Authors Note 4/28/2016: If you're rereading this, I've changed some small things. Like Katie's last name. Also - I am writing, but I won't be updating until the story is done. Thanks for hanging in. -IReen
More Ferarum: In the manner of beasts...
I used to love casinos.
The way they smell. Filtered smoke and canned air. Stale water and spilled alcohol.
The way they sound. Mechanized chiming, zinging, the false jingling of computerized coins. The chaotic carpet designs—the way they blur under tired, intoxicated vision. The lights, the ceilings, the stairways. Escalators and mirrored elevators. Up and down. Looking at yourself.
And the people.
Old Asian ladies curled into themselves, smoking endless cigarettes while slowly tapping the slot machine screens with gentle, gnarled hands. Young studs playing Swingers. Their fingers wrapped around rocks glasses containing weak, watery martinis.
Young girls in jeans and tanks, their skin covered in Vegas glitter, their eyes full of it—full of promise, full of the wacky ways of Vegas.
The porn, the acrobats, the shops, the shows, the drive-through weddings.
That was me once—stumbling towards the bank of elevators, one hand clutching a water bottle full of vodka, the other, my bridesmaid.
That was then.
This is now.
I got married here, I got stuck here.
And right now I'm slouched against the bar while Jared fills my tray with drinks for delivery out to penny slots, dollar slots, high roller tables and video poker. My outfit is cutting tight—too tight—over my bosom, just like his gaze as he wedges a handful of napkins onto my tray.
Wedged between the Miller High Life and the Cuervo straight up.
God, I hate this job.
My eyes burn at the end of the night. My lungs ache, prickly from breathing smoke and recycled, temperature-controlled air. My feet after I pull my stockings off, sore and swollen after a long night in heels.
Coming home from a place that went from magic to monotony. All it took was marriage.
I'm still technically married. I still technically wear my wedding ring. It's on a chain around my neck. With his. He still won't sign the divorce papers.
I still don't want him to.
Even though it's been almost two years.
I see him sometimes—only online, logged into Facebook. I'm afraid to ping him. I'm afraid to open that can of worms.
It used to be he made me brave. He made me adventurous. He made me wild and hungry. I think I did the same for him. I think.
We were alive. Once.
Vodka-tonic, Heineken, whiskey sours, rum and cokes. Water bottles. Tiny ones.
Three good swallows and they're empty.
"Can I getcha something?" The guy hunched over the video poker machine looks like he's been up for three days straight. His shirt's wrinkled, hands swollen, flesh squishing around a big class ring with a gaudy purple stone. It matches his lower lip, a pendulous discolored flab, wobbling wetly when he responds.
My smile feels big and fake and plastered to my face. "You got it."
I am an empty vessel.
I keep telling myself I'm going to enroll in school. Become a veterinarian or a social worker. It's not too late. I'm not too old. Not yet. I will be soon, but not yet.
Too old to cram my rack into this get-up, too old for the hemline, the armbands, the gobs of eye shadow.
Soon it'll be sad. Not sexy. Soon it will be even more pathetic when some drunk grabs my ass.
I can pull this off for maybe... maybe another five to seven. That's plenty of time to find a profession where I can wear scrubs, or a suit, or even just jeans.
Is that really what my ambition comes down to? My fear of becoming a forty year-old woman wearing sequins in the basement casino of Circus Circus? Too old and worn down to cut it at Caesar's Palace anymore. Too sad and single to parade my ass around the Palazzo? Too wrinkled for the strip and relegated to downtown.
Mr. Coors Lite wants to put my tip between my breasts. I give him a look. The strip club's five minutes away, walking. You want to stick money to some chick's body then you need to go. Away.
He pulls out another ten. And okay. For twenty bucks I'll let you stick your money in my bra.
"Atta girl," he says, reaching up and getting a good feel when he makes his deposit.
I hate my life.
I clock out and change. Then I go home to my tiny apartment and my laptop where I can stalk my husband and tell myself I'll look at universities later. Tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow.
But I don't. Tomorrow is the same day as every day.
I used to think I was deep. Now I realize, I'm as vain and shallow as anyone. I used to have ideals. Now I just have a constant bad attitude and calluses on my feet.
Used to be I was married. Now I'm just "not divorced."
And also not getting any.
Not because of any particular value I place on the piece of paper that doesn't bear his signature—the contract dissolution that doesn't free me from this union until it does—not for that.
Because sex with someone else—well... that would just be... weird.
Not because I've never slept with anyone else. It's just been a long time since I hooked it up with someone I didn't worship. Somehow, after a god impales you, a mere stabbing just isn't worth your time.
Kind of like the music tracks he uploads to Facebook. People have plenty of time to "like" them, but three and a half minutes of listening to indie-coffee-shop-rock is a big commitment. I honestly think I'm the only one who listens to every song he uploads.
Am I looking for myself there? Hidden neatly in some lyric, some obscure reference to me that I can wallow in?
My greatest failure. His too.
Sometimes I find those lines, little nuggets that show me he still thinks of me. Or at least, maybe, he thinks of the lessons we learned together. And not that trite bullshit that everyone tells you in the congrats cards you open when you get back from your honeymoon. Not the "marriage is work"s or the "always put the lid down"s. Or my favorite: "Don't go to bed angry."
Remember to cherish each other.
What a joke.
Two people probably couldn't cherish each other more. It doesn't make them complete, whole, successful people. It makes them complacent about their failures. It makes it okay to look in the mirror and see a cocktail waitress and a framer. We were two people who really hated our jobs, our lives, but loved each other with single-minded devotion.
It's okay to go to work and have a drunk throw up on you, or deal with a mentally inept crew, because you come home to someone who adores you. Who knows you. Who is willing to sacrifice themselves, for you.
But that only works for so long.
