Page 2 of 3We head out to the Boardwalk. It’s stopped raining, muggy, the sky streaked with lavender. A.C. is a city of mysterious signs: “HOOTERS-TO GO!”; “Loosest Overall Slots!”; the mass schedule for Our Lady Star of the Sea. The Boardwalk is wet, almost empty. There’s a long row of men hawking rickshaw rides, and gaggles of girls in bachelorette paraphernalia. Some have day-glo engagement rings, some tiaras or antennae topped with tiny, waggling willies. One wears a beauty queen’s sash announcing she is, “SICK FOR DICK."
We go into a shopping complex called the Pier. It has an immaculate, beatific plastic beach in the foyer. We eat somewhere that looks like a nightclub in a Bacardi ad, Kobe beef sliders and tuna tartar on potato skins. We drink gin martinis and start to feel lucky.
We head across the street to Caesar’s, all white and gilt. We cruise the tables. My friends look sharp, Rich tall and angular, Max in a tailored jacket handsome as Paul Newman, Elise in a black Comme Des Garcons cocktail dress. I feel like the native guide, displaying the gaudy treasures of my homeland. But I’m a stranger here too; the craps table is incomprehensible. I sit at roulette, change cash for chips, bet red. The croupier releases the small white ball; it turns like a mystery, inexorable, a wheel within a wheel. I hear nothing. I win. I leave. I can feel all the blood in my body.
We’re heady now. We rush to the bar where two scrawny girls are dancing in pink mini-dresses on the counter. I buy a round. We smoke. We watch the crowd. The difference between men and women here is so stark they might as well be different species. The men are fat or over-muscled, the women all tits and legs, orange, with plucked eyebrows and flat-ironed hair. Everything smells like cigars. I start to think of the things I will buy with my fabulous winnings.
We go upstairs to play blackjack. I sit between a girl with a mullet and a boy with a scum of mustache. I put down my chips. The dealer’s name is Elba. She gives, collects, says nothing. I see nothing but her hands. I lose my sense of time. For a while I stay steady, then I start to lose. Max is beside me now. He’s up. I borrow some of his chips and lose them. All I’ve left is two $2.50 tokens. I give one to Elba and stand up in a panic. Elise buys me a drink and gives me some of her chips. I go back to the table and lose those too. Then Max loses, then Rich, then Elise. It’s like we’ve been scooped up and rattled and dropped down somewhere else.