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Cashing out

“I have always believed, or better perhaps and more accurately, believed since the time of that undefinable transition in my own life – the 'coming of age' of which so much is written but, in my own experience, has never once come up in normal conversation - that brings a boy to be a man, who, whether he desires it or not, must enter the world as a mature adult, in the concept of personal responsibility.

“Personal responsibility – the extent to which it is perceived by a person – varies, I suppose, from individual to individual for, as we all unhappily experience on occasion, some seem to have no perception of it at all. It is, however, a state of being, in which a person feels the weight of their own actions, behaviours and words and is, in any moment, cognizant of the effects, either locally or remotely, that those can have both on others and on situations. I suspect that it is, more broadly speaking, an aspect of self-awareness, in that, the individual recognises that their own life does not exist, divorced, isolated and encapsulated away from all the other lives which it encounters.”

While so speaking, softly and to himself, the man – Derek Fagan, by name – buttoned his collar and then, under the harsh, white light of the chrome and glass bathroom in the sumptuous and, some might think, garishly appointed, hotel suite, recovered a tie from the towel rack and draped it across the back of his neck, precisely adjusting the respective lengths of the two ends dangling down the front of the freshly starched and pressed, white shirt. He looked askance at his reflection in the broad mirror before him and, for the hundredth time, patted down a perpetually uncooperative cow-lick on the back of his head although years of experience with his own head of hair had taught him that it would again be as unruly as a misbehaving child in only minutes. He resumed his solitary musings as his hands moved, pre-programmed to the repetitive gestures, to form and then tighten the Windsor knot.

“For some reason and, realistically speaking I know it is not a correct notion, I have always considered personal responsibility to be a masculine trait; a characteristic that I would find in a good male friend – a man that I know I can count on. Truly, it is something that we can all aspire to because we are all flawed – we make errors of judgment and action. When that happens, the responsible person is ready to sincerely admit the defect, take the appropriate course to right the wrong and then, having done what can be done, move on with new  knowledge of themselves and their personal space in it. It is a process of growth since, I believe, we are all on the same journey – the destination is the same but, how one arrives is the most important aspect.”

He slipped on his jacket and adjusted it across the shoulders. He nodded at himself briefly in the mirror, satisfied with the result.

“You polish up well, Derek,” he joked at his reflection but no hint of humour emerged on his voice.

“It's time to cash out,” he said and it was a flat remark – a simple statement of fact with no overtone of emotion or involvement.

He left the bathroom and walked across the suite. His hands recovered pass-cards, phone, wallet and other personal effects from a large glass table and they were secreted away in their customary locations of jacket and trousers. He paused a moment before the dark tinted windows and watched, unblinking, the vast, ostentatious panorama of Las Vegas spreading out beyond the disorienting, sloping exterior of the Luxor hotel and casino.

The idea of the getaway to Vegas for the weekend with friends had been his girlfriend's.

'You've been tense, lately,' she had said, frowning, and he couldn't do other than agree with her. The tension lay in his gut like a coiled serpent ready to strike. He had felt it there for longer than he honestly wished to acknowledge.

'Maybe you're right,' he answered and then drew her closer and, holding her, stroked her hair with fingers that no longer ceased to quiver. He was grateful, profoundly so, that the suggestion had come from her.

'I could get Bill, Lou and Brad to come with me for company. It might be just the thing: blow off some steam and then come home with a clearer head – if a bit foggy from consumption!' They laughed, enjoying the joke, and the die was cast.

'Just don't lose all of our savings,' she jibed at him before he had.

His friends had left for their scheduled, mid-morning flight with eyes reddened from the late night spent at the tables and confused looks at him for his refusal to depart with them.

'I just want to hang around for another few hours and get cleaned up,' he responded to their questioning glances although, between friends who had been together for so long, few words were actually exchanged.

'I'll see you before you know it,' he had promised and, nodding, the guys had trundled off with their bags in tow, down the short, upper floor, hallway of the pyramidal structure to the elevators.

“It's just a simple matter of making things right. What kind of man would I be – I already know what kind of man I am – if I didn't do what I could for Christina? I know that I can't be ashamed of what I have already done. It is done. Who knows why I did it. I guess Vegas had just never smelt so much like money and I got carried away. I never even should have brought the credit cards with me. There's nothing that I can do about that now. It is just a matter of doing the right thing now and ensuring that Christina will be alright.”

He acknowledged his own fundamental truth in front of the window of the hotel and the impassive stare of his reflection in the glass before turning away. He left the room and the door, on it's pressure-loaded mechanism, sighed softly closed behind.

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