Inquiry: An Evening at a Casino

by LJ Frank

It really matters not where the embrace took place, only that it did. Perhaps it was just a chimera, a spiritual mist left over from a previous engagement in the narthex of my mind. Or was it hope misplaced.

Hope can be a singular, optimistic, on the edge, dangling noun, if such a thing exists. Almost like hanging from a creaking tree limb, while noticing the ground is an unnerving, thirty feet below, or more precisely, betting on a card that you have yet to turn over at a Blackjack table with a stack of chips at stake.

Of late, the facts of a given day appear as an illusion. A surreal quality even with the television, satellite radio and computer turned off. The heart feels love, hurt, loss and gain. Memories recalled are filtered through time’s experienced passageways and the realization I have my suppositions, whether I want them or not. As I recall, a truth is generally based on a fact. I thought about it while noticing a woman in a short, black dress standing on the other side of the table looking at me, as if she knew who I was. I detected a smile in her large brown eyes.

I’ve come to realize that years vanish, as if certain moments never existed, even when I look in the rearview mirror to catch a fleeting glimpse of the passing scene and by then it’s gone. It’s not the same, the second time around. Detour ahead, my brain suggests. Chance and random occur unannounced even on a digital roadmap. Things happen outside my view and plotting is an impish game for the manipulative mind seeking its oasis of wealth and control. Is being a maverick also an illusion of a destiny?

As I sat at the Blackjack table an hour felt like two-minutes and cards flashed by my eyes like old black and white photographs from an unfamiliar past. Adult faces, flushed with excitement, affixed to heads and situated atop bodies clothed in tuxedos,  sport coats, slacks, jeans, high heels, boots, low-cut dresses and short skirts. Furtive glances around the table, Blackjack is played with cards; whereas with poker it seems you play the other person more often than not. What are the odds, is a favorite cliché.

The dealer asked me if I wanted a hit. I nodded. Nineteen was the total, two short, of twenty-one, when I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I looked up.

“Have we met on another occasion?” The  brunette in the short, black dress, asked me with a French accent.

“Perhaps.”  I said. I thought she looked vaguely familiar. Or, was the mere question a suggestive imprinting in my head?

She flirted and asked, “I’m getting a glass of wine, would you like one?

I returned the grin and said, “Thanks, red wine?”

“I know.”  She said with confidence.

“Hmm.” Where did I meet her before?

I was ready to move on. As I walked away from the table I counted fifty dollars in chips more than I lost. In a casino you win, if you break even. Entertainment comes in many forms even for people sitting in wheel chairs and on breathing machines or dressed in tattered rags with bruises on their arms and legs playing the slot machines. Hope is a dangling noun.

I started for the lounge when just outside the entrance the woman greeted me with a glass of wine in hand, and asked,  “Lucky?”

“Yeah. Thanks for asking.”

“You’re welcome.”

Our conversation was polite and suggestive. We found a small table in the lounge, sipped our wine and chatted about life. We never talked about the past, we were only in the present moment. I couldn’t figure out where we may have met before, if ever. Nor did she give a hint. When we finished our drinks we stood up, embraced and kissed each other. She kissed me as if we had shared a mysterious, intimate past, and then said, “adieu” and noted she was heading to Montreal.

I stood alone for a few seconds watching her leave when she turned and looked back at me. I’m certain my face portrayed my mind’s bewilderment.

“Perhaps,” she said above a whisper. And with that enigmatic pronouncement she smiled and walked out the door and disappeared into the night.