Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas
By Mulan Matthayasack
Friday — 12:45pm
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas. The golden sign shimmers brightly in the desert as the sun gleams against it, and I’m blinded when the cab drives past. Amy takes pictures out the window as we drive along The Strip, and she chats happily but I have my phone pressed against my ear.
It’s been an entire day since he’s said anything to me. When I texted good morning, he didn’t answer. When I told him I was boarding the plane, no answer. Four hours pass during the flight, and even after getting out of the airport, he still hasn’t responded. I’m playing with the Leo necklace around my neck, what Amy had given to me as an early birthday present before leaving Chicago. She says it’s to remind me that I’m a bad bitch, “as if your ego wasn’t already big enough,” but as the dial tone rings and rings, I don’t really feel like one. I’m wondering if it’s the poor connection from the desert, or the lag from recently switching off airplane mode, but there’s another thought that’s been eating me away since the start of summer.
“Hello?” His voice finally answers.
“I landed,” I immediately say. “Where are you?”
“LA…” He says it like it’s obvious.
My stomach drops. “I thought you said you were coming to meet me?”
There’s a small pause, before he quietly admits, “I’m kinda low on money right now…”
“Erik, we’ve been planning this for a month,” I state. I sit up sharply in my seat, which causes Amy to glance back at me from the window. “That was the whole point of me coming this way. Ever since you moved, we’ve barely had time to talk to each other, and I get it, we’re both busy, but this week was supposed to be an exception… For my birthday.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but things came up.” He sounds like he doesn’t care. Like it’s not really his problem, or he doesn’t want to bother finding a solution. I feel myself getting annoyed.
“So you don’t want to see me?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Well you can’t tell me right as I land that you suddenly have no money.” I repeat, “When we’ve been planning this for a month.”
“Look, I’ll find a way,” he suddenly shouts, but his tone is rushed. He sounds frustrated, but more over the fact that we’re still talking as opposed to the actual situation. Like he wants to get rid of me. “My friend owes me. I’ll be there later tonight, I promise.”
Part of me doesn’t want to take the bait because I feel like he’s half-assing it, but when the driver pulls up to our hotel, I know I’ll have to end the conversation anyway. I groan and force myself to take his word. “Don’t be long.” Assuming he’s taking the next available plane, the flight should only be an hour and a half long. I softly add, “I miss you.”
“I won’t,” he tells me. “I miss you, too.”
I end the call and get out of the car, meeting Amy at the trunk. She sighs as she takes her suitcase from the driver. “I don’t know why you bothered with long-distance with him,” she says.
I was skeptical about it at first, too, because he was moving to LA for dance, which meant he was going to be very social, and also that he was going to get a lot of attention from pretty Cali girls. But he had told me he wanted me, and that he still wanted to try, so again, I took his word, and we did.
Friday — 9:06pm
“How are you pretty ladies doing tonight?”
Amy and I are at a Blackjack table in the casino of our hotel. The rest of the room is crowded with people at slot machines, the Poker tables, craps, but our section is pretty empty. I prefer one-on-one anyway; Amy doesn’t play. She sits next to me like a trophy wife, and she knows—well, hopes—this will keep me occupied from my thoughts.
The dealer is a younger man, maybe a couple years older than us. He’s got blond hair combed back and a piercing on his left ear. He wears a burgundy vest over white sleeves and a black bow tie around his neck. Amy’s been eying him since we got to the table.
“I’m doing fine.” She gives him a saucy wink, her rosy lips pulled into a side smirk as she shimmies in her chair with her strawberry daiquiri in hand. She glances at his name tag. “How about yourself, Paul?”
“I’m okay.” He grins at her, then looks to me. “How ‘bout you, darling?”
I don’t mean to ignore him, but one of the cocktail waitresses comes by and I wave her over. I order another Long Island to get tipsy off of so that I can enjoy the game more and refrain from checking the phone in between my legs. I haven’t had any notifications, and I’m antsy.
“She’s fine, too,” Amy answers for me, putting her hand on my arm and bringing my attention back to the table.
“Sorry,” I say to him when the waitress leaves. I place another bet on the table, and he passes out the cards. It’s only been two rounds, but both times I’ve bumped with him.
He leans back when he finishes, then gestures to my hand. “What’s it gonna be?”
There’s a 9 of clubs and a 2 of hearts before me. “Double down,” I immediately say, placing another set of chips beside my original bet. He slides another card my way, but when he flips it over, it’s another 2. I curse under my breath. He presses his lips together.
