Sam goes into the room first, it being his room and we being guests. The wallpaper at flamingo is almost as loud as the carpet and equally aesthetically pleasing and revolting, which is an amazing feat: something being hideous and beautiful to great extremes concurrently. Sam ducks into the bathroom while Darby and I turn on the TV for background noise so we don’t have to listen to Sam shit.
Suddenly the TV gets louder than ever and Darby and I look at each other. We establish that neither one of us is holding a remote and simultaneously cock our heads.
“Dude!” Sam yells from the bathroom. “There’s a fucking TV in the fucking mirror!”
The noise changes, Sam is channel surfing from the toilet. “Only in Vegas,” Darby says with a grin. He unzips his bag and pulls out a thirty pack of beasts. Not to be outdone I unzip my bag and un-sheath a handle of Sailor Jerry’s rum. It’s 92 proof and for some reason very cheap and rarely leaves any crewmen with a hangover. Darby nods in approval, pulls out goldschlager, I remove the wine, he pulls out gin, he wins.
The toilet flushes as Darby and I line the drinks up on the credenza. Sam walks out, examines our stash. “Why the fuck did you bring alcohol to Vegas? That’s like bringing a girlfriend to an orgy. It’s here and it’s free, save it for later.”
Interesting metaphor noted, I pour three shots of goldschlager. We cling and shoot and before it stops burning Darby’s got three shots of gin. Cling, shoot, rum, cling, shoot, rum, cling shoot, gin, cling shoot, knock on the door, time out.
“Room service…” a falsetto voice calls out from the other side of the door. Sam suspiciously tiptoes over to the door, Darby and I crack open a couple beers and sit down. Min is at the door, and he’s brought Pepsi and coke and a girl. The girl refuses several more shots and then excuses herself to go to bed because she has work at noon.
“Noon? Don’t be a fucking pussy Rachel!” Her name is probably not Rachel, but I call women “Rachel” when I’m drunk because apparently they don’t like it when you call them “Hey you,” “What’s your face,” or “that one.”
Rachel is probably a very sweet girl because she smiles and points to the clock and says, “Sweetie it’s two in the morning.” I look at the clock; it certainly is two in the morning. She waves and leaves and it’s just the four of us young men and more alcohol than would be considered safe or even possible in any other city in the world, but this was Vegas.
I put a couple beers in my pockets and head down to the floor to see about getting some food and having a cigarette since Sam’s free room was non-smoking. I get into a pink elevator. The walls and floor are flamingo pink and there is a mirror on the ceiling. It’s so pink that when I get out everything has a green tint to it for the first minute while my eyes recover from the canary onslaught.
There are no smoking please signs all over the elevator, lobby and indoor mall, which is pretty much bullshit. For all the commercials you see about Vegas being this rad place where anything goes and everything stays, they sure had a lot of stupid rules.
I see a door across a freshly waxed floor and walk along the edge to get outside, not wanting to disturb the work of one of the few honest workers in Vegas. Outside it is about thirty-five degrees and the wind is blowing. There is a fire pit that looks really warm but it is surrounded by drunk people and I’m not on the let’s go and be nice to strangers level quite yet, so I stand by an ashtray and shiver while I smoke and drink the nearly frozen beer which should be helping via the booze blanket syndrome but is behaving more scientific in the core temperature fashion, so I smoke as fast as possible.
Back in the room we have run out of ice, Darby and I walk a quarter mile down the hall to the ice machine. The loud carpet and white walls and extreme length of the place makes it look a bit like the Overlook hotel. Stephen King must have stayed here or some place like it I think as we fill up the ice bucket and now I realize I am drunk while spilling half of the ice onto the Pollack-esque carpet, which is also remarkably soft to walk on.
Shots are waiting for us back in the room, and two more guys are in there, Kyle and his brother little Kyle. Only one of their names is actually Kyle, or it might be Steve. His last name is Buller, and all my past experience is he going by Buller, and since the small kid was his brother I called them both Buller.
We all take a couple shots and I need another cigarette, so I leave again, go through the whole smoking bit and when I get back to the room they’re all gone. Back down the elevators, through the non-smoking lobby and onto the casino floor where smoking is allowed even though no doors prevent that smoke from scarring the precious lungs of the 3a.m. lobby rats, so I light up.
