight shot along Maryland Parkway, where she watched college students go and in out of classes on the UNLV campus. ‘Lucky them,’ she thought. Dealing with torturous passengers coming to town, grousing about having to stand in line forever and being ordered to empty their pockets, she guessed was a living. Half asleep and not paying attention, she closed her eyes, but only for a moment. She was in her green Honda Civic at a stoplight near the In-N-Out. Wary students watched her drift through the intersection and into a light pole on the side of the road. She woke feeling the sudden jolt, and saw the bend in the hood of her car.
Within moments, Ted flashed his lights and blocked off the intersection before any other cars could pass. He rushed to Bonnie. Wisps of brown hair stuck to her forehead, where she had a slight cut on her head which banged into the steering wheel. Ted was talking into his radio. Dispatch announced that a second police cruiser and a tow truck were on the way.
“Are you OK?” he asked Bonnie. “Can you move?”
It was too many questions. She was just beginning to realize the interruption to her normal routine. A group of onlookers gathered near the front of the car, forgetting the need to cross the street. Neither getting a double-double burger nor a hot cup of java at Einstein’s Bagels was on their mind. Their Monday morning to class and office was suddenly made interesting by someone getting hurt. Bonnie removed the cracked sunglasses from her face and gave Ted a long stare.
“Yeah, I think so,” she finally answered.
“Can you move?” he asked her. To her it seemed like it was in slow motion. His low voice sounded funny. Her nose began to run. “Do you know what happened?” Ted continued. He finished for her. “You were in an accident. You hit a light pole, which caused you to hit your head. It appears you have a concussion. Please remain still, and what I want you to do is take a few deep breaths.” Ted stepped a few feet away from the Civic. Bonnie could hear him on the radio, then realized she was starting to feel sleepy. “Dispatch, I’m going to need an ambulance. The driver is losing consciousness, and has fluid coming out of her nose.”
Bonnie reached her hand up to her face, and there was a mixture of blood and clear fluid which dripped slowly onto her blue uniform. Ted returned to the driver side of the Civic. Bonnie looked at him, as he peeked inside the car to see if she was hurt anywhere else. His face was so close to hers, she took in his close cropped dirty blonde hair, green eyes too close together, and the stubble on his upper lip struggling to be a mustache. Instead, it looked like ink smudges from a newspaper. She was almost ready to joke and tell him that he should wash his face. She couldn’t form the words. They wouldn’t come. Instead, her world had gone blank.
Bonnie spent the rest of the day at Sunrise Hospital with a concussion and a laceration on her forehead. That’s how Ted described it on his police report. He thought about her and stayed with her at the hospital until he had to go on another call.
Later, he would describe her to his friend and Metro partner Luke, saying, “there was something about that girl, but I just can’t describe it, now.”
To which Luke responded, “Dude, she hit her head. She had goggles on. You being as ugly as you are, what girl’s gonna want you?”
“Yeah, whatever, but it was the way she looked at me.” Trying to sound less vulnerable, he added, “Man!”
Ted was trapped by the masculine pitfalls of expressing himself honestly. What he really wanted to tell his buddy was how he felt, the sensations that shot through him—like graduating from high school and getting his first paycheck, except the feeling was much stronger, like he was being lifted off the ground. He felt his heart warm, literally warm, and that he had the sense that everything was going to be alright, like all the stress and worry about his job, about his life, suddenly left him. He wasn’t hearing the captain getting on him about his sloppy reports or his mother asking him when he was planning to meet the right girl and get married. Grandchildren, son. Grandchildren. All of that seemed small. He felt like she was it, like she was the one, but he wasn’t about to tell anyone, not even his partner, especially not his partner. Besides how could he be sure? How would he ever know if she felt the same thing. And, now that moment was gone. Or, was it…?
On his last call of the day, chasing some gang-banger-wannebe taggers out past Circus-Circus, he was headed back to the cop shop. Luke and Ted lectured the young prepubescent teens, poking at their skinny chests, and told them to get their asses home. Then, he wondered if she might still be at the hospital.
“I got time,” Luke said. “It’s technically a courtesy call.”
Ted punched the accelerator. He parked in front of emergency. Not wanting to seem too eager in front of Luke, he took his time getting out of the cruiser, but once inside the door, he double-timed to the reception desk. Not knowing Bonnie’s name, he had to go through the whole story of how he was the police officer who called in the injury accident, and he was the one who provided the escort, and gave his description of her condition, which took a few minutes, too long for him, which added up to valuable time in getting to see her. And maybe seeing her would validate why he even cared, this strong magnetic pull, this invisible string kept getting tighter and tighter. He kept thinking about her round face and olive skin, her rich perfume, and a pair of desperate, delicate hands clinging to the car steering wheel.
The nurse at the desk, a plump bespectacled red head, looked up the room assignments. “I’m sorry Officer Gentry, she was discharged about an hour ago.”
It was now going on near 9:33 p.m., and he could hear the captain grousing about overtime. Plus, Luke, although he wouldn’t push him on this, wanted to shed his monkey suit and get his drink on. Ted’s face fell.
“Sorry about that,” the nurse said as she closed the assignment book.
“Any way you could… ah forget it,” Ted said.
The nurse knew what he was going to ask. “You might do a little follow up at the airport. She works for TSA. Needle in a haystack. There are a lot of them, but she might be worth it.”
Ted thought about it for a moment, then let it go. He figured if it was meant to be…
A week later, Ted walked into Wolfgang’s at the MGM, ready for the worst on his blind date and Betsy’s sister-like best friend, and stood at the entry way, and muttered, “if she’s even got half of Betsy’s good looks.” He was self-conscious about his puffy cheeks and tried to suck them in. Betsy told him she sent Bonnie a picture of him in uniform, part of the vetting process. It wasn’t great. Half his face was in shadow from his half-ass attempt at taking a selfie for the set-up. What the hell was he doing? Bonnie walked toward the restaurant with her cell phone holding space for his photo; it showed on the screen. She held it with a nervous hand, checking it first, then looking back up. She didn’t need it after all. She remembered his distinct features from the accident, wide glistening eyes. He could have seen her coming from a mile away, the only woman in a red dress, and her shoulder-length hair piled on top. Then, her perfume reminded him of the first time they met. Their eyes locked and all time had stopped for them. As she drew near, the same feeling took hold of her, and Ted was the only other soul in the universe. Gone were her worries, too. When she finally stood in front of him, he handed her a box of See’s Candy, and they both stood silent, letting the moment sink in.
Then, as if needing confirmation, they laughed, and said, voices in unison, “Betsy!”