“It could be age,” I contemplate, thinking back to my youth and college years. A pause lingers in the air as I flip through countless mental images of former road trips. The split-second memories appear as high-speed, video playback meets old scrap book pages; concert stubs, faded photos, and all. I’m lost in faraway thought for a moment, though my body is parked at the center of a long bar in Sacramento.
“Dude, where’d you go just now?” my Colleague muses at my mental disappearance. The clinking glasses and bar sounds crush the secluded Michigan beach from my consciousness. I perfectly center the beer back on the coaster and look up at the massive aquarium above the bar. My sleeve snags on the conference badge clipped to my suit jacket pocket.
“Sorry… Back in Michigan there for a moment,” I apologize and unclip the badge, stuffing it into the inside suit pocket for tomorrow.
“So, your holiday? It was good?” he reminds me.
“Yeah…. I think it’s age, though. I just don’t travel the same way any longer,” I answer directly and a bit halfheartedly. “Any more than a single travel partner, my wife or one my kids or a buddy on a guy’s trip, and, well, I get a bit put out. I truly hate dealing with group coordination. It feels more like I’m wasting time.”
My Colleague smirks in apparent understanding.
But, age is only part of the vacation equation. Author Jim Harrison once wrote the days are stacked against what we think we are. In my youthful mind, I am an explorer. But, lately, time feels like it is pressuring what is available to discover. I travel. But, I don’t assimilate in nearly enough exploring.
It is 9:30 now. The mermaid should be making her appearance soon. My Colleague’s voice trails off into the bar noise. Another associate of his joins in over his shoulder talking about work.
The fish in the aquarium above make a sudden dart at one end as our entertainment for the moment slips gracefully into view. She is half girl and half fish. The shock of auburn hair is equally matched by her shimmering, blue-green tail. She smiles and waves. Most of the bar, like me, have their phones on record.
She has admirers beyond just us humans on the outside. There is one, obviously smitten, little fish. It is yellowish. It darts around her and displays animated delight, like a little dog eager for a walk with its owner.
They kiss; fish lips meet mermaid affection.
She swims on toward the other side of the aquarium followed eagerly by the puppy-fish. The little pet wants another kiss. Two more kisses and our mermaid leaves the fish behind and vanishes.
Travel for work rarely leads to true exploration. But, occasionally, it leads to joy.
With the mermaid gone for a bit I take leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow, my friend,” I say to my Colleague. He is engrossed in a new conversation. We wave.
The short walk back to the hotel leads through a path among the Convention Center. There, stands a statue of the “God of the Sea” and the protector of the waters, Poseidon. I stand for a minute, trying to recall my Greek mythology. My memory playback has returned, flashing on swimming with the manta rays in Hawaii, ocean cruises, and the countless summers in Michigan on our lake. Poseidon also produced storms and earthquakes, which puts an immediate end to my water daydreams.
It is a fitting end to the evening, nonetheless. And, although my subdued state still lingers, it is now less so. My spirit has been lifted by Poseidon and a mermaid smooching a cute, little fish.