Francis read her book in one sitting at the bus stop. Some 30 buses passed, as soon as he finished, he disappeared just as the buses. Strolled down the street with her book under his arm and an apple in his mouth. It was a chilly day, yet bright and sun-beaten. On days like these, he made sure to walk a slower pace, letting the people in a rush walk pass him. Chicago walkers like to walk quickly to get to absolutely nothing even sooner. Francis certainly was not a Chicago walker. Sometimes he even wondered if he could keep up with the city, or if he even wanted to. The windy city had burnt out and he didn’t feel like calling it home anymore. He walked into the tiny bookstore on the corner.
Francis walked to the travel section and found a wall of books in front of him. He stared at the lists, Venice, Sicily, Brazil, Guatemala, Tokyo, Amsterdam, too worldly. He found the American cities and quickly imagined what little he knew of the cities as his eyes grazed them. Then suddenly a thought occurred to him. He collectively knew very little about the cities so any city was just as good. He closed his eyes spun in a circle and placed his index finger onto a book. He opened his eyes and saw it. Las Vegas. People don’t live in Las Vegas, people go to vacation, and perhaps, that’s what Francis needed in order to rejuvenate his love for Chicago.
He pulled out his fancy touchscreen phone and checked his balances. He was broke. A few more zeros in his accounts wouldn’t hurt, but he was sure that’s what everyone else thought about their own. He didn’t care, he booked a hotel and bought a bus ticket, and there it was, he had an adventure planned for the middle of the month. He caught the brownline back to his apartment in the dodgy end of the loop.
Back in the apartment, he threw the book onto the coffee table and fed his cat Harley. He hated that cat but that was the only thing Ana left when she left him two months ago. She even took his hairbrush and all the toilet paper, just to screw with him. He loved her sense of humor, even in the darkest of times. Francis bought some toilet paper from the convenience store downstairs, got a haircut, and quickly learned only to feed Harley specific food. His apartment was a single studio with hospital green walls, overlooking train tracks. He quickly got used to the sound of the fifteen minute trains and certainly didn’t mind the studio being cheaper because of it. He wrote a note on the little whiteboard in the kitchen, “get work off.” He grabbed a banana from the top of the fridge and a Rolling Rock from inside it. He pressed play on his answer machine. Not a single message was from Ana. He discovered quickly to what the bottom of the Rolling Rock looked like.
He called his friend Greg to tell him of Vegas. Greg wasn’t employed and was eccentric enough to tag along. Francis politely declined and said he needed to go, to clear his head. Greg said he’d just meet him in Vegas and hung up the phone. That’s how Greg was, always keen enough to know when his services were needed despite being warned not to. That’s what made Greg great. Francis went to bed that night wondering what Vegas was going to be like, what Harley would say if she could talk, if his work would miss him, and inevitably, who’s bed Ana was in tonight. Things get pretty confusing when the person you’ve lived with for two years just suddenly disappears. Only a note on the whiteboard that read, “goodluck,” only to be erased. Francis didn’t break down or think anything of it, he just knew a few truths. She was there in the morning when he left for work, her existence was packed along with his hairbrush by lunchtime, and that she must’ve had a good reason for disappearing. Now he was going to disappear to Vegas.