Thursday, August 12, 2010


An explanatory preface: I work at three separate bars dealing blackjack and for months have been writing small vignettes on actual people I have met/observed while dealing. My initial goal was merely to relieve a bit of my hopelessness at seeing so many people waste their lives at these soulless businesses, desperately searching for some bit of solace I figured they could never find there. Nearly 40 vignettes later, and it has become less of an emotional outpouring and more of a philosophical inquiry into the existential insights bars can provide. These are the first five I wrote, all of which were quickly scribbled down in a small notebook during my breaks. Some of the names are real, others are not, but all are actual people with larger stories than I am able to tell.

1. Marty
He's forty, perhaps forty-five. A gangly and awkward man, he wears a tan zip-up and blue dress pants every night, even when it seems uncomfortably warm. He has never spoken a word to anyone, just eyes us all from behind black pupils. His dark hair is greying and barely a wisp slumbers upon his pointy skull. I would think he was a serial killer but for one tell: he only watches the dealers. No girls in skirts or waitresses in short-shorts get his attention, only the cards in my hands as I shuffle and deal smoothly across the table. He plays only as often as he speaks, yet there is a game being conducted in his mind as the queens and kings fly back and forth, back and forth, over and over without end. Without looking away, he slowly raises his hand for another glass.

2. Gloria
She's always on her cell, pausing only to switch hands and ears. She'd be a mystery if only her high pitched voice didn't give away her high maintenance issues; even the lesbian cougars know to stay away. We all politely ignore as she sobs and rages at her "Lydia" (girlfriend?wife?lover?pimp?) who slept with her own "Sam" (also known as "Cunt" and "Vag Slut" and the "her" of "It's her breasts, isn't it? So you prefer slutty D's now, is that it?!"). I have no sympathy for her until the night she - quiety and without the usual fuss - tucks her phone into her bra, eying the cougars with a deep calm confidence which could just as easily be interpreted as insanity by those of us who know better. Maybe it's over with Lydia, or perhaps she's finally past the point of sexual loyalty; either way, the cell is off and it's obvious there is nothing and nobody left worth sobbing over.

3. Lewis
He comes every Wednesday for the baseball games, but stays for the cards. He smiles even when he loses a hand, only raising his voice when Metallica comes on over the speakers. He calls himself a silver fox, and he is, but also reminds me I'm too young for him so "don't even try, sweetheart." He pulls out his Blackberry to check facebook each time I shuffle, explaining that it's the only way his estranged son he abandoned at the age of five ("When I was dumb, young and desperate") will let him keep in contact. He carries the device in his breast pocket, close to his heart, tenderly tapping it through the faded fabric every time he gets a blackjack. His grin never falters.

4. Avril
She's a cultural slut and I hate her guts. She sings to me at least four times a night though, so we do our best to tolerate one another. She's won every battle we've ever fought, stealing the players' attention away from the table each time her puckered lips and digitally enhanced breasts thrust out from the large HD screen. I sing along to her songs out of habit, until the night a player comments to me as I mouth along to her #3 hit single, "Wow, you know all the words. You must really like this song, eh?" "Fuck no," I reply. "She sucks and I hope her candy ass explodes tootsie rolls all over pinata-style someday." The player, a girl in her twenties who could be a dead ringer for the aforementioned candy-assed devil woman, laughs and nods in agreement. Avril - 20,000-ish, Me - 1. I will win this war yet.

5. Maria
She's the fat girl of her group, the one who shyly decides to "watch over" the drinks and purses as her friends slut it up on the dance floor. She's the most dignifed of them all and I want to tell her so, but she doesn't have the courage to approach the table. She won't even look me in the eye from across the room, or match gazes with any other girl in the joint for that matter. Glancing at my shuffling hands, she seems mildly interested, and for a moment I think she's walking over to try a hand or two... but then she veers for the side exit, cigarette and lighter clasped in a sweaty palm. Her downcast eyes and teal-painted lids tell me all I need to know; she's many lonely nights away from the day she'll take a chance and just bet all she's got.

1 comment:

Gunter Heidrich said...

I think 'estranged' is a fine way to describe these people. They're all after some sort of persistent identity which they think they'll find in money when really they're just lost in the half light of Avril and her seemingly certain context. All the while they're trying to conceal themselves in shadows and in games that betray or have no regard for them whatever.