“Well, that depends.”
“Ha! You would say that.”
“Overcast now, some rain. Big surprise!”
“I don’t know how long.”
It made me laugh and want to cry. I spoke into my empty hand near a potted plant and a window full of rain, walked the lazy pace and made the facial expressions I’d seen on people talking on real phones.
The bar crowd dispersed when Frankie Goes to Hollywood blared forth and the laser beams multiplied. I stopped playing airphone, but not before checking the time and pocketing it. I went to the bar and saw the money in my hand trembling. It had given me a sick rush and I needed to sit.
The establishment seemed to expect more business; a second bar was assembled as though from thin air and two bow-tied, stripe-shirted men with large cases started putting together roulette and blackjack tables down by the glass doors. And soon they came, crowds upon crowds of the vaguely familiar, heading to the bar and casino tables, some to smoke in the night. They gathered around until I was dwarfed. 80’s music still blared, now Howard Jones’ “What is Love?,” and I guessed there was dancing going on, but clearly thirst had gotten the better of most. Booze, easy wins, or rainy air—I chose the latter and began snaking my way through the crowds. But I was stopped again, this time by the extremely large hand of the event’s coordinator, a guy named Ryan I’d exchanged emails with a few times before coming. He’d been the kind of red-haired nerd who was so smart you couldn’t tease him. Now he was a towering, beaming capitalist. I imagined his spouse to be somewhere around eight feet tall. He clapped me on the back, and even though we were of equal height, I felt that I was his child.
“Eric Day,” he said. “The teacher.” The way he said it, even I was convinced I was not a teacher. “Dean C— is looking for you. He’s got late stage, very advanced arthritis.” This announcement made him highly amused, and I could smell the bait. He waited for me to say something mean, like I would have about twenty years ago.
I just managed to thank him as behind me I heard “Caw! Caw! Caw!” and there was Jim K— waving at me at the bar. I figured I’d find less intimidating types outside smoking. I did, Dean C— among them.
Dean, who ran into a barbed wire fence riding motorcycles in the 8th grade that left a scar across his face like the darting tongue of a snake. He was a nice guy through and through, but his Iron Maiden and Triumph sleeveless shirts coupled with that scar let you know he could kick your ass five ways to Sunday, if he so chose.