When he turns to his hand, there’s an 8 of clubs and a 6 of diamonds. He flips his next card, which happens to be a 7 of spades, like it’s nothing. “Twenty-one,” he says. I watch as he takes away both stacks of chips in front of me.
“Holy shit,” Amy says as I sink back in my seat defeatedly. She’s hunched over the table, biting the tip of her straw. “She should’ve won that.”
“Yeah, that’s a common one—”
“No, seriously,” Amy tells him. “My girl usually has the best of luck playing Blackjack. All the casinos in Illinois, we robbed clean.”
“Yeah?” Paul clears his side and puts the cards in a discard pile. “How’s that?”
“I used to gamble with my grandma.” I reluctantly slide another bet onto the table. “Amy likes to joke that it’s in my blood, and obviously there’s no proof to that because it’s all by chance, but I usually have a good hand when I’m playing with cards.” I take a breath. “I don’t know, though. Maybe it’s just a really bad day. My luck’s been slim all three rounds.”
“Maybe it’s the dealer.” Amy takes the strawberry off the rim of her cup and brings the tip to her mouth, sucking lightly. “Come on, Paulie, let us win a couple rounds.”
He gives a short chuckle and looks down as he deals the next set of cards. “I’ll try.”
Try. That stupid word that I’m starting to feel means nothing.
I’ve got a 10 and a 6 this time, and I really don’t want to hit but I do anyway because I know there’s a low card coming up somewhere in that deck, and I’d rather have it than him. A 3 comes out, and I quietly cheer in my head, waving to stay and thinking he can’t possibly beat 18 until he flips his own cards, and I see that the numbers perfectly add up to 19.
“House wins,” Paul murmurs, scooping my chips away slowly. I can see that he genuinely feels bad for me, but I scoff and throw myself back in my seat again.
“This game is stupid.” Subconsciously, I grab my phone from my lap and turn it on, even more annoyed now that there’s no update from Erik. I automatically call him and bring the phone to my ear. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Amy giving me a weary look, but I ignore her.
“I’m sorry, hon,” Paul says quietly to me. “I’m gonna have to ask you to put that away. Rules say you can’t have them at the table.”
The call drops at the second dial tone, and I’m hit with the voicemail message. My stomach knots, and I feel like I’ve been slapped on the face. I’m pissed off now.
“That’s okay, I think I’m done playing for tonight.” I get off the highchair and stuff my phone in my purse. “You took all my money, afterall,” I tease, but my voice is dry, and I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way because I really was trying to have a good time. Amy throws her arm around my shoulders, and I take my Long Island off the table and turn toward the exit. It’s my first night in Vegas, but I already know money probably isn’t going to be the only thing I’m losing.
Saturday — 10:57am
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas; in the morning, Amy makes me put on a sash and a tiara because I’m the birthday girl, and “the birthday girl always needs a sash and a tiara.” I lay on the bed and wait for her to finish getting ready, which takes a while because she has to shower.
When she comes out of the bathroom, she’s in her little red dress with her hair all pinned back and her face glowing, and she asks me, “How do I look?” I feel bad because I don’t answer her at first, and she catches me with my phone in my hands. Originally I was posting a picture of my outfit, but after leafing through endless birthday message and getting bored, I end up asking Erik where he’s at—multiple times, I’ll admit, but as expected, there’s no answer—and so of course, now I’m too mad to give her a real compliment.
“You look great, as always,” I start, but her face has already fallen flat and she is no longer glowing. She grabs my hand and pulls me off the bed.
“Come on,” she demands. “Let’s go out.”
She spends the entire day trying to get my mind off of him again. She knows I like to impulse-buy when I’m upset, but for once, I’m not excited about Gucci, Louis, or Chanel. She gets us a reservation for lunch at the Eiffel Tower because she knows I love everything Paris, but when I’m not fascinated by the refinery or the view of the Bellagio water show below us, she knows she’s got to try harder.
So when we’re done eating, she purposely makes me walk on the inside of the sidewalk. It’s closer to the shops, to the bars, to the shirtless men asking for pictures. She wants them to see me, wish me happy birthday. She wants them to give me a free drink, invites to their club; she wants me to interact, something I’m usually good at doing if I wasn’t still checking my phone.
Four minutes ago.
