The drugs were finally wearing off, but we were still 2 sheets as a kite and 3 stones to the wind. Six beers and a couple bowls, we’d failed somewhat in our attempt at escaping our nightmare. We stood shoulder to shoulder as we hurled into the fountain in front of the Bellagio.
“Fuuuccckkkk! Oh my god, ggmmmhhhhh.” Elliot’s head launched over the handrail once more as an arc made for the water.
“Hey. mhhhhh. Shit, gmhhhhhh,” I fought the urge to vomit again. “We should get out of here dude. Before cops or security comes. We aren’t exactly low key at the moment.”
“Ya think,” Elliot smirked as he lifted his head back over the railing, his cheeks rosy.
“Let’s head toward the Stratosphere. A little less crowded up that way.
We’d been about 12 hours into our routine trip to Vegas. Four weeks in a row crawling around keying out plants and camping in the desert was motivation for a monthly odyssey to the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. Generally, it wasn’t so extraordinary; maybe beers at the casino and some poker – never won anything. Sometimes we’d have some blow and see a show. Once Elliot hooked up with some blonde he picked up at The Mirage when he had the molly from his older brother. Made the hotel room awkward that night, but I passed out eventually.
But this weekend, Elliot had a couple hits of dose from his brother in Phoenix. His brother always had good shit. I usually tried to avoid all of it, but it was Elliot’s birthday.
“Here’s to you, you crazy fuck.” I smirked at him as I wiped the corners of my mouth.
“Where are we headed now?” Elliot stumbled behind me.
“North strip. Outta this zone, dude. Folks aren’t gonna want any encores of that show we just put on back there, and I’ve got a feeling we don’t have long before trouble shows up.” I kept an eye on the Boulevard as we passed through the crowds.
Sounds of the ‘porn-slappers’ emanated as we neared the street and turned left toward the north end of the strip. The peddlers clapped papers and ruffled cards in their hands. Mostly people passed by awkwardly, maybe glancing from the corners of their eyes. An overweight middle-aged man discreetly accepted a card and quickly stuffed it in his pocket. All over the ground were cards displaying various lovely ladies of Vegas. Stars and hearts scantily covered the important parts. And these poor men and women, mostly migrants – or so it always appeared to me, handed out entire stacks. I never had the impression they cared much for the gig. I never had the suspicion they really had a choice.
“God, this place is so fucked.”
“Hey, are my glasses on my face?” Elliot was feeling around his eyes.
“No. Jesus, what the hell, man. You stick ‘em in your pocket or something?” I turned to him.
He felt around in his pockets, he fingered through his wavy brunette hair. He squeezed his empty shirt pocket.
“Ah, shit dude. I must have dropped them off my head back there.” He pointed back toward the fountain as his head dropped in defeat.
“Well, fuck ‘em.” A crowd of people were gathered around an officer busy talking into his shoulder. “We should just keep moving up the road Elliot. You have your contacts?”
“No, my eyes have been buggin me. I don’t even know if I’ve got contacts back at camp. Shit.” He blinked around as he realized his condition.
“Well, maybe we can try and find ‘em in the morning. But let’s just get out of here.”
Holy shit, I thought to myself. Everytime I came here, I told myself I hated it. But I always managed to find myself back here again. It was too damn hard to avoid with all these desert field jobs and Vegas was the only place to really stock up on supplies. Last year, I had to drive to Vegas about half a dozen times to shuttle people to and from the airport. I’d been a little more put together then, though. This year, Elliot was a satan on my shoulder.
“You gonna make it along tonight” I asked him hopefully, as we continued down the street under the flashing fluorescent lights of the strip.
A small Mexican woman – a porn-slapper – was being berated by a woman as her husband huddled around two small children.
“How can you do that, you monster! You have no right. I will not hesitate to call the cops you filthy criminal.” She spoke with decided nobility.
The small woman turned away with dignity.
I always found the variety and people of Vegas intriguing. Young children had plenty to do; roller coasters, arcades, aquariums. And adults could find adult fun too, with or without kids. Preferably the latter. But I always thought people knew what they were getting into when they visited the strip. So it amazed me when parents toted kids along the strip practicing puritanical objections. Likewise, drunken assholes, like myself, were often horrified to see themselves act with such hedonism in the presence of families. Indulgence often beat idealism.
“Can you make it another half mile?” I asked Elliot, who was managing to hold his head up as he blinked his eyes. “You know, you sure don’t act like a fuckin 4.0 student. You lousy bastard.” I grinned as he shuffled forward. His left shoelace was untied and flopping along with him.
“Where are we going to stay tonight?” He started to yawn. “What time is it, even?”
“Well, it’s just past 10:30,” I looked at my phone. “Not even late by Vegas standards. I figure we’ll see what’s available at Circus Circus. It’s usually on the cheap.”
“You still trippin? Elliot asked. “I’m still feelin it a bit.”
“Yeah, a little. My body buzz is still goin a bit, but I think it may be the beer too.”
“Hey you know, I think I know what happened to my glasses.” He grinned slightly.
“Oh. You suddenly remember now, huh.” I was listening.
“Yeah, well it just sorta came back to me. Back there, just before we started puking, you were off staring off at the light beam from the Luxor – your head in the sky like usual. Well, I found this little plastic tree in a box with some fake grass. Kinda weird I was thinking, fake plants and all, in this very fuckin fake ass place. Why not just plant some drought tolerant halophytes or something real. You know, that can actually survive here. I suppose plastic green shit is more appealing to all these blowhards.”
I continued to listen as we strolled along the strip. We were now at a nice pace and a cool breeze had started in from the west. My sweat soaked shirt was beginning to dry and my mind was becoming more clear.
“Well, anyway,” he continued. “I was down in this planter box, with the fake plants, and I guess I was just tripping really hard. It was getting pretty deep for a bit. I actually took my glasses off and snapped them in half. Weird shit.”
“What the hell!” I laughed out loud. “Good god man, that’s wild.”
“Well, shit I don’t know. I was sitting in that planter box, looking at all those fake plants, and it just seemed to occur to me that maybe my vision was actually fine. Maybe I’d developed an artificial dependance on glasses.”
“You managed to equate fake plants with thinking your vision was actually fine?” I could hardly hold back the laughter. “Wow, I’d love to see inside your brain, man.”
“Yeah, Ha Ha. I needed new glasses anyway. I’ll be ok for a while.”
“I can’t wait to get out of this bubble again tomorrow.” I sighed.
“Yeah, these light bubbles are fucked, dude. They envelope you and you just become part of the noise.” Elliot said. “When we are camping out at the desert at night, the bubble seems so finite and defined. You can see the stars. The Milky Way. The whole cosmos… But when you come here, you can’t see out of it. You’d never know what’s on the outside.”
“Yeah, on the outside it’s so clear – What’s inside. What’s outside. I like it better on the outside.”