The ingenious design of casinos, from the bright din of slot machines to the absence of windows and clocks, make it easy to get lost in the moment. Add to all of that the possibility of losing/winning lots of money for doing nothing more than pushing a button, putting down a few chips in the right square, or gesturing at a few playing cards, and you have yourself a place of vague squalor and surreal possibility.
I was dealt a full house my first hand out. Still groggy from the ride to New Jersey, my win didn't fully register. I didn't feel that rush of adrenaline that usually accompanies a gambling windfall. Gradually, I became more alert and started to enjoy the game and the people-observing. There was the pretty Asian lady who provided non-stop commentary at every hand and called out, "Gimme lady! Gimme lady!" whenever her hand contained a queen. There was a group of dopey Kevin-Federline-types who shouted monosyllabic comments to each other across the tables, proclaiming their dim-wittedness for anyone within earshot. There were the usual elderly married couples in sweatsuits. Then there was the young guy in a leather jacket who bore a passing resemblance to Peter Krause (Nate) from Six Feet Under, who sat down next to me--
Wait, hang on a second. Huh?
This wasn't possible. I rarely saw guys my age at the casino, and never, ever, ones I found attractive.
The second he sat down, I won a hand.
"See, you won because of me," he said.
I laughed. "Are you saying you are my lucky charm?"
"Clearly. Of course, I expect a half of your winnings for my cut."
"Oh, is that your commission?"
"It is. My name's Mark," he held out his hand.
I smiled and shook it. "Dolly."
Mark took his chips and placed a bet.
The dealer pointed to the spot for the bonus bet.
"I don't play it," he shook his head.
My eyes widened. "I thought I was one of the only people who don't play it. People even get upset with me. But it's a sucker bet."
I liked this guy already.
The next half hour or so was spent chatting and flirting, and being thoroughly distracted from my cards. I learned Mark is in marketing and lives one borough over. In fact, we're on opposite ends of the same subway line, which we take to the same stop to go to work.
"So what else..." Mark would ask, evidently wanting to keep the conversation going.
"Did you get here today?" I asked.
"Yeah, a little while ago. You?""I'm here with my mom, just for the day."
"I'm here with my mom, too," he seemed faintly sheepish, which was very cute.
"Mom doesn't really play the tables, though. She's more into slots."
"Same with my mom."
More pleasant chatter and then he said, "Well, I'm going to try my luck at roulette. It was nice talking to you."
Just like that, he left.
Okay, so I can't always tell if a guy likes me (case in point, Neighbor Neil). In Marketing Mark's case, however, it was more than evident that he was into me. We were vibing and clearly had things in common (I mean, how many people go gambling with their mothers?). He was bold enough to sit down beside me and chat me up, yet didn't close the deal by getting my number. I don't know what happened. Could be that my avant garde movie tastes were a dealbreaker, or he just lost his nerve, or changed his mind. Either way, disappointing. Pretty much the theme of the season.
Ah well, at least I took some money home playing poker. Lucky in cards and all that.