Siri, play Cyanide by Daniel Caesar. The mood needs to be set.
///I was walking on an island boardwalk hybrid. A glossy, palette sky indicated the start of dusk. It wasn’t deserted, but I couldn’t tell you where I was at if my life depended on it. I was also somewhat inebriated, so that’s probably why.
Company consisted of an abundance of close friends who don’t have anything in common besides the glue, which was me. An irregular clique, if you may.
The energy was unreal. Synchronized somersaulting was performed by the athletics. Low-tier whiskey was being sucked out of flasks by highly-tolerant alcoholics, myself included. Backwoods with chronic rolled inside were being smoked with no regards to public law. Perhaps it was legal there?
My outfit consisted of flamboyant swim shorts, a fanny pack, and Nike slides. Ridicule for the fanny pack was anticipated, but I never got it. Maybe through Instagram comments, I’ll get roasted, but not here. I didn’t have my phone with me, but I don’t think I needed it. Running my hand through my hair, I felt the crisp gel holding my hair nice and tall.
Not too far off from where I was walking, I observed a person of interest by the ocean. It was a woman with vivacious curls, playing in the turbulent waters. She invited me to join her, so I did, breaking off from the main group. They preferred the Tiki bars anyways.
Reaching the water, I dabbled my toes in it to test the temperature, and it was shockingly perfect. The moonlight gave it an oily complexion, but it was still pleasant to look at. Suddenly, I was plunged underneath. The woman had tackled me while I wasn’t looking.
I resurfaced, and I was surprised my eyes weren’t burning from the water. The realization then hit that it wasn’t salt water. Where am I?
The woman started splashing me, so I splashed back. Her vibe, I couldn’t quite pin down. She was goofy, but focused. Energetic, but intimate.
After quite some time in the water, we decided to take our ventures elsewhere, mindful of the eventual pruning that would overcome us if we remained. We must’ve been frolicking in the waves for quite some time, because we entered a part of the boardwalk I was not familiarized with.
There were lights everywhere. Thankful for a lack of astigmatisms, the woman and I marveled at the scenery: a Times Square-esque amalgamation of carnival fare, ranging from prop gun hunting games, to more traditional made-to-lose stands, such as the infamous bottle ring toss. The scene was reminiscent of Childish Gambino music circa Because The Internet. I entertained some of these games, but it wasn’t long before the woman grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the rigged attractions.
We waltzed into a casino not too far off from the strip. Burgundy carpet blended with golden tiling encompassed the entirety of the ground floor, and the novelty was just as bombastic as that of the boardwalk. Slot machines and blackjack tables complimented each other as far as the eye can see, and servers were in high demand. A Cirque du Soleil feel enshrouded this mythical casino. Once again, I pondered my location.
The woman noticed an hotel room door, slightly ajar, by the elegant elevators. She grabs my hand once again, and drags me along. Curiosity was setting us up yet again. Walking in, we spot a plethora of debit cards on the bed, activation stickers still on them. In the middle of it all, there’s a piece of paper with account information for the cards written out niftily. Did we just discover a scam?
Nevertheless, ruthlessness was running through our veins, and we decided to activate some of the cards using the landline phone sitting on the bedside table. We did the dash shortly after, and withdrew $3000 from the nearest ATM we could find. Inconsequential gambling was on our mind.
The roulette table was first. My go-to bet was placing chips on black and even, and I didn’t hit. My luck was off, but I kept at it. But I was stubborn, and I blew through $2400 in no time. I gave the woman some chips to try her luck. She placed $200 on red, $200 on even, and $100 on 16 and 14. The shiny, silver ball was sent spinning, and for the first time all day, I had a bit of anxiety. All the money we took out from the ATM was either lost, or on that table, and if we didn’t hit, it was over for the gambling. The ball finally stopped moving.
It landed on 16. The woman and I were fucking ecstatic.
It must’ve been a lifetime that we spent on that damn roulette table, because our chips were towering over everyone else’s by the time we left. The croupier was visibly upset at our winnings, but we didn’t give a fuck. For once, the house doesn’t always win.
Our route took us to the blackjack tables, had a rest stop by craps, and finished off with poker. In the process, we earned a cult following that started at the roulette table. Suits and dresses of various shapes and sizes followed us everywhere in earnest. It was like that one scene in The Hangover. All the Long Island Iced Teas caught up to the woman and I, and our intoxication made our night that much longer, but it was surreal nevertheless.
I realized the time was 5am, and I grabbed the woman’s hand, intending on revisiting the beach once more. Sunrises were always one of my favorite pastimes, and I refused to miss out on this one. I peaced the suits & dresses, and the woman and I headed out.
The breeze was brisk on my bare body, but the heat emanating from the woman leeching on my arm kept me relaxed. I couldn’t believe I spent that whole day without getting a change of wardrobe, but the swim shorts spoke volumes in fashion sense. The fanny pack was stuffed with money from the casino, of course. Glad that the pack helped out after all.`My hair was slanted across my face, as the gel had worn off. Sobering up meant that I was getting tired, but I had one more task to accomplish.
The sunrise gleamed over the serene ocean water, within a cloudy ceiling, creating an unparalleled symmetry that only the gods can have the talent to manufacture. Black-headed gulls started flocking above the soft sand, determined for a destination. Their feathers were unruffled, as if to have never experienced trauma. Their voices were pristine, as if to have never been taught the language of terror. It was evident in their smooth wailing that echoed throughout the shoreline. Mixed with the crashing waves, the background noise provided the perfect soundtrack. This was a safe space, it seemed. Nothing could ruin us.
I turned to look at her. She was smiling.
“I’m glad you finally came home. I missed you.”
The clouds briefly blocking the sun shifted, and we were illuminated in warmth. Her eyes were more beautiful in the sunlight. Somber, but beautiful. I hadn’t noticed her fleeting prettiness until now. The concept of time was dissolved in that moment.
This was no time to be shy, so I started to lean in, and—-///
I snapped out of unconsciousness, the “waves” alarm tone on my phone being the culprit for me waking up. A sharp pain bolted through my brain, a consequence of an abrupt interruption of deep thought. REM sleep is a real cunt.
I turned the alarm off, and checked the time. 4:00am.
It was time for PT.
Today, we were doing 30/60s on the track. My legs were sore from the day before, so I really didn’t want to go, but it’s the military: there was no choice. I laid in bed for 5 minutes before I rolled off it to conduct personal hygiene.
As I brushed my teeth, I thought about the dream. It felt so real, so natural, and it was my first one in months. However, what I saw and felt inside this world couldn’t be farther from the truth. One look in the mirror revealed my hair to be short all-around, a far cry from the suave composure I had, and I was still in Africa. The boardwalk? A strange setting that fused my experiences down the Jersey/Miami shores with my frequent visits to the adult Chuck E. Cheese known as Dave & Busters. The same goes for the casino, which was a loose interpretation of my time spent in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The woman? Someone I failed to captivate stateside.
My past finessed itself into my fantasy future and created an alternate timeline where euphoria was unlimited. Recalling the dialogue, only three sentences were verbalized within. I should’ve known better. For one extremely long second, I believed there was a happy ending. Maybe the cycle had been broken, and maybe everything would be alright.
I was dead wrong. I wish I never woke up back to this purgatory.
But there was no time to bitch. I was late to formation.