I take a survey of the room. It is dark but the clock says 1:45. I sit on the bed, no sheets, no pillows, off kilter and of course the body that lays next to it and if it weren’t for the snores I’d swear there was a murder there. I flip the switch to open the room darkening shades and as the sun creeps in more and more every second I have to look elsewhere to keep my eyes from stinging.
The bar is twinkling because of the gold flecks in that goldschlaeger bottle and it is making a sound. It’s like glass chimes hanging above the hammock and my brain Pavlovially processes the taste of iced tea, and while the shades are opening I am pouring and they click at the end of their tracks and I hold the glass up to the strip outside the window, smile and shoot it. It is far too much for me to handle at this point. I gag a bit, cough but hold in that burning sensation in my esophagus until it dissipates and spreads through my body, all the way down to my fingertips which had been numb without me noticing.
My eyes are now used to the light and I can now properly survey the room. It is still the way it looked in the dark, only messier. Min’s vomit covered pants are laid out on the floor as if the wearer had been transported out of them, I grab Min’s shoe and scrape his pants into a corner knocking over a table full of beer cans causing a great racket that is some how instantly hilarious. I struggle to contain myself when my wanderlust strikes again and I fill my pockets with beer and set out to find Sam on the casino floor.
The hallway is especially long this time and seems to be rotating faster the farther down I look, so I keep my eyes on the wall and wait for the elevator doors to appear so I can stop. The beer is cold and outside looks warm so I stand by the window and try and get some sun to wake me up. Down on the strip it looks busy as all hell. What kind of place is this? What are all these people doing here three days before the birth of Christ? Surely the same thing I’m doing here, fucking heathens.
I can’t get down the elevator fast enough to join the hedonism. It dings and I run out and the first thing I see is a midget couple. They were just normal people with shorter limbs, holding hands and wearing backpacks on a Saturday afternoon in vegas but for some reason it made the hedonism that much more appealing. Godless people are one thing, but godless “special interest groups,” were a group I hadn’t ever thought I’d be able to party with.
I grin and nearly bowl these people over as I run to the bar instantly regretting my enthusiasm when I see almost every retiree in the world milling about with their coupons and walkers, and surly looks at the man that could be their great grandson run into a room full of them with his proverbial pants down. There is a brief moment of silence before they get back to complaining about how cold it is, where this nation is going, what it was like when they grew up and how there is just no respect left in this world and it hums through my booze soaked bones so I make exit to greener pastures: the sports book.
Any gambler knows that the sports book is the catholic church for gamblers. Quick drink service, too many tv’s than are necessary or comprehendable and the best addicts in the world. The only thing it needs in order to be the truest bastion of gambling in the universe is a pawn shop and I am sure it would have one if it weren’t outlawed, but that doesn’t matter; these people have been here an average of twenty hours and I’m strutting in at lunch time on possibly no sleep, or at least no sleep that I remember, and definitely no shower so I fit in immediately.
A bearded fat man in a leather fedora nods to me as I plop into a sofa chair and look at the board. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. The only sports book I have ever been in is the MGM grand the last time I was in vegas and I was kicked out after throwing up into an ash tray after about three minutes, but this time was different. I am not there to sleep, I’m there to gamble and they smell the blood in the water. I pop a cigarette into my mouth and a cocktail waitress lights it for me before I realize she is even standing there. I am surprised.
“Wow, thank you, didn’t even notice you standing there.” I smile as she puts the lighter into her apron.
“Sure thing Rodney.”
I look down at my shirt. No name tag. I play it off. “You remembered?”
She blushes and smiles. “Do you?”
I offer her a seat, she looks over her shoulder and scrunches her nose before she smiles and declines at the same time. “How could I forget sweetheart? Did you make it home okay?” I was playing the odds. Surely she hadn’t been working when I was blacked out, and I most certainly was blacked out and in her vicinity because she referred to me as Rodney which is for some reason the name I give attractive women when I am excessively intoxicated.
“Yes I did. I’m so tired though. I almost called in sick, but then I knew I’d be working the book today.” Apparently we had made a date of sorts.
“Good choice.” Oh lord what other lies did I tell? “How about a whiskey?”
She giggles and writes it down. “Whiskey Christy, that’s what you kept yelling last night.” I laugh. It rhymes, and it’s an awful joke but both are habits of mine so I believe it. “Where’s your friend?” She asks. Darby was sleeping, Min had wandered off, and a memory flash of the Bullers getting escorted from the floor points the finger at Sam or a stranger.
“I think he went back to blackjack.”
She agrees very adimately, “Well, go with what works right?”
I nod and she turns to go fetch my whiskey. I watch her leave before catching myself leering and I turn my attention back to the chariot races, horse races, stock car races, bowl games, local boxing, mixed martial arts and whatever other sports were in the flood that spilled out of those countless monitors as I rack my brain trying to figure out the circumstances around my rendezvous with whiskey Christy. It had to have been early in the night otherwise she wouldn’t be at work now, but that is slim logic because she is tired but that isn’t much of a counter argument because I didn’t even black out until four or five, but either way I had no way of knowing without Sam, so I ditch the book.
And right as I’m about to make my exit she rounds the corner and I’m caught, but I’m smoother than that, I am glass. “What time do you get off Christy?”
“Beautiful, I’ll be back.” I wink, which is out of my normal behavior but it pops up every now and again when I’m laying it on thick, and I’m sure a girl like her gets it on all the time so I have to be more memorable, more smarmy and less reserved than anyone she has ever met so in the event that I do come back before she gets off I have a chance however slim. I brush past her and let out a sigh of relief.