I walk through the slot machine symphony of pings pongs clangs and clunks, flashing lights, spinning reels and little old ladies with cigarettes with perpetual long bits of ash that never seem to fall, strange hair and even one obese woman sleeping with her face on the buttons. I stop to take a picture but she moves a little bit so I vacate the area, drunkenly imagining her pouring milk on me and attacking me with a spoon calling out “corn flakes corn flakes!”
Past the fake roulette tables and just short of another field of slot machines I see quite a scene at the casino floor bar. Buller, Buller, Darby and Min sit at the bar, Sam walks up and down the line with his frequent player card to make sure no drinks are ever empty for too long, like a floor man at the stock exchange, whenever one is empty he holds his card out and the bartender spills the whiskey or rum into the glass while the drinker curses his attitude towards free booze.
By the time I make it over there, Sam already has a catch up counter on me and the tally is four. Two car bombs later I’m even and sitting in front of a cup of Maker’s mark, which is a whiskey that somehow always leads to trouble. I shoot it, no big deal. There are a number of drinks that don’t matter, usually the ones between ten and twenty but it changes relative to stomach contents, drug use and environment. Tonight all things were good, so I had about another few before I started to black out.
Precise measurements aside, Sam and the Bullers disappear while I’m playing video poker at the bar and we notice the men to our right, crew cut army looking guys. Somehow Riverside comes up and they start chatting us up. Both Iraq war veterans from a recruiting office in Fontana and I’m closest to them so I’m the center of conversation.
“I’m studying screenwriting at UCLA,” I say when they ask what I do.
“Screenwriting?” The one closest to me says, “Fuck you need to write a movie about me! I’m a recruiter and there’s never been a movie about a recruiter!”
“Yeah definitely, take down my email,” and I write down a fake email, slide it to him and order a round of shots on Min’s tab while his back is turned. Min comes back to the bar, sees the shots and looks over as Darby, the army guys and I raise our glasses. I say something about them being heroes for doing their jobs in Iraq which is actually how I feel, but Min is used to being drunk with me and knows my “let’s lie for the sake of lying game,” so he attempts to beat me.
“And to all my brothers in the corps!” He says, and tilts his glass. We all follow and as soon as our facial spasms subside, I explain that my friend is an asshole lying sack of shit and tell him to order shots to make up for his trespass. He does and we shoot. We being everyone but Darby who has fallen asleep on the video poker machine.
“Check your buddy dude, he left a shot.” The army man says, and he is right. I down Darby’s shot using my liver as proxy, and my traditional whisky seizure shot glass slam down wakes him up immediately. He grabs my jacket lapel and pulls his face to my ear.
“You have one minute to get me to a bathroom, I’m going to lose it.”
I laugh and look him in the eye. Something about his eyes’ inability to focus tells me his is serious and my time limit is significantly less than the estimate he gave me. I grab his jacket collar and hoist him up. We fireman carry each other’s stumbling drunk frames around the bar for a couple quick laps and I see a bathroom. I point and pull him.
“There!” I declare and we tip our weight forward so we can stumble in that direction. We bump into people and apologize, we don’t bump people and still apologize, and we see a blond in a short skirt, sober up, stand straight and stare. When she is out of sight we resume our trek, bouncing off walls and columns and eventually ending up in the bathroom. I push Darby into a stall and he slams the door and sits on the floor, removes his jacket and wraps his legs around the base of the toilet.
I turn to see one of the army men looking and laughing from the urinal he was pissing in. I keep turning and I see the Bullers. “Bullers!” I yell. “Bullers, you need to watch Darby. Darby is in there,” I point to Darby, but everyone knows he is in puking in the stall because throwing up is never quiet, especially in public toilets because their elliptical shape amplifies the noise and the tile ceilings and walls do little to deaden it which is coincidentally why everything sounds exponentially more disgusting in public restrooms.
“Ok,” big Buller agrees, “we’ll keep an eye on him.” I leave the restroom to go find Min but he is not at the bar. I walk the floor and find Sam and a fifty-dollar minimum black jack table. I sit down.
“Hey dude, you know this is fifty dollar minimum right?”
I glare at Sam and whisper, “You’re damn right.” He leans back and pushes me away.
“Holy fuck your breath stinks like booze.”
“How could it not with all the shots you bought me?”
“Well, you having fun?”
I take out a one hundred dollar bill and slam it down on the table. “Not yet.” He smiles and pats me on the back. I yell, “money play,” at the dealer.