She calls them hazel but all I see is earth and grass and blood.
My eyes. That has to be about me.
God, I hope it's about me.
She calls it worship and all I see is my shrine.
Does he know I listen to this?
She dreams of me and I dream of me. We dream the dreams of each other. We find ourselves in new lovers, under different covers. The same moon.
Ugh. I don't want to listen to this anymore.
He's a man. Of course he's sleeping with other people. We've been apart for years.
At some point we will have been apart longer than we were together.
That's a while yet.
I start the day fresh and clean and smelling, hopefully, like the first wife of a Raja, all sandalwood and spice. My makeup tidy, hair slightly damp in its ponytail, heels still comfortable. Give it an hour or four. I'll smell like smoke, my face will feel grimy. Invariably I'll end up smearing my liner on one side, and my feet. Well. Just cut the fucking things off.
And then the next day. Same story. Except this night I manage to spill a whole tray full of drinks up against the front of my "uniform."
So now, I smell more like the Raja's harem. Like sandalwood and Seven and Seven.
The canned, cooled desert air hits the damp material and pulls my nipples into stiff little points that will not go away.
On the bright side, I make double my normal amount of take home tips.
On the bright side, my husband just posted a new song. Apparently he misses the brown featureless hills of some mythological desert.
Is this about me?
God, I hope so.
I look at my watch. It's after three in the morning in Vegas. I think he's still in the same time zone.
I think he's still in L.A. I have no idea.
I wonder if he still drives the pickup. Probably.
I wonder why I'm so hesitant to just ask him. I used to ask him whatever the fuck I felt like asking him. He used to answer honestly.
Now the only things I ask him are when I silently scream at my computer screen.
"Who is she?"
"Where are you?"
Then I silently scream at myself.
"Why do you care?"
I will always care.
Maybe these songs aren't about me. Maybe he won't sign the divorce papers because he worries about alimony. I don't want any alimony. Maybe I should make that clear somehow.
Maybe I'll email him tomorrow.
Maybe if he signed the fucking things I would move on.
Sounds awful. I'd rather wallow.
I would have to give up all this hope that he'll come back.
Maybe he thinks I'm the one that should come crawling.
Maybe I am the one who should come crawling.
Maybe I should come clean.
I didn't actually sleep with that guy. That night. Two years ago. I let him believe it. I let him believe I had cheated. I let him believe that a random fuck defiled his temple. I let him think it, to set him free.
Because, "I love you, Kit. But I hate my life." Well, it's not what I wanted for him. Not ever.
I never wanted to see that tightly wound tolerance. That bleak short-distance vision that only saw all our acquired things burdening him with their permanence. I never wanted to trap and hold him still against his will. I never wanted that. I wanted to fly with him. But that isn't what our marriage became.
I broke his wings, burdened him with a load too heavy to lift off.
I was lukewarm about going to my ten year reunion. I'd been lukewarm about high school ten years ago, barely graduating after a solid year of sparse attendance. It was curiosity that got me, more than anything. And the desire to see some old friends I hadn't seen since. And, if I'm being totally honest, I wanted to flaunt my husband and the fact that I was still thin while my arch rival, Brooke, the girl who had made all of elementary and middle school nearly intolerable for me, had blown up to triple her original size.
Like I said. Shallow.
The Silver Strike ballroom at Harrah's in South Lake was jamming with retro hits like "Smooth" and "Say My Name" and despite the trip down music memory lane, everything else was quite a lot like high school had been. Pointless and boring.
Except for Sara, a foreign exchange student from Germany. We'd been close in the year she was here and then lost touch after graduation. She was there. Her plus one was her brother Evan—very big, very quiet.
My plus one couldn't make it. He was stuck in Vegas on deadline. Or so I thought.
We drank. A lot. We danced. We migrated from the reunion to Peek Nightclub and got sucked into the thrumming undulation of bodies on dance floors. Bachelor parties commandeered us, bought us drinks. My drink went unattended.
I woke up in my hotel room. In my underwear. Next to a man that wasn't my husband.
I know what it looked like to Jackson, standing there, the card key I'd left for him at the front desk just in case, still in his hand. He didn't know that the man was Evan, that Sara was in the bathroom with her face pressed to the cool porcelain of the toilet. That my dress was in the bathtub, tangled into itself, soaking wet from the cold shower Evan had dumped me into to keep me alert.
I'd thrown up I don't know how many times.
I remember rolling out from under the duvet, hitting the floor awkwardly, my wrist folding under me.
"What. The Fuck?"
I waited for the pain from my crumpled wrist to hit me. It did, with a wash of nausea. My brain unleashed a chant into my bloodstream. But I didn't have a voice.
It's not what it seems. It's not what you think.
But I never said any of that.
I took all his burdens back when I didn't deny the allegations being flung at me. When he cried and cursed in my face, when he held me and damned me to hell and then left. Leaving behind his notebooks full of music and poetry, his toolbox full of drills and bits, his Stargate DVDs and his oversized sweaters with the thumb holes. He left it all.
I still have all of it. I haven't boxed it up or moved it into storage or thrown it away.
This one sweater in particular. It still, even two years later. Still, faintly smells of him. So faint that maybe it's just my imagination. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. Like a woman deranged I keep it in a big Ziploc bag and only open it on special occasions. I only take the smallest breath of it. I don't want to use up all the good-smelly-ness.
Once that's gone. Maybe then I can get rid of it all. Maybe then I will clean house. Maybe.
Maybe then I will stop daydreaming that one day. One day, he'll be famous and will come play Caesars. And we'll patch things up.
It's just not possible, though. I didn't cheat. But I did lie.
His life is better now. Maybe now he hates me, but he loves his life.
I take a valium and wash it down with vodka.
I love him and I hate my life.