“Wait.” She didn’t buy it. She’s going to go all tough chick on me. “At least take your free whiskey,” and as I turn the ice clings against the side of the tumbler that she extends almost to my lips as she smiles this cute little just one side of the mouth smiles and I know instantly why I was attracted to her the night before. I sip and return the smile and we both go our separate ways.
I weave my way to the casino floor through the mall shops which are now open and apparently doing very well for themselves and it seems as if the median age is slowly decreasing the farther I get from the lobby bar, or the whiskey is setting in and people are only seeming more attractive, but either way it is getting better the closer I get to the floor.
At this point I had been gambling in casinos for five years including one stretch where I was spending forty to fifty hours a week in one for a solid six months after a particularly vicious series of break-ups and a stint in the hospital and doing surprisingly well, but even with all that experience and the general trash that is associated with casinos, as soon as I set foot on the colored carpet and light up a smoke and pose for all of the amazingness that surrounded me, I get this feeling inside that is akin to waking up next to a girl you love: just safety and giddy and invincible all at the same time.
After the cerebral overload diminishes I make my way back to where I thought the bar was but as I round corner after corner I am consistently proven wrong. I look for higher ground but this place is flat. I secure a stool from an obese lady playing three slot machines: mashing one with her fat hands and using an expertise far above my preconceived notions of women of her size, she used the cane to operate the other two machines, and all I can see from up there is more slot machines and a Mercedes on a spinning platform surrounded by slot machines, so I jumped back down to the floor.
I immediately apologize to the security guards and their vein’s swelling reduces itself immediately as I soberly explain how I know I should not be climbing on casino property and it’s not just a security issue but they are safety officers first of all and if everyone climbed on chairs this place would be chaos and it wont happen again, but do you know where the main bar on the casino floor is? And they point.
I swear I have been this direction before, but who knows. I follow the brown stripes in the carpet until they hit the blue stripes then turn left and right in front of me is the bar from the night before and a dozen or so blackjack pits. There is considerably more life this time as it is a decent hour, but Sam is still at a table with all the other old Asian men. He is talking to one in Korean probably. I don’t know the difference, but Sam is Korean so I feel like I can make that assumption without being completely racist.
I sit next to Sam and he looks surprised to see me, or surprised that I survived I am not sure, but there is identifiable surprise on his face. It fades into his trademark grin with his teeth showing, mouth slightly open as if he is about to ask a question but never does. “Hey Sam,” I lead out. He shakes his head and laughs.
“You don’t remember shit about last night do you?” I don’t, but he is a story teller and a business man so I can’t just agree and push him for an explanation.
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night after you went back to the room with Darby.”
“I remember that.”
“But do you remember coming back down?” He asks as the dealer hits on soft seventeen, catches a four and apologetically takes everyone’s money including about two hundred of Sam’s dollars. He bets another two hundred and turns back to me with the smile again. “You came down, lost four-hundred dollars before you got your first drink and then dragged me over to the lounge.”
“Yeah, I know, that’s where we met whiskey Christy and her friends.”
“Oh, so you do remember… never mind.” The plan backfires, but Sam wins two hundred. I don’t particularly know how I lost so much so quickly or why I thought it was a good idea but I knew it was about lunchtime.
“You want to eat?”
“I already did.” Sam points towards a plate behind the dealer, wins two hundred more.
“Oh. Alright, I’ll go get Darby.” I get up to leave.
“Here,” Sam says from behind me, I turn and he’s handing me a little stack of chips. “Lunch is on me.”
“Thanks man.” I walk back towards the elevator with a pocket full of chips. This feeling is new to me. I don’t like walking around with money in my pocket, especially in twenty-five dollar denominations. The magic of gambling is that the chips don’t feel like money so you don’t feel like a fool for throwing these little clay things in the trash at whatever game they have tricked you into playing.
I count them in my pocket. There’s six of them. Why on earth Sam gave me a hundred and fifty dollars for breakfast I’ll never know, but there it was and there is the craps table. I haven’t been carded for anything since I have been nineteen, but this pit boss seemed intent on verifying my age for whatever reason, so I complied, no big deal. Then he starts.
“What’s your birthday?” He holds the card halfway between his face and mine comparing me now to me when I was 19 which is about 40 pounds, a beard and the signs of a life quite possibly lived on the streets. My license is not a picture of me, it is a reference point and the older it is the longer the story connecting that picture with the man that carries it and quite often I don’t have the time.
“July twenty-second.” I say, already tired of this shit. He squints at the picture. I take of my glasses and try and bring my double chin back, my usual joke when someone is giving me a rough time about my id. He doesn’t find it as funny as I do, probably because I’ve been drinking for 14 hours and he was at work. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye, then again at my license.
“Thank you, Sir.” And he hands me my id back and I place my bet. I have a hundred and fifty dollars, but I’m down four hundred that I know of, so I put twenty-five on the pass line. I win. It’s a good sign. I put seventy-five on the pass line and back it up with a hundred. Craps. Well I wanted to buy myself lunch anyway.
Back in the room the vomit smell is as thick as ever and Darby is in the shower. I turn on the tv for background noise and make myself a rum and coke and wait. Darby comes out of the bathroom after a couple minutes, and his face looks like he scrubbed with a pumice stone.
“Dude what the fuck happened? What is that smell?”
I point to Min, he nods knowingly. “How’s your head feel?”
“Thirsty.” He pours two shots and waits for me to follow his lead. I do.
“Want to go get lunch?”
“Champagne brunch?” You mean we aren’t the only people who drink before lunch? They have a place for people like us that don’t have coffee cups hanging on the wall and weekly bingo games? Not only is it acceptable to drink before dinner but it’s so prevalent that it has a name? “Ok.” I say, and Darby ties his boots and we go. Or at least I’m pretty sure we go. To be honest I finish the rum and coke, blink and I’m on the floor in the room and it’s dark.