June 2, 1997
A group of friends and I took the train to Reno, Nevada for my birthday and I'm pretty sure I'll need a lung replacement because of it. There'll be no mystery if I come down with sinus cancer. I'm pretty sure I'll join in that class action suit the flight attendants have against the tobacco company.
It all started when we boarded the train and heard the announcement for the smoking car. Any smoker can go to the designated car and smoke to his or her heart's content as long as they took no more than 20 minutes. The popularity of the smoking car was so high that the conductor had to make the announcement every time we picked up passengers. They didn't tell us what to do in case of a fire, a derailment or any other sort of calamity but they sure covered what to do in case of a nicotine fit. I decided I'll panic if anything scary happened, I'll look for the oxygen masks to drop and when they don't I'll just start yelling and banging my head on the window.
When we reached Reno and walked into our hotel I noticed the noise. The clanging, ringing and pinging of the casino made my bones vibrate. There are no clocks, no natural light and this constant cacophany that combines to drive your adrenaline level through the roof. It's the perfect set up.
We arrived tired, hungy and all needing non-smoking rooms. The reason for this is now obscured by the nicotine withdrawals I'm going through but it seemed important at the time. We settled into our rooms and met up for dinner. At dinner, we asked for a table in the non-smoking section. The name taker looked at us and said, "California, right?"
After dinner, we hit the tables. I play roulette. No skill, no method, just pure chance. I can sit at a wheel watching people, talking to the other players and losing for hours. See, I know I'll lose all the money I came with, there is no illusion on my part of breaking the bank. My mission on this trip was to learn how to play craps. After $50 and twenty minutes I decided I officially suck at craps.
Because Leslie is a mathematician I've been convinced that there is no relationship between each roll of the dice and who is at the table. Each and every roll or spin of the ball is independent of the one before. That is only logical. But then again, all I know is that every single time I walked up to the table while Leslie was playing a big ol' loser seven would come up and clear the table.
Needless to say, I spent a lot of time at the roulette table, far far away from Leslie and her high-rolling pals. Once I was sitting at a table with a couple of people, none of which were smoking and a young man joined us. He got a stack of chips and placed them around number 18. People do that. They get a feeling and they'll cluster their bets. I've never seen it work. He finished, the little ball went flying around the wheel and he pulled out a cigarette. In one smooth motion, he sticks it in his mouth lights it, inhales and as he's exhaling noxious fumes right at me he asks, "Mind if I smoke?"
I guess I should be glad he asked.
I saw people eating and smoking at the same time and I became concerned. I'll never eat at one of those buffets ever again. I saw people standing over the salad bar with inch long ashes hanging out of their mouths. There were butts in the elevators and in every single bathroom stall. I have serious doubts that there is anywhere that you can't smoke in Navada.
After the first night of gaming, Leslie and I went up to our room. I sat down on the bed and felt a wave of smoke hit me. I took a tentative sniff of my sleeve and started coughing. We stripped down and hid the clothes in the closet and climbed in bed. Everything was good until Leslie started moving. Every time she shifted the stench of a thousand ash trays wafted from her thick, long, red hair. I woke from nightmares about Joan of Arc burning in my garden just to find that Leslie had snuggled up to me.
Copyright 1997 by Laura Jiménez.