“That’s the spirit, welcome to Vegas,” Sam says and claps. I win. Fantastic. I press it; win again. I have four hundred dollars when I only sat down with one hundred. I was in a fantastic mood.
“Fuck it!” I say when I should have thanked the dealer, tipped him or her and gone to bed. But this was indeed Vegas, and you cannot ever go to bed. The waitress brings me a beer and things start to get cloudy. I look down at the four-hundred dollars in twenty-five dollar increments, look up, take a sip, look down and it’s gone. I look across the floor and see the Bullers playing craps.
“Darby!” I say. They left him in the bathroom those pieces of shit, draft dodgers. I run back to the bathroom, but it’s a haze and it seems like I have teleported, I stop at the door and wonder how I got there. I look around to see if anyone else had notice me materializing out of nothing and realize suddenly that everyone here has done the same. I shake that thought out of my head before it starts to become trouble and walk into the bathroom.
The Bullers had left him. The first thing I notice is a Janitor and two security guards are tapping on Darby’s door. I see his limp hand resting on the floor, covered in a film of vomit. I walk past the men who don’t even stop tapping long enough to hear his response and into the next stall where his foot, limp and clad in a boot had spilled over. I pretend it is a football, take a half a step and kick it hard like a forty-yard field goal and just as high.
This disturbs his balance. He tips over, still sleeping, slams his head on the side of his stall with a thud and says, “What!” Not the question, just the word and at high volume. This satisfies the janitor and guards as the rules allow for excessive drunkenness in the casinos, but not death in public, which is what they had feared.
I finish peeing and knock on Darby’s stall door. “We have to leave, they’re looking for us.” He jumps up and comes out. We are walking. I see a sign for elevators. We follow them, end up in a strange and empty place. A woman in a suit and nametag approaches us.
“Hello boys, can I help you find something?”
“The elevators to the rooms!” Darby yells.
She puts her hand on her hips. “Hm, I don’t know where those are.”
I don’t know if she is trained not to tell people how to get off the casino floor or if she is really that stupid, so I thank her, we turn and start walking back to the floor. Darby is less than happy. “Thanks for nothing ya dumb cunt.”
I tell him to shut up, turn and look, she isn’t crying or red-faced so I figure she didn’t hear. We walk for a bit, get into the elevators, push 17 and ride up. The elevator pings and the doors open. The wall has a sign that has a 17 on it, so we get out. I trip over the elevator gap and look down to catch the floor with my feet. The carpet is normal looking. I panic and jump back into the elevator.
“Darby, get back in!” I squat low in the corner and wave him in frantically.
“Fuck you I want to go to sleep, give me your key.”
“No! This is wrong. We shouldn’t be here. This is wrong.”
“You’re being fucking dumb. Give me your key.”
“No! Listen, this isn’t our hotel. You need to get back into the elevator before they come for us.”
Darby ducks and jumps back into the elevator. We each mash the star G button furiously until the doors close and then we relax a little bit and watch the number descend until the elevator pings and the doors open on the ground floor. We calmly exit, walk back past the bar, through the sea of slot machines, through the non-smoking lobby that is now empty, Darby spits every bit of saliva onto the carpet regardless of who is near or watching from afar and we finally make it back to the pink demon elevator which is even more harsh with a stomach full of whiskey.
We need ice. I don’t know why, but we need ice. I grab the ice bucket and Darby and I sprint the quarter mile to the ice machine. He has to take a piss; I give him my key and start to fill up. I push the button and wait for the cubes to crash into the bucket. It is full; I let go of the button.
I hear running water. I look at the ice dispenser nozzle, nothing. I look at the drip tray ice machine drain thing, nothing. “What the fuck?” I ask myself. Darby starts laughing from behind me and I hear a zipper. “Cameras!” I grab Darby by his jacket collar and pull him into the hallway before letting go and sprinting back to the door expertly keeping every cube in the bucket while I ran from whoever was watching on the cameras.
Darby runs up soon after and keys into the room. I pour the ice into the sink, which we were using as a cooler. I sit on the toilet seat lid and Darby sits on the edge of the tub while we over-utilize the novelty of the mirror television. I open a beer and hand it to Darby while we watch espn, grab another for myself, pop it and sip it.
“Chug!” Darby yells and our instincts outweigh our concept of right and wrong and the personal limits we both had established and stuck to more or less throughout ten combined years in college and we chugged. And then the world goes black.