Instagram, the app he’s most active on, says he was online four minutes ago to like a picture of another girl’s butt—not even the photo I posted. I’m mad, but then I realize it’s not her that bothers me; it’s the amount of times he’s liked her photos and has commented on them with fire emojis and hearts and googly eyes, dating back to almost three weeks. He was online four minutes ago, but he hasn’t spoken to me, answered me—hasn’t taken a flight, or taken a car and driven four hours from Los Angeles to here like he told me he would. Four minutes ago, and someone else is already more important than his girlfriend. And when I come home at four in the morning from a bar with Amy and still see no message, I’m even more mad. I’m drunk and I’m livid, and when I check his social media one more time for the night and see he’s in a club in Santa Monica with that same girl briefly, barely, slightly in the background, I hate everything about him.
You know, if you didn’t want to come, you could’ve just told me, I type harshly onto the phone, and throw it across the room. He didn’t even tell me happy birthday.
Sunday — 3:02pm
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas, where Amy makes fun of me in the late afternoon because I can’t handle my alcohol. She finds me in the bathroom with my head in the toilet, and she laughs but I know she means well. She comes over and pats my back while pulling the strands of my sweaty hair away from my face. “You did it right, pretty girl,” she cooes. “Being drunk like this is the whole point. And then tomorrow, we do it all over again.”
When I think I’m okay, she leads me back to bed. My head is spinning, my throat is scratchy, and I ask her for some water, but that’s when we both realize we don’t have any food in the room. She tells me she’ll run to the dining hall, and places my phone beside me in case of an emergency, but I don’t think she knows how dangerous that is.
Because when she walks out the door, it’s like an impulse. It’s like a reflex, like an instinct; even though I’m hungover, I immediately grab my phone and turn it on. My heart jumps when I see I’ve got a message from him. But then it breaks when I see it’s not what I want.
He tells me on a Sunday in Las Vegas that it isn’t going to work. I think we need a break.
And suddenly, it’s like I’m sober. Suddenly, I sit up from the bed, and although my head gets dizzy from the change in motion, it fades away because I’m now furious.
He’d go to Santa Monica, two dollars and fifty cents for a train ride to a place that was a little under two hours away from his apartment, that I knew he had no real reason to go out there for. He’d go out of his way—two dollars and two hours—instead of just writing two words, “I’m sorry,” or two letters “N-O” when I’d ask and ask and ask if he still wanted to come see me. He’d promise me that he’d make it for my birthday, but then would later turn around without saying anything else and leave me wondering what the fuck was going on. Silence is an answer, people say. Yeah, it’s a coward’s answer, and yet he still dares to call himself a man.
Monday — 11:38pm
I keep my phone at the hotel for the rest of the trip. Amy posts photos of me on her own account instead—every funny moment, every restaurant we dine at, every outfit I’m wearing. Turns out when you wear a birthday sash, even if it’s not your birthday, you’ll still get free stuff because no one really knows you anyway. We go out to explore, to keep busy, to get drunk, to lose more money. Vegas still parties on school days, you know, and everything’s a blur for me because I’m downing a new drink every hour, so I don’t really know what’s going on, but I force my cheeks to flush, I force myself to smile and laugh. To forget everything that’s happened.
The Marquee is the first club we go to for the night. There’s this huge line full of girls in sequined mini dresses and guys with flashy jewelry, and as Amy and I stand behind all of them, I’m wondering what they’re to prove. They come to a club dressed to impress; I’ve come to literally get drunk some more and dance.
And Amy’s far more impatient than me. As twisted as it is, I think she likes the idea that Erik broke up with me because I’m finally willing to go out—even if it means to get dangerously plastered—and she’s been trying to go to a club since our first night. She does this thing where she flirts with the bouncer, presses her body against his and runs her fingernails along his shoulders; I blink and then we’re in. She does something as simple as grin her pearly whites at the bartenders, and suddenly there’s a free drink in my hand. I one-shot it and ask for another.
The Marquee is one of the bigger clubs in Vegas. There’s no sensual colors or some hazy backdrop like at the other ones; in here, strobe lights are heavily used, everyone is packed in the middle of the dance floor, and the DJ controls the entire room. It’s an actual rave, and I feel like I’m on a whole other level.
I’m in the middle of dancing with Amy when someone bumps into me from behind and, much to my dismay, spills my drink. I whip around, about to yell at the person, when my heart stops. He’s got curly hair, dark eyes, a wide nose, and thick lips. He’s a couple inches taller than me, has broad shoulders, and for a second, I almost mistake him for Erik. I immediately know it’s not him, though, when he smiles shyly and apologizes, because Erik would never do either of those. “Shit, I’m sorry,” he laughs.
