The cab reeked of onion, and nobody else seemed to care. Maybe because the other girls were too busy chatting it up with the driver, asking him where he was from, if he had a family, did he always live in Vegas, and most importantly, did he love it as much as we did? But then again, maybe it was because it was four in the morning and my buzz had finally started to wear off. I got sick as we jolted around every corner. I could still taste the liquor on my breath. Those Trash Can shots really did me in.
I can’t even begin to describe what Vegas is like in detail. It’s a place you have to see and experience yourself. And those of you who’ve been, you know of what I preach. It’s glamorous. It’s luxurious. It’s unrealistic. It’s one over-the-top party after another. And it goes on with or without you. It never stops—-from the all-day celebrity pool parties to private cabanas to restaurants to casinos to clubs to after hours to after-after hours. If you’re lucky, you sleep for an hour, wake up and do it all again. There are no rules. There are no guidelines. Just you, your friends, and a whole lot of bad stuff to get into. Sins, if you know what I mean.
The Palms Casino Resort still took my breath away every time we pulled up to it, but this time I tried desperately to catch it. The ride down the strip from the Venetian to our hotel had my head buried in the inside of my clutch.
“Natty, we’re here,” one of the girls said to me, rubbing my back.
I opened my eyes to see the cobblestone below me, and I got out of the cab. How am I going to make it up to the room, I thought to myself. We’d been going non-stop since we got here, and it had only been a day– the Ghost Bar, the MTV pool party, force-fed drinks, free wristbands, VIP access, a lavish dinner, Club Lavo all night. But the party doesn’t stop at four—amateur mistake.
“Come on,” Liv said. She grabbed my arm and helped me out of the cab, and all seven of us walked into the lobby in our skimpy, tight dresses and six-inch heels.
The lobby was mayhem—-people running around everywhere, half in-the-bag, half sleepwalking. The tables were packed with crowds standing around watching Roulette and Craps games. Champagne floated through the air. Martini glasses clinked. The sound of gaming wheels echoed off the marble walls and floors, accompanied by screams in celebration and swearing in defeat. Cocktail waitresses greeted us with drinks. Men greeted us with seductive stares. Everyone greeted us with parties.
“I’m fucking hungry. Let’s go eat,” my friend Kylie said.
We split up at that point. Half of us went back to the room, while the other half went into the breakfast place open after-hours on the casino floor. Kylie, Jill and I (don’t ask me how) decided to eat, while Liv, Jacquie, Jess and Nikki retired to our rooms.
“I need a beer,” Kylie said again. “Let’s go.”
The restaurant name still is blurry to me, but I remember it having good food. The three of us walked into the breakfast place and sat down at the bar. I sat in the middle, Kylie to my left, and Jill to my right. We were one of two parties in the entire place, but we didn’t really take too much notice to anyone else. Beers and pancakes and bacon and French toast consumed our minds, and soon our bodies.
“Their bill’s on me,” a voice said from the other end of the bar. “All of it.”
“You sure, boss?” the waiter said.
“Yeah, I’m sure. You think I joke about money?”
“Oh, no, boss. Certainly not.”
“Good, so put their bill with mine.”
“Boss, you don’t have a bill.”
The three of us conjured together. We all gave each other the eye. Who is this guy? And, more matter-of-factly, why couldn’t he leave us alone?
“Excuse me,” Jill said. “We don’t need you to pay for us.”
“I know you don’t,” the man said. “But I’m gonna pay for it anyway.”
“Um, no you’re not,” I said to him. “We don’t want you to pay for it.”
“Why can’t you let a nice guy do a nice thing for you girls?”
“Listen, bro,” Kylie said. “We don’t want to hook up with you. Actually, we’d never hook up with you. You’re wasting your time.”
“I know,” he said. “And that’s exactly why I want to pay for it.”
“Well what do you want from us?”
The man waited a few minutes before responding. I watched the condensation from my wine glass drip down onto the counter. “Just to talk to you guys while I eat my breakfast. I need someone to listen to me.”
Our food came out. Jill and Kylie ate, and I continued to study the guy. He had to be in his early thirties. He was short and had dark brown hair. His hairline receded a little bit. His teeth reminded me of Tic-Tacs, but his smile was kind. His cheeks were rosy. He had on a Metallica T-shirt, True Religion jeans embroidered in white at the pockets, two sizes too big for him, and black tennis shoes. He noticed me looking down at his shoes.
