Fallout from the fast lane
Last week and like an apparition, she stood before me. Young and attractive, with an incredible smile, her energy emanated with an infectious vibrancy. We’d hardly gotten to know each other when an unpleasant breakup with her boyfriend took her from the usual circles, and I hadn’t seen her all summer. In reply to my question of what she’d been up to, she answered that she was “living the Aspen lifestyle.””That can be good and bad,” I offered, mentally wishing her only the best in life. It was great to see her, someone clearly enjoying her young life, but however auspicious, that event triggered an encroaching shadow that soon had me contemplating a darkness from long ago.Aspen was a smaller town back then, in population and in directions to go. My ever-wandering high school eye picked up on an exceptional woman, four or five years older than I, particularly obvious even in a town already filled with glamorous ladies, and it seemed as though I saw her around with a dedicated regularity that defied logic. Naturally, I didn’t see her every night, but whenever she did cross my vision, it was either entering or exiting some nightclub or bar, off-limits to kids like myself, and she always seemed to be exhibiting a new fur or some other exquisite garment of sophisticated dress. Her escorts seemed to change with the wind, and on a certain level, I believed that they were living the “Aspen story” in a manner consistent with the way it was presented.Where can you go on sleepless nights to fight the loneliness and get a little numb, hoping for eventual, elusive slumber and still remain almost anonymous? A quiet bar is good to find, especially in a town known for its rowdiness, and The Red Onion was her attraction, back in the early ’70s.She still appeared beautiful, at least when viewed from the swinging doors, with a naturally enticing posture and waist-length, light brown hair. Fresh out of college, my heart skipped a beat, realizing it was the tantalizing woman of my high school dreams, apparently all alone at the bar. She didn’t want to talk at first, but soon recognized me for what I was (something I refused to realize), another lonely person looking for an anchor in the night. Her vitality that had years earlier seemed so evident, so captivating, even from a distance, had been shredded, and there was a subdued tone to our conversation that was devoid of passion, but incredibly warm.It can be a brutal stint, life in Aspen’s fast lane, especially if you’re young, willing and unsuspecting. Illusions are the stuff of reality and riding a wild time is not something to be built upon, not in the long run. A reserved smile is really cover for deteriorating teeth, and makeup is for those that have something to look forward to.Perhaps as she stared into the mirror behind the back bar there was a suspicion that her future had already been lived, that she’d spent her best, and maybe alone at night, in her cramped room, she yearned for an unknown fork in the road, just so she’d at least have a choice.We met occasionally, late at night, sharing beers and quiet discourse. Whatever had transpired previously hadn’t stolen her dignity, and I’ve always been flattered by the fact that she liked me, despite the past that should have left her distrustful. We had a strong affinity for each other, but we let it die before it ever really got started, which, in retrospect, may have been the tragedy.Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last week’s news about the convictions for the racially motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia carried I am sure into many living rooms, dinner tables and bars over the Thanksgiving holiday.