My thoughts aren’t connected to my words at all; I just shrug it off and pull him forward to dance. And surprisingly, I’m having fun with him. He doesn’t grind like the other guys do; he actually dances—takes my hand and spins me, pulls me close and holds me.
At some point, I feel the alcohol catching up to me. I’m on the verge of blacking out, but I don’t want to lose him because he’s the closest thing that reminds me of Erik, and for a moment, I pretend that he actually is. I grab the sides of his face and kiss him. There’s no spark, but I keep doing it in hopes that there would be one. It never exactly comes, but I do ge3t the familiar feeling of getting excited, and I know he senses it. He kisses me harder, and I feel like I’m flying when suddenly my back is hitting a mattress, my head a pillow.
His room is dark like the Marquee but his window reveals the lit-up buildings in the distance and the moon behind him, casting our shadows onto his walls. His lips leave mine and move to my sweet spots; I feel myself unraveling. His hair brushes against my skin and my fingers automatically run through it, a habit I miss doing. When he slides into me, I moan, forgetting how good it had felt, but then again, I’d been sexually frustrated since April.
I soon start to feel a strong tension building inside of me. It comes from my chest; I think it’s passion because I want more of him, but not necessarily through sex. Bringing his face down to kiss wasn’t enough. Throwing my leg onto his shoulder and climaxing wasn’t enough. I find that I crave an emotional release, like I want to feel special and loved, and I want to hear him say it. I push him over and get on top.
“Tell me you want me,” I demand, driving my hips into his, and his breath hitches at the change in pace. He grabs my waist to hold.
“I want you.” I like the way his body reacts. He hisses, he shudders in ecstasy, in the way I make him feel. “Fuck, I’m close,” he whispers.
I think about us finishing together, how that’s always been my favorite part—when he lets me stay on top but holds my face and kisses my lips, cheeks, nose, and forehead. I think about cuddling and falling asleep for a few hours before beginning again, waking up happy and horny, until I remember that moment in the club.
“Tell me you love me, Erik.” I move faster, harder, and his voice becomes jagged as he rambles blindly to my every command, anything to get me to finish him.
“I love you, I love you, I love you. Fuck, baby, don’t stop.”
I want to cry at his words, but there’s a part of me that overcomes that. My heart races in excitement at his obedience, at the fact that I can be in control. “Yeah?” I lean forward. One of my hands goes to cup his face, the other pins his silhouette by the shoulder. “Tell me I’m the only one.” I wait to hear him say it. I wait to hear him admit it.
“You’re the only one!”
I smack him across the face, halting all movement. His body instantly tenses underneath me. “You’re a fucking liar,” I spit.
“You’re a fucking liar,” I repeat. “I saw you with that girl. You’re a fucking cheater!”
He squirms and tries to get me off of him but my hand keeps him pinned. I want to choke him. I want him to apologize, I want him to say he’s sorry for leaving me, but it isn’t until I hear him shout, “What girl??” that all my senses come back.
It’s like I’m pulled from the darkness, from the shadows of the room, from the alcohol in my system, and come back to my body, back to being fully conscious and completely aware of what’s going on. He isn’t Erik. He’s just another guy with curly hair, dark eyes, a wide nose, and thick lips—a random guy, an innocent guy, who had thought he was going to get lucky tonight.
“Oh my God…” I immediately climb off of him. My hands are shaking, and I don’t even know where to begin for an explanation. It was like there was a whole other side of me I didn’t know I was capable of having. “I-I am so sorry.” I don’t look at him. Instead, I slide off the edge of the bed and sit at the corner with my knees to chest. I feel tears lining my eyes, and I duck my head into my lap when they start falling.
I was fucking insane. I was actually fucking insane.
I don’t know how long it is that I stay there, but after some time, I feel a hand on my shoulder. The guy who’s not Erik offers me a water bottle and brings me to my feet. He helps me put on my dress, and then he walks me down to the lobby. “I’ll call you an Uber.”
As kind as he is even after my outburst, I don’t want to bother him. “I’m okay,” I say.
“Are you sure?”
