Vacations are all about avoidance. Back at home a mold spore is forming in a half-drunk bedside cocktail, a deadline is tightening around the neck of my byline, and another fleck of 80-year-old paint is floating down from the ceiling and onto the unsuspecting carcass of a dead moth. But right here, right now, there is only the numbness of paying no mind. Everything is perfect.
“There’s a rest stop coming up on the right,” Alan conjures up a 2006 script from the unnerving blips of a radar detector. “You want me to butt-fuck you in the rest stop?”
“Too much work.” I am not working.
“How ’bout you just lean over here and give me a blow job, then?”
Perfect. Anyway, we’re traveling our twice-trod trail to the Big Easy for yet another dance with our individual addictions, because that’s probably the best compromise couples who don’t really talk to each other anymore can make. I can’t roll my eyes at his rolling of the dice, as long as he isn’t throwing rocks at my vodka on the rocks; avoidance is the ultimate escape.
“We’re going to have so much funnnnnnnn,” I exude something that smells like pleasantry, but sounds rather like an unnecessary blurt from a menstruating teenager with gum in her mouth.
“Blow,” Alan barely parts his teeth, “job.”
The real job in New Orleans is going to be withholding from the unwanted forays into cynicism and/or repetition intrinsic to repeat vacations that have already been written about twice. At some point I’m bound to make a Casino reference – while standing in a casino – and it’s probably going to involve blow, Sharon Stone and a fur coat. Then later, if I’m lucky and just drunk enough, there will be a “Brick” thrown in for clicking purposes, followed by an obligatory reference to felines scalding on roofs of tin. It’s all too easy.
“Just made it to New Orleans,” I text my friend Troy to get it out of me. “Waiting for that click!”
“OK, Brick,” he vibrates back … and scene.
By the time we check in at Harrah’s, because actually staying at the casino removes the illusion that we’re here for anything but chasing luck with piles of cash, Alan’s already gained that certain gambling glint in his eye. It’s the same kind of look I recall him throwing in my direction more than seven years ago, when I wasn’t a blight on his credit report, he was a drunk, and we were about to try to fuck and never see each other again. Only it’s more focused and somehow more tempered now that its victim is speculative finance shaped into little plastic discs, and not speculative finance shaped into little coke-addled me. We’ve come a long way, baby.
While he’s off high-rolling craps or whatever, I slip a 20 into something with sevens and cherries on it and wait for a complimentary drink with all the other Hoverounds depleting their pensions. Three minutes later, the 20 is gone and the drink hasn’t even shown up yet. I try to think of an appropriate song to soundtrack it in my head, but the “Against All Odds” theme is all I get and Phil Collins is never suitable. I am not having so much funnnnn.
“You stay here and gamble,” I break into Alan’s mania just long enough to retrieve a scowl. “And I mean it; stay as long as you want. I’m going back to the room to relax, or drink, or both.”
And so the cycle will continue for five days, only occasionally interrupted by flights of tourism fancy (the Ogden Museum, Magazine Street, a dead-people tour of water-lined shotgun shacks, Bourbon Street gay bars with King of the Hill on all the time, food), can’t-poop-elsewhere constipation (I seriously threw back a laxative with coffee while pushing my thumb up my ass, because I am the most disgusting person in the world) and precisely one accusation that I somehow ruined Alan’s game – and thereby his life – by touching him on his craps-playing shoulder on my way to the Village People Party slot machine (which, I must add, is my new best friend … because it would be). Oh, and a blow job. I, naturally, will not be sober for one minute of any of it.
But on Friday, the last day, I am at least mildly sobered. While strolling through a street market along the Mississippi, Alan and I happen upon a bewitching presence freckled with local misery. Her name is Lola and she reads cards, something I could never imagine Alan being drawn to without the hope of round plastic chips. But, oddly enough, he is.
“You were not looking for love when you met him, were you?” she sagely moans in his direction. “You were avoiding it.”
“You’re right,” his face softens.
“But you two belong together,” she turns to me. “He’s your guardian angel.”
“Um,” I stammer, “I guess.”
“And you are covered from head to toe in golden dust. You are destined for great things, and have a beautiful aura,” she is totally my new mother. “But there are two people out there who want to hold you back, and don’t want you to succeed. You must avoid them.”
That shouldn’t be too hard. At least for one long, drunken week, I avoided just about email@example.com