A One Night Stay in Atlantic City

I rolled the dice, came up empty, and don’t regret it.

Last year, I made a commitment to myself that I wanted to do a little bit of traveling during my mandatory two-week leave from work. I decided that I would book a trip to Washington D.C. in July with a few friends. We went there on the weekend of July 15th. It was a blast to say the least. As someone who loves politics and the inter workings of government, I had always wanted to visit the capital.

Outside of visiting Washington, I didn’t have any other set plans. I took my niece to the Rochester zoo during my break but I also had other ideas. I wanted to take a road trip, by myself. Where to? I wasn’t sure. I thought about Ashtabula, Ohio where my Dad grew up. Pittsburgh also crossed my mind. One of the last places on my mind was Atlantic City. I had been there four times in the past already. So, how did I end up there and why on Friday, July 22nd?

At the start of the day on July 21st, I had no intentions of going to Atlantic City or anywhere else for that matter since I only had a few days left before I headed back to work. However, that all changed later that day after having dinner with a friend a mine.

This was no ordinary friend. I had worked with this girl for over three years at my previous job. It wasn’t a very glorious job — we were security officers at a zoo. The other catch was that I basically head over heels for her. It had been like that for quite some time and somehow even after a year without working together, I still couldn’t go one day without thinking about her. I’ve never felt like that about anyone else before.

I worked the overnight shift at our job. My shift would end at 8:00 AM and then she would arrive to relieve me. Most days, I would stay until 9:00 until another person comes in to work the service gate instead of the security guard on duty. During this hour, her and I would just talk. And we would talk about anything. I could vent to her or she could do the same to me. We’d plot our plans to finally get out of that bogus job. I had a Master’s degree and she had two Bachelor’s degrees herself. We deserved better. I would surprise her all of the time with little gifts or treats and she would bring me tea or even homemade breakfast burritos sometimes. She was the only reason I was still at that job and somewhat enjoyed it. Had I not met her, I would have been long gone.

We went through a lot there. I know I grew a lot as a person and sure she did too. She cried saying goodbye to me in the guard shack we spent the last three and a half years together in. Fighting the tears, she told me, “I’m not sure how I will do this without seeing you every morning.” To tell the truth, I had no idea how I was going to go on without seeing her every morning.

We promised each other we would get together every month at least and we did. We got dinner a few times, saw a movie, went to a festival. This wasn’t enough for me still. She was actually in a relationship at the time, although I was never sure if they were still together most of the time since their relationship had been sour for a good time.

At the start of 2016, she also got a new job and that’s sort of where we started seeing each other less and less. She had broken up with her boyfriend by then. I didn’t capitalize. As matter of a fact, I believe I blew a lot of chances with her throughout the years that we worked together. I won’t delve into each one of them but they were there and I failed. Time went on and it was around summer time where I noticed that we really were drifting apart so panic started to set in for myself. I thought that we were going to deviate from each other slowly and I would never tell her how I feel. Surely, we had to be more than that. After I returned from D.C., I texted her asking to grab dinner some time during my second week off. She agreed and Thursday couldn’t come sooner.

We met at at a local restaurant and got a great patio seat on a beautiful summer day. From the beginning, something seemed off. I just didn’t get the same vibe that I had always gotten. I can’t really explain what it was but it was that feeling of drifting. I was explaining my recent trip to Washington and she was catching me up on everything in her life. We also at this time talked a lot about our father’s a lot who both had different medical problems. Eventually, I told her that I had wanted to take a road trip before my vacation ended but I only had the weekend. She mentioned Atlantic City because she knew that I had been there a few times before.

“Go to Atlantic City and get some more of that salt water taffy for me”, she said jokingly.

I laughed and told her “no way”. And I meant it. We chatted some more and had our food before heading to our cars to depart. We hugged and said goodnight. Almost instantaneously as I entered my vehicle, I thought to myself, “I’m going to Atlantic City.”

When I got home, I went straight to my bedroom, opened my laptop and began to get the directions and find a motel room. I settled on the American Star Inn & Suites. It would cost me about $70 for the night. The drive was projected to be about seven hours. My plan was to wake up around 7:00 AM and hit the road. I was incredibly excited. You always talk about doing something crazy like this for someone but rarely do you make it happen. I was determined for this time to be different.

The next morning, I grabbed my small bag of clothes, the directions, a Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich and I hit the road. It wasn’t long before I felt sleepy. I didn’t sleep much the night before because of the excitement. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. I pulled over at a rest stop and took a mini nap in my car for about a half hour.