“That sobered me up,” I say, and before he can protest, I walk out the doors and into the street. I feel him watching me from behind, but I don’t look back. My eyes burn, and I can’t tell if it’s from crying or from how bright the lights are now that I’m outside again, but I try to act like it doesn’t hurt as I stumble through The Strip, down toward the Paris balloon at the very end, where my hotel is at. When I get to the entrance, the parking valet sees me waddling in with my pink heels in hand, my lipstick smudged, and my mascara running because I’m realizing how much it sucks that while love is such a beautiful thing, it’s also extremely self-destructive—welcome to fabulous Las Vegas.
Tuesday — 8:19am
I fall in and out of sleep, but after a couple of hours, I’m up. All the alcohol I’ve consumed within the last four days has drained out of my body entirely, and my stomach feels knotty; I probably need food, but I’m too lazy to go out again. I get out of bed and walk out to the balcony to get some air.
It’s our last day in Vegas. Our flight leaves at noon, but I don’t think about that because I haven’t even touched my suitcase yet. Instead, I take the time to look out at the view ahead of me—something I’ve never seen before even though we’ve been here for a week. I was so used to waking up later in the day when the sun was at its peak and the evenings were full of neon lights. Where everyone is a stranger but your friend at the same time, and you never know what’s real because it all feels like a dream. You live the fantasy life of partying, dancing, drinking, all until your stomach can’t take it, and then, like Amy said, tomorrow, you do it all over again.
But waking up in Vegas, it’s like everything from the night before vanishes; you would’ve never guessed how crazy it was. The morning sky is bright and blue and beautiful. It makes everything look pure and calm. Peaceful. Like you’re given a fresh start, a do-over. You get to try again to win the jackpot. Try again to win the table. Try again to win someone back.
Try. There was that stupid word again.
He couldn’t wait a month, a week, another day to find someone else. He couldn’t wait until I went 2,014 miles away from him, back to Chicago, to give another girl attention. He had to do it the week of my vacation, the day of my birthday—something we had planned together for a month.
I had every reason to be upset, especially because I never got an explanation. But yet, I also stand here, leaning against the rail of this balcony and looking out at the roads coming from the desert, and for some reason, hoping to see a car that I would just know was him finally coming back to me to make things right.
I don’t understand what I ever did to the universe to deserve this kind of pain.
The wind blows, and my Leo necklace flutters against my neck. I look down and hold the charm in my hand, remembering how Amy had gotten it for me. I don’t believe in zodiacs, but she does, and she tells me my sign is all about being confident. That I like to live lavish and bougie because I like designer items and high fashion. That some people may mistake that as being arrogant and selfish and full of themselves, but I should still own it because that’s also one of the biggest misconceptions about Leos. That I’m also actually very generous, and when I love someone, I love entirely, completely, wholeheartedly.
I think about how I wasted this entire trip over a guy, and how I potentially even wasted Amy’s time for dragging her through my emotions regarding him. Part of me hates the fact that I got attached so much to him beforehand, but there’s another part of me—perhaps through Amy, and through my necklace—that says to own that, too. To let it be a lesson and move on. To remember how much I’m willing to give for next time. To fall in love because there’s nothing wrong with that, but to also never let someone make me feel less than the worth of a Gucci Marmont bag.
I hear Amy wake up within the next hour. She stirs in bed and hums when she sees me outside. “Oh, good, you got home safe,” she murmurs, still half-asleep. Her blonde hair is sprawled along the pillows, and she stretches between the sheets like a cat. I walk over and fall onto the bed, lying my head on her stomach.
“I’m sorry I left you last night,” I say solemnly.
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” she says, rubbing her eyes. “Figured you needed some alone time with someone else, even if it was just temporarily.” I then hear her giggle and tilt my head up to glance at her. She wags her eyebrows at me. “Was he any good?”
I roll my eyes. “I think I’m going to stop drinking.”
We both stay there for a while until we remember we have to pack for our flight. We get ready, grab some coffee at a nearby cafe, and then call a cab to head to the airport.
When the plane ascends into the air, I see that same sign that had greeted me in the beginning, right outside The Strip. When the sun hits it, it’s just as blinding as when we first passed by, but I continue to stare at it until those cheapy red words disappear into the wind, and the board becomes a mere sparkle in the sand, like the city isn’t there at all. We fly east, back toward home, back toward busy, chilly Chicago, and I leave with the idea that love isn’t shit. But also that Vegas isn’t as fabulous as everyone says.
MULAN is Chicago-based writer, editor, performer, and model/cosplayer. She has been published in various online magazines such as Cosplay Realm Magazine, Hair Trigger 42, Mental Papercuts, and The Vignette Review. To learn more about her, please visit www.iitsmulan.com