Sunday, October 18, 2009

Poker Games, Mind Games

Today was my first day back at work after four days off. It was a pretty uneventful day all in all, but there are a couple noteworthy moments to mention.

We have this player, Vinny, and her husband Alex. They are a strange couple, but fit each other quite well in mood and mannerisms. On the majority, they are both pretty quiet, but strikingly negative. Vinny plays poker while her husband looks over her shoulder at her cards, then paces in and out of the room until the hand is finished and new cards are dealt, ready for a peek. Vinny has a very small head in proportion to the rest of her body. Her arms are like overstuffed sausages at the brink of splitting. Around her left wrist is a very small, very tight ladies' watch. Around the right, two or three very small, very tight gold bracelets. Every finger on both her hands sports a giant ring with giant stones. Even her thumbs. But her hands are small, her head is small, or maybe it's just that her arms are so big.

The noteworthy event here is that I made Vinny smile today. I think it may have been the first time in a long time that this has happened to her. Between her arms and the smile on her face, I was sure something on her body would explode. But it didn't.

Most days, every half hour I am on a break. In the poker dealing world, this is called an "up-down". For 30 minutes I am "up" on break, and for 30 minutes I am "down" at the table dealing cards. Days like this are excruciating, but today my breaks were rather entertaining.

In the back smoking area, I walked up on a conversation three people were having about pot, sex, and coke. They kept looking over at me to see if I was going to have a reaction, but I didn't.

There's a manager at my work, in another department, who I have had "relations" with in the past, a few months ago. Let's just call him "AJ" for story purposes. Recently he's been playing quite a few mind games with me, and I've grown tired of it. The last time we spoke, he ended the conversation by telling me to look him up in the craigslist personals - that there was a picture of him there, from the neck down, naked. Then he hung up. I regret to say that I looked for the ad. But it wasn't there. So, I'm figuring he sent me on a wild goose (or goose neck) chase, just because he knew I wouldn't be able to resist a hook like that - especially involving him. I didn't call or text him, though I wanted to - just to tell him what an ass he is.

I guess my lack of reaction piqued his interest because he came by the poker room today while I was dealing, stood and watched me at the table, then called and left me a voicemail saying that he was watching me deal, while he was still watching me deal. Then he left. I texted him the following message:

"I'd like to actually hang out and talk with you some day. It seems like whenever we talk it's always brief or some obscure topic comes up. I'm tired of that game." To this, there was no reply.

A couple of breaks later, I went to the back again, hoping to come across some more entertaining conversations, but, lo and behold, there was AJ, practicing his bagpipe music. There was no reason for him to be there, in the smoking area. He doesn't smoke. He's never taken a break there before. I sat down at his table and stared at him. He laughed in between piping notes, and kept playing. He never stopped playing, but once asked me what's been going on. I told him a lot of things have been going on. He wanted me to explain. I told him there's too much to tell, and not enough time right now. He played and played. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn't. I stopped watching him for a minute and noticed a very tall black man staring at him, and then at me, and then at him again. This man's mouth was agape for several moments. Then he sat down at the other table and lit a cigarette and ignored us both. I was waiting for AJ to stop playing. Talk to me. Be normal. But he didn't.

On my way back in from break I saw the Lightening Lady in the bathroom. She's one of the nondescript, older people that wanders around the casino cleaning ashtrays and emptying trashes. On stormy days, you'll find her on break more often, staring at the sky, looking for electricity and eerie cloud formations. I rushed up to her and gave her a hug. We whispered in the bathroom about how bad things are at the casino, and she told me she's losing hope that anything's ever going to get better, that she's just moving in and out, day by day, just doing what she can. I nodded in understanding, told her that her hair looks really beautiful today, and went back to work. On my way back from my next break, I saw her again. She was wiping down a slot machine and shaking her head. I caught her eye and we both winked at each other in unison, and smiled.

When I got back to the table, the dynamic had changed a bit. Some players had gone, and some new ones had come in their place. About ten minutes in to my down, I heard the player directly to my right say to his friend,

"Look at AJ, is he hollerin' at that cocktail waitress? Oh my god, I think he is." And then he mimicked what he supposed AJ was saying to her, "If you wanna keep your job, you know what you gotta do, right?" And then he giggled like only trouble-makers do. I looked up to see AJ in a place barely in my view, between the slot machines, caught and tangled in this little cocktail girl's gaze. The first thought that came into my head was that he was spying on me. He is a voyer, likes to watch without being seen. And he hadn't been this close to the poker room for weeks - now twice in one day? The next time I looked up, he was gone. But in my mind, he wasn't.

I spotted one of my favorite poker players, Jessie, just outside of our poker room. He's got to be somewhere around 90 years old, but sharp, and sweet. We shared a hug and had a brief chat about where I've been lately. I lured him into the poker room with a mere mention of our doughnut table. We picked out a chocolate one for him because he is a self-proclaimed choco-holic. On my way out for the day, Jessie, still waiting for a seat in the game, stopped me to say goodbye and gave me another hug and a kiss on the cheek. I wish all my players were as sweet as this. But they aren't.

I work tomorrow, then am off again for five more days. I wish I had more hours to work, but I don't.

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