So I left the room. I didn’t leave so much as I bolted. I don’t know why, I just felt like I had to get out.
There is nothing decent about the casino floor at 6am. That saying about nothing good happening after 2am, you can basically extend that till 10am for a casino. The graveyard shift for dealers and pit bosses starts at 4am and runs until noon. The slots are littered with senior citizens mindlessly hitting the ‘repeat bet’ button, and the tables are populated with the remains of the night before, desperately trying to get back to even, to find the one miracle run to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in.
How do I know this?
Because these were my people once upon a time. I’d be the quiet guy in the high limit room grinding away because I was still up, and I could still keep count in my head. I knew that I wasn’t going to be sitting down at a table and playing. You can’t play when you’re on tilt. You can’t play when you can’t think. You can’t play when you have emotions clouding your head.
Daisy messed me up. I honestly had never let anyone that far in before. A lot of people like to believe that they really know me, and I get that. I’m very open, emotionally honest, and I volunteer a lot of information about myself. But there is also a very private part of me, and I try to keep a very clear divide between those two sides of me. She was the first person to reach past that crevasse, and I honestly never knew that I needed that. When Daisy pulled away, I recovered by building that wall up ever higher, and by having dalliances with women that wouldn’t and couldn’t get past that divide. Something about the night before triggered the alarm bells and I had to clear my head. Wandering didn’t help, so I ended up going back up to the room. Luckily, Isabella was still asleep, so I slipped back to bed and tried to do the same.
Of course, there was a loud fucking knock at our door at 9am. Apparently we hadn’t put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on our door and housekeeping was outside. It’s nine in the god damn morning, in a casino hotel. Who in the fuck is awake and wanting their room serviced at this unholy hour. I groggily answered the door, and tried to be incredibly polite in insisting that we didn’t have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign in our room, which was true. This was immediately rectified by Ella stealing the one hanging on the door across the hall. By that time though, the ship had sailed, so we went down for breakfast.
We had an appointment at the spa in the afternoon, so we ended up checking in early. It’s hard to describe the feeling when you discover the enclosed pool and hot tub three hundred feet up in the air overlooking the shoreline. There’s always been something about height that makes me wistful. As I slipped into the hot tub and the minor aches and pains started melting away, I just started focusing on the horizon, trying to track the rays of sunshine filtering through the clouds. Ella found her way over after she changed and hit the sauna. We sat there in silence at first, just admiring the view. Then somehow, we picked up from where we left off from last night. I tend to avoid talking about me, because I usually find myself very boring, and plus, I have this blog. But for the first time in a long time, someone asked about me. Not the inane questions like, what do you do, or do you like to travel. She asked the ones that dug deeper, the ones that I don’t get asked, the ones that I usually make an excuse not to answer.
Except this time I did.
Of course after the spa Ella somehow won $200 off of a .25 cent slot machine pull. That’s about a 1000% return. Because you know, the Fates like to mock me like that. She didn’t say a thing, she just sent me a picture by text, a permanent record of her making a mockery of the odds. She made her way up to the room, and I did my thing at the blackjack tables.
The funny thing about staying at a casino is that there are people who start recognizing you. They remember you if you’re sitting in high-limit, they remember you if you’re nice, but mostly they remember you if you’re a good player. When I sat down in high limit in the evening, that’s what happened. He said hi, and then introduced me to his wife. They were adorable. I had been playing with him all of the night before, and he and I joked about how bad the third player at our table was. A few minutes later Ella came and sat down, and I returned the favor of introducing him and his wife to her. He jokingly asked if Ella enjoyed shopping with me since, “I’ve seen him in about five different outfits since yesterday afternoon.”
We all had a good laugh at that, and then Ella played her part. Keeping track of a hundred moving parts is hard enough, but when you have to keep up the facade of congenial conversation it gets to be a bit much. Ella took care of all of that. She had a way of mollifying the table. She could tease the dealer, talk shit with the player next to her, and charm the pit boss all at the same time. There’s something there that’s unteachable, that natural magnetism. And of course we have great chemistry, we play off of each other, and the only thing that the patrons at the table remember is “that young couple” from that night. They don’t remember that when we left the table for dinner the count for the deck was so far negative. They don’t remember that he pocketed a pumpkin (a $1000 chip) in his jacket before he colored up. All they have is a saccharine memory of two people.
I’ll be the first to admit that the small gestures, the head gently rested on my shoulder, the whispers, the hair brushed from her eyes, they’re all played for effect. But sometimes I forget, and I have to catch myself. I wonder if she forgets too sometimes, if she has to remember what was an exaggeration, and what was real. Ella and I are both very independent people, and that’s a good thing in my world, but if my vision gets blurred, does her’s as well?
Either way, I’d been running on four hours sleep at this point. I hadn’t made a mistake yet, but I could sense one was coming. The signal was given, and away we went.
I’m sure you’re waiting for some sordid tale, but I’ll tell you exactly what Ella and I did when we got up to the room. We ordered room service (warm apple tart with gelato and steamed veggies, weird order, I know) and then she schooled me on the finer points of the differences between neo-classical and classical ballet.
Believe it or not, I’ve spent over a week trying to write this last paragraph. I’ve stared at that blinking cursor for hours hoping that the words will come to me. I try to tie everything up, attempt to come to some sort of conclusion so that you can come to understand where my head is at. The honest answer is that I have no clue. I think one thing one minute, I think another the next.
I’m actually having to grapple with my own shit for the first time, trying to be mature, trying to be an adult and working through emotional hang-ups without finding an easy out. You want to know why? Because she matters, because Ella matters.
I don’t know how it’ll go, if it’s going to work out or not, but Ella is the type of girl where if you don’t try, and I mean give it your all, you’ll regret missing your chance. I struggle under the weight of my own neuroses and baggage, but who doesn’t? For too long I’ve used that as an excuse for my miscues and ill-fated attempts. No more.
Same thing I do at the tables. Do the right thing, make the right play no matter what’s at risk, and when the odds tilt in your favor, make the big play.
I said I was jealous that Ella could win $200 from a damn quarter right? But the fact of the matter is I hit those odds when I met her.
Play? Let’s find out..