“You eying my shoes? Yeah, I pretty much own the place,” he said,” so they let me wear whatever I want. Shit, I blow enough money in this place. I practically keep them in business.”
“Ooooh,” I said, rather uninterested and taking a swig of my wine.
“They tried to kick me out tonight, can you believe that?” The man slammed his fork down in his pancakes. Drawn butter ran from the top of the pancakes down to cover the plate. “They can’t kick me out,” he said to himself now. “Bullshit, they can’t kick me out. Believe that shit?”
“Yeah, actually, I can,” Kylie said. “You’re shit-faced.”
“Well that’s what happens when you’ve been drinking since this morning,” he said.
“Yeah, well so have we, but you don’t see us falling off our barstools. handle your liquor.”
“Yeah,” he drifted off, then said abruptly, “Hey, let me ask you something: did you lose 64-grand tonight?”
“Excuse me?” Kylie said, while I choked on my bacon.
“You heard me,” he said. “Fucking lost 64 G’s playing blackjack tonight. I should be shit-faced. Fuck, I should be at the strip club.”
Silence, while all three of us plopped on our stools, jaws dropped.
“Who are you?” Jill asked.
“Does it matter?”
“No,” Jill said. “We don’t really care anyway.”
“Uh, yeah we do. Who the fuck are you to gamble 64-grand away in one blackjack game?” Kylie interrupted.
“Guess,” he said, amused.
“That’s aight,” I said.
“What are your names?” he asked.
“I’m Jonathan.” He waited for our responses.
“Where you guys from?”
“Guess,” we said, rather amused.
“Jersey. I can tell.”
“Really and why is that?”
“So, Jonathan,” Kylie said, “do you make a habit of usually pissing away all your money like that?”
“The security guards took me out tonight,” he began. “I know them, that’s the funny thing. I’m here all the time. I have a really bad gambling problem, if you couldn’t tell. I told all those assholes they can’t kick me out. I own this place! They forgot!”
“Well you should probably do something about that, bro,” Ky said.
“I tried all night. Now I just say fuck it. They’ll pay for it later.”
“I’m talking about your gambling problem,” Kylie said. “And that’s sad.”
“Don’t judge me,” Jonathan said. “You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about my life.”
“You’re right,” I said. “But you got us involved in it now.”
“Fuck, you wanna know about my life?” he said. “I’ll tell you about me.”
“Enlighten us,” I said.
“I got mansions everywhere. I party with 50-Cent and Britney Spears. Britney Spears is my girl. She’s real peoples. I’m from Louisiana, but I practically live in Vegas. Here every weekend. I got people to see. Places to be. And certainly got the money to blow.”
“Well, you’re cool.”
“I got the penthouse suite in the other wing. Yeah, the new wing, where the Playboy Club is, bitches. Six rooms. Outside balcony overlooking the strip. Heated hot tub. Even got my own bowling alley in there. You have anything like that in your room?”
“Do you even use all that stuff?”
“No,” he said. He looked down at his food. “Well, I mean sometimes. Sometimes my friends will all come up for a few weeks and stay in the room.”
“Soooo, they use you? For your stuff?”
“Anyway, I usually don’t stay at the Palms, but the Maloofs are really good people. They real peoples.”
“Bro, you know the Maloofs?” Kylie asked.
“Stop calling me bro. And yes.”
“No, like. Adrianne Maloof. You know her?”
Jonathan whipped out his phone to show us a picture of himself with the MaLoof Family.
“I can call George up right now if you don’t believe me. He’s my man. He’s real peoples. We tight.”
“That’s alright, bro,” Ky said. “We believe you.” She took his iPhone and continued to scroll through his pictures.
“You guys like chocolate cake?” he asked us.
“Everyone likes chocolate cake.”
“Yeah, but we don’t want any.”
“Waitress, get me chocolate cake.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “But we don’t have any, sir.”
“I want your manager.”
“I said get me the manager.”
“Yoooo, asshole,” Kylie said. “Are you shitting me right now?”
“They obviously don’t know the way things work around here. She must be new. I’ve never seen her here before.”
A few seconds later, the manager of the restaurant emerged from behind the wall of the kitchen and zoomed over to us.
“What can I get for you, boss?”
“These girls want chocolate cake, and your waitress said you don’t have it. So, now I have to explain to these three beautiful girls why they can’t have any chocolate cake.”
