M&Ms

Nassau, Bahamas–The little girl behind me wants an M&M. I know this because she repeated what she wanted for five consecutive minutes, only taking breaks to take giant breaths that would propel her through the next volley of “M&MM&MM&MM&MM&MM&MM&MM&MM&M” or cry because she had not yet got what she wanted.

This is my sixth time leaving this island and I feel almost exactly as I have every other time I left. I’m tired, fat, and hungover. The biggest difference this time is that the little girl behind me wants an M&M and that’s making me think of my boy. He has a funny way of saying “M&M.” It comes out something like “neminem” and when he says it, it never fails to make me smile. The kid has probably gotten more neminems in his life than he should ever have simply because I have a hard time refusing him.

None of this would be particularly relevant but for the fact that the simple idea of a kid wanting candy has me missing my wife and kids something fierce and to the point of…well, I’m fragile right now. That’s probably the best way to put it.

I figured out how unstable I was early this morning when I left a bunch of good people at a wrap party and made the long walk back to my room with my buddy Joe. We laughed all the way back, and by the time I made it my bed, I was ready to crash, wake up, and go home for a few weeks. Nothing sounded better.

I’d done my best to avoid most of the Haiti coverage. The first word I got of it was when the Bahamas was put on tsunami alert. We were told to stay inside, away from the water, and at attention for a possible disaster of our own. It didn’t happen. We crossed the big bridge from Paradise Island (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) and went to a locals joint for some of the best fish I’ve eaten in the past few years. On the TV above the big birthday party in the corner, the first few images from Haiti flashed on the screen. I turned away, a measure of personal psyche protection that was almost unconscious. The next night, I tried to watch the coverage, but turned it off after 30 seconds. I knew where I was headed. Last night, I’d had a few drinks and left my judgment somewhere near a dance floor and under the din of “All the Single Ladies.” So, when I got back to my hotel room, I watched a replay of Anderson Cooper 360…and…well, yeah, I just fell apart.

Some eight hours later, I still haven’t pulled it together entirely. I can’t get over the fact that I spent two weeks working my ass off…for a poker tournament. I work with some really talented people who I really enjoy being around. When I leave them like I am today, I begin looking forward to the time I’ll see them again. What’s more, I have a pretty good job. It doesn’t pay all that well anymore, but I can see why people think it would be a great way to make a living. All of that said, I put every ounce of effort I had for the past two weeks into reporting to the world how a bunch of people played cards. Meanwhile, people I used to work alongside are sleeping on cots in Haiti and telling the world about one of the biggest disasters our generation will ever know.

I do this because I like the people, I don’t mind the job, I like the travel, and, foremost, because I need to buy my boy more M&Ms. I leave this island for the sixth time tired, fat, and hungover. Sure, it’s probably just the fatigue, homesickness, and fragility talking. And sure, when I got to Vegas next month, I’ll probably have forgotten all about this little mental breakdown that I’ve chosen to live out publicly. This time, though, for the first time since I left the world of real journalism five years ago, I actually feel like I am supposed to be doing something that means something.