Back on the road, I continually played out scenarios in my head about her reaction when I gave her the candy that I drove over 450 miles to buy. I reminisced about memories between us and also I tried to comprehend the fact that I was actually doing this. I listened to all types of music on the way to keep me motivated. I am an avid car vocalist too, singing along most of time.

The drive took a little longer than expected thanks to a ridiculous route from the GPS and the traffic in Philadelphia was brutal. It was about nine hours later when I finally arrived at my motel. The woman working the front desk barely spoke English but she managed to get me a nice little room on the second floor, air conditioning included!

My room for a night.

I didn’t stay long in the room. I changed into my boardwalk attire — white shorts and a purple t-shirt. I was ready to get something to eat and purchase some taffy. I scored a great parking spot right by the boardwalk and fed the parking meter before looking for Fralinger’s Candies. I grabbed a quick slice of pizza and then found the store I was looking for. I bought just one box of assorted salt water taffy. To be honest, I don’t even like taffy very much but this wasn’t about me.

I headed to the Borgata casino shortly after to play some poker. I was lucky that night and made about $400 in a few hours before heading back to my lonely motel room. I hopped into bed around 11:00 PM, turned on the television, and fell asleep watching the latest election coverage.

Woke up the next morning wondering if it was real life. Was I really in Atlantic City in a strange motel room? Yes. But now, it was time to head home. I showered quickly, dropped the motel key off, and set off to tackle the same drive I did the day before.

Quick picture I snapped on the boardwalk. Fralinger’s is up there on the right.

The drive home was much shorter than the ride there. I was right on schedule around seven hours. Oddly enough, nobody back in Buffalo really knew that I spent the previous night in New Jersey. I tried texting the girl to see if I could see her on Sunday. She had to be with her dad for cancer treatments so my delivery would have to wait. I ended up waiting a couple more weeks until I finally had a shot to give her the taffy.

Oddly enough, she took a job back at the zoo working switchboard on the weekends. She told me I could stop by while she was at work. This was going to happen at the same place that we spend the majority of our time during the previous three years. I wasn’t nervous. It was more excitement. What I did was so outrageous that I was dying to see the reaction. When I arrived, we first talked for a while. I had the candy hidden in a bag.

Then comes a gut punch. She revealed that she is planning to move back to Texas. Her new job wasn’t making her happy and she wanted to really pursue her dream of getting into law enforcement. I can respect that but selfishly, I was dying inside. Eventually, we get around to the mysterious bag I brought in with me and she asked what was inside.

I recalled our dinner and explained that she had mentioned to me that she wanted salt water taffy. Before I even finished explaining everything, she blurted out “you went to Atlantic City and got me some??”, almost as a joke.

“Yeah…I did.”

“You’re not serious.”

I pulled the box of candies out of the bag and handed them over to her. I still remember her smile to this day and how big it was. Beautiful. She couldn’t believe it. After a few giant hugs and more conversation, I left but I wasn’t sure what to feel. We agreed to get together soon.

Weeks passed without being able to get together. There was no amount of salt water taffy that was going to get her to feel the same way about me as I did about. Before heading out of town for another vacation, I wrote a long email explaining my feelings and that it’s killing me. I wasn’t sure we could even remain friends. She ended up replying a few days later that she understood and wasn’t going to stop me if I didn’t want to be friends anymore.

She wrote, “ What you’ve done for me, can never really be described into words.” This isn’t the first time she said that. I really wanted her to put it into words, just one time. I did and that was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I just wanted more fight or more openness. This wasn’t going to happen. She was okay with letting me go.

We did patch things up a little bit but the texts and communication were scarce. She did text me when my dad passed away, almost as we never stopped talking but soon after went incognito again. I’m not apart of her life anymore and that’s….okay.

I learned so much through this experience. I discovered that I’m willing to do some crazy things for a girl I’m fixated on and when she feels the same way back, I am destined for happiness. I learned that I am capable of opening up, something very difficult for me in the past.

I don’t regret any of it, even if a lot of people might consider this whole ordeal embarrassing. You have to own it! I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m not thinking about her a good chunk of my day. I said my peace and she went a different way. And I’m actually extremely happy for her. From what I see on Facebook, she is doing amazing. She seems genuinely happy which is the most I can ask for at this point. That was always my goal when we were together over those years and I think she would agree with that.

As for me, I have been trying to do some actual dating but first I have some traveling to do. I’m finding out more about myself every day and I’ll carry this experience with me for the rest of my life even if it didn’t work the way I intended. My advice is to do something crazy every once in a while to make sure you’re still alive.