“I’m so sorry, boss.”
“I don’t care if you have to search the whole casino, if I say I want chocolate cake, you find me chocolate cake.”
“Right away, boss.”
“Wait a minute,” Jonathan said, pointing his finger at the manager. He turned to us, “Do you girls like asparagus?”
“You’re fucking sick,” Ky said.
Jonathan brushed us off. “Get me asparagus, too.”
“You got it, boss. And it’s on me, personally.” The manager sped away to grant his request.
“Why are you treating that guy like a piece of shit?” I asked him.
“Because,” he said.
“Because I can.”
“Because you can?”
“And why is that?”
“Because I make four million dollars a month, that’s why.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Money is power.”
“So just because you have money, you can treat people however you want?”
“That’s how it works. They know that. They do what I say, or they lose my business.”
“Still doesn’t mean you have to be a dickhead about it. You know they dread every time they see you in here. Like, literally can’t stand you. Like, giving you the finger in the kitchen.”
“I don’t really give a shit if they like me or not, they do what I say. They’re not my friends.”
“Do you even have friends?”
“What?” he asked.
“I said, you really are an asshole.”
“Tough shit. I got you what you wanted, didn’t I?”
“A pathetic asshole.”
“Pathetic? You wanna look inside my wallet?”
Silence some more. Then explosion.
“Yeah, that’s why you’re sitting here having breakfast alone. ‘Cause you treat people like shit. Nobody wants to be around you. All you do is flaunt your money. Nobody can even stand you. We can’t even stand you, and we just met you. Leave us the fuck alone!”
“DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”
“We don’t fucking care, dude.” Jill said. “Don’t you get that? We just genuinely don’t give a shit.”
“Sir, your chocolate cake,” the waitress came back over to the bar, holding the plate of cake out in front of Jonathan. Her hand was trembling.
“I don’t want it anymore.”
“Sir, you don’t want it?”
“I SAID I DON’T WANT IT.”
“TAKE IT BACK.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, disappearing with the cake back into the kitchen.
“See, was that necessary?”
“Yeah, it was. I don’t fucking want it anymore after the hour it takes for her to get it.”
“You’re so unbelievably rude it’s not even funny,” Jill said.
“You don’t even know what rude is,” he said.
“She probably searched the whole casino for that cake. Put her job in jeopardy. And now you don’t want it.”
“What the fuck do I care? She’s insignificant to me. I don’t need to be nice to her. She gets me what I want because that’s her fucking job. Period.”
“I mean, you’re insignificant to us,” Jill began, “and we’re talking to you…”
“Then don’t fucking talk to me.”
“Well, I mean, you asked us to.”
“Yeah, well I won’t be insignificant to you when you find out what I can do for you. You’ll be begging to hang out with me.”
“Oh, yeah? You think?” I said.
And what’s that?”
“You’ll see after I take you guys out tonight.”
“Bro, I already told you once,” Kylie said. “Nobody wants to hook up with you.”
Jonathan laughed. “Listen, if I was trying to hit on you girls, you’d know it. I don’t need to hit on drunk girls at a casino to get them to go home with me.”
We laughed now.
“Well obviously you do, since you can’t get anyone else to hang out with you,” Ky said.” But anyway, who the fuck is this adorable baby?” She held his phone up to his face for him to see the picture.
“That’s my daughter. Isn’t she beautiful?” He took the phone and passed it around for all to look. I took the phone and saw the baby girl. She was only an infant, and she had on a silk, white dress and white bonnett. Her eyes were bright blue. Her smile contageous.
“She’s gorgeous,” I said.
“Love her to death,” Jonathan said. “She’s the only reason I live.”
“Then why are you here, gambling your life away, when you should be with her?”
For the first time, Jonathan’s eyes looked serious. “Everyone needs a break now and then.”
“You need a break from your own kid?”
“Just a break from all the bullshit,” he said. “Plus, this week she’s with her mama, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Ohhhh, your baby mama,” Kylie said, jokingly. “Who is she?”
“I’ll tell ya’ll the truth,” Jonathan said. “I lost the best woman I have ever met. I wanted to spend my life with her, and I lost her.”
“Well, here’s a thought,” Ky said. “How ’bout you stop being an asshole, stop crying about it and fix it.”
“It’s not that simple,” he said.
“Well maybe it’s because your in Vegas blowing millions of dollars
every other weekend, Mr. fucking Big Spender, and she’s taking care of your kid.”
