I stepped off the plane just before midnight. I was ragged. Fourteen hours stuck at SeaTac had me spent, sitting at the far end of an airport bar. My go-to internet “cheap flight” purchasing service had left me stranded.
After ponying up for another flight, at an exorbitant rate, and hours of waiting, I’d finally made it to Vegas.
Las Vegas is what Kandahar would look like if every building were strung with Christmas lights and shot full of holes. It smelled like an open sewer in the mid-summer heat.
“Does anyone ever walk from here?” I asked an airline employee on the sidewalk.
“Fuck no . . .” he replied.
He looked at me as though I were going for a stroll on Pluto.
I walked past the mile-long line of cabs waiting to exit the airport. They shuffled three at a time through a red light as their meters ran up. Their passengers sat in the back, watching their wallets empty on the LED screen.
I thought about crossing the highway. My elevated blood alcohol and eight lanes of drunk-driven traffic told me better. I walked through the run-down neighborhoods encircling the airport. I regretted not taking a checked bag.
I needed a blade. A piece. Something.
The Double Down was a shit-hole dive bar I’d visited the first time I was in Vegas. It had been just shy of a decade. I couldn’t have found it if I wanted to . . .
I stopped dead in my tracks.
The bouncer started to ID me and stopped. He took one look at me and waved me in. I smirked and headed for the bar. I rubbed four days’ growth of beard as I waited for the bartender. I ordered a shot and a beer in Drunkard Sign Language.
I tipped gratuitously and left.
I made it to Hooters around 1 AM. Check-in was painless. The ATM nearby puked a $100 bill at me. I walked back to the roulette table by the door and threw it on black.
The young 20-somethings at the table all stopped to look at me.
What the fuck!?
The wheel spun. The white marble bounced.
Everyone at the table turned to me in shock and sympathy. I waved them off. Gave a thumbs up and headed for my room.
I should have dropped my bag and hit the rack. I didn’t. I threw open the curtains and looked out on the city.
Nothing good happens in the desert, I thought.
I headed out into the night.