Vegas was a disaster. Gene was nice enough, but we spent far too long engaged in awkward pleasantries. Addison had abandoned me on Gene’s doorstep, so I had no way of escaping the awkwardness until Addison and Rick came back for me.
For all of Gene’s “awesomeness” in Addison’s memory, once we got there my brother decided that things were “going to work” with Rick after all, and they quickly withdrew to a cheap motel room. Meanwhile, Gene and I reminisced about how little we had in common.
A Mormon, Gene was married with three kids already. I was barely engaged to a girl who was about to leave the country for a year. “Wow,” Gene said. “Sounds like somebody’s a little commitment-phobic!”
He meant it to be humorous, but it was true. I had gotten engaged using the ROTC model: pledge now, serve later. I really just liked saying I was engaged because it sounded like I was becoming a responsible adult. I knew I wasn’t ready, but I was hoping the engagement would force me to become ready.
It was in the third tedious hour of comparing Gene’s accomplishments with my lack of them that my cell rang. It was Addison. “Hey, Bro,” he slurred. “Jid joo know that dreeks are free in the casino? Godda be gabblin’ though.”
“Addison!” I barked, while trying not to let Gene hear what was up. “Where are you? You were supposed to pick me up an hour ago.”
“Can’t, Bro. We’re druck. Godda call a cab.”
I switched off the phone. I wasn’t sure if he meant me or himself, but there was no point in having any further conversation. I needed to call a cab.
I took my leave of Gene and returned to the motel. The room was empty, but one of the two beds looked like a tornado had hit it. For a moment I considered just throwing myself on the other one and shutting out the world, I was so angry. But my unrelenting sense of responsibility took over, as it always did where Addison was concerned. I needed to make sure he was all right. Somebody had to look after him, if he wouldn’t do it for himself.
I hit my phone’s redial to connect with the last incoming number. Addison didn’t answer. He knew I’d be pissed and was likely screening calls. Rick’s car was in the lot, which meant either that they were nearby, or they’d cabbed down to the Strip. If it was the latter, I had no hope of finding them. I walked six blocks to the nearest dump of a casino, hoping they’d kept their mischief close to home.
No such luck. I sat down to ponder my next move. Fuck ’em! Rick and Addison were both adults, I decided. They could take care of themselves. I had nearly convinced myself of this when a fifty-something barmaid in a twenty-something miniskirt wobbled up on four-inch stilettos and offered to take my drink order. I happened to be sitting in front of a nickel slot that she obviously thought I intended to play.
I wasn’t a gambler. Nor did I drink. Until that moment. Fuck ’em! I told myself again. I didn’t owe anybody anything. I was an adult too. I had just as much right to cut loose as anybody. I ordered a rum and coke. It had been the drink of choice back in Puerto Rico, where the locally produced rum was cheap. What I didn’t realize until many years later was that it was also a deadly mix of caffeine and alcohol. After my third—or was it fourth?—free drink I was out of nickels, and anything else that could be converted to nickels. Shit.
So much for “cutting loose.” I was drunk and horny and broke. Not a good combination. Depression began to set in as I stumbled back to the motel. I hadn’t gone a block when a full-figured platinum-blonde in a Tina Turner get-up accosted me. “Hey, honey,” she growled. “You look like you could use some help.” She reached a thick arm out to steady me. “What’s your name?”
“Lesh,” I slurred.
She guffawed in a disconcertingly deep, hoarse voice. Clearly a smoker. “Lush? Well you got me convinced!” She laughed again.
I didn’t bother to correct her.
Just then a familiar voice rang out. “Hey, Bro!” Addison was approaching from the motel. Either he had sobered up since I last spoke to him, or I was so drunk it only seemed so.
“Who’s your friend?” he asked as he reached the corner on which I was barely standing. “Hey, I’m Addison,” he said to the woman without waiting for my reply.
“Hi. I’m Tina.” She offered Addison her hand, palm down, wrist limp. Even in my rum-induced haze I cringed when he kissed it.
“You jont know where that handj been,” I scolded. Addison exploded in a fit of laughter, while “Tina” pulled back in what I’m sure now was mock indignation.
“Honey, it’s not where it’s been that matters. It’s where it can be,” she said, grabbing my ass in her vice-like claw.
“Can’t,” I said, despite my obvious state of arousal. “Too druck. Beshides, I’m broke too.”
“No worries, Bro!” Addison crowed. “Rick and I hit the jackpot down at the Luxor!” He shoved a wad of bills toward me.
I just stared at them, not sure what to make of the development. I was starting to get dizzy and just wanted to get back to the motel.
“Well, take it, Honey,” Tina advised me, reaching toward Addison’s outstretched hand and pushing it closer to me. “Don’t look a gift horse in the…”
Her words were cut short by a brief, sharp siren burst and a cop car screeching to a stop on the curb beside us. I threw up.