“I know I am.”
“My fucking addiction.”
“And that wasn’t enough to make you realize you needed to stop?” I asked.
“I realized, but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t give it up. So she gave me up.”
“So, she finally got sick of your bullshit,” Jill said. “I don’t really feel bad for you. You need to grow up, dude.”
“She’s too good for me, anyway.”
“Yeah, well it sounds like it.”
Jonathan pushed his plate away from him, and the manager came and took it back to the kitchen. He sat with his face slumped down, his eyes on the counter, in silence for a few long seconds.
“She was my high school sweatheart,” he began. “We were together forever–I mean years and years. I knew I wanted to marry her. I asked her if she wanted to be a part of the business. I wanted her to share in it. To be a part of it with me.
“So you own a business?”
“She said no,” he continued. “I told her I wanted to take care of her, but she said no. She works for Geico now. Makes shitty money. I told her she could quit. Let me take care of her and the baby. She didn’t want any strings attached. Nothing to attach herself to me. I gave her a bunch of shit for it, but now I get it. It was a smart move on her part. She wanted a clean break because she didn’t trust me. Wanted to be able to get away from me if she needed to. But how can you turn down that much money? How can you do it?”
“Okay, bro, you gotta tell us what you do now,” said Kylie.
“I tried a million times to get her back, but she wouldn’t think of it. Not until I got my gambling problem fixed. She loved me so much, and I couldn’t see that. Or I just didn’t care. That’s what this life does to you, you know. When you can get anything you ever want and then more. You get spoiled. You get used to it. It’s life now. THat’s what you get used to. The lavish, the priviledge. You forget about the little stuff.”
“And you’re right, I have no friends. Not real ones, anyway. I mean, most of the time I can tell who’s using me for my money. But I don’t care. Sometimes it’s just nice to have some company. I’m really lonely. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you know. Money.”
He stopped for a while, and we sat and listened to the stirring about behind the wall, coming from the kitchen.
“You can’t trust anyone in the world today, anyway. Maybe family, but that’s it. Just
“You coulda trusted her.”
“And my family hates me, too. I’m like the fucking black sheep. The reject. The outcast. The unconventional smart-ass liability who pisses the money away. They treat me like a baby. Monitor my funds. My activities.”
“That’s because you act like one,” I said.
“Do you know what the pressure’s like to be the picture-perfect face representing a billion-dollar company?”
We were silent.
“No, I didn’t think so.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the next heir in line to take over the Tobasco business. You
know, like Tobasco you put on everything? My family. Me. I’m next.”
“Dude, that’s fucking legit,” Kylie said.
“Yeah, if you want it. I’d rather piss my money away here for the rest of my life. Living the good life.”
“You mean the good life by yourself?” Jill asked.
“Money can buy me friends.”
“Apparently not, bro,” said Ky.
“Anyway, I have a few months to figure out if I want the company or not. But I think I’m gonna let my sister take it over. That way I’ll still get a paycheck and be able to do whatever I want.”
“You gotta be kidding me,” Jill said. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You have the chance to be the head of a huge corporation and straight up run shit, and you don’t want to do it. What’s wrong with you?”
“Let me take you guys out to dinner tomorrow night. Come on, night out on the town. On me. I’ll show you Vegas. You haven’t seen the real Vegas. What I can give you. What could be yours if you really wanted it.”
“Like how you really want it?” I asked.
“You girls are real peoples.”
“You’re right,” Jill said. “We are.”
“I need some real peoples in my life,” Jonathan said, rather sadly. “So please let me take you out to dinner.”
“Did you just say please?”
We all laughed.
“Boss,” the manager said, walking over and holding a plate, “here’s
“Thank you,” Jonathan said. He slipped the manager a one-hundred-dollar-bill.
“I just want real peoples in my life. It’d be my pleasure to take ya’ll out.”
“None of us said a word, but sat and studied Jonathan and what he did next.
“I’ll have a limo pick ya’ll up and take you to the Cosmopolitan tomorrow night at seven. Dinner at STK is at nine. Best restaurant in Vegas. Sickest view. You’d really like it.”
He got up from the counter and pushed in his chair behind him.
“I’ll be upstairs at the Roulette table waiting for ya’ll. If you don’t show up, I’ll understand. For what it’s worth, it was really nice meeting ya’ll, for real. And I mean that.”
And with that, he walked out of the restaurant.