Loneliness and Despair by the Casino Lisboa

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Princess Peaches drives faster than Mario and Luigi, although she doesn’t take corners well and, like most women, is prone to spinning out of control.  She wears a pink dress and a princess crown and is absolutely adorable.  Her speed/lack of control combination makes her a high-risk/high-reward character to choose, a sexy alternative to the safer selections like Toad or Yoshi.  Princess Peaches became my Mario Kart alter-ego ages ago, and when I found myself in an arcade somewhere on Macau Island, I went with the Pink One yet again.  I was the only adult in the place; I’d stumbled into the arcade after getting slightly tipsy off beer that I drank with my lunch on the wharf.  My skills, which aren’t good to begin with, were now impaired, and Peaches flew off the track constantly, like she was being driven by a drunk blind man.  When my Mario Kart game was over, I played some cop game with a little kid where we were partners, shooting at the bad guys.  We got shot and the kid took off and then I, like Peaches after crashing into a wall by the side of the road, was alone.

This was my second day in Macau and I had already done everything I wanted to do.  I’d gone to the Ruins of Sao Paulo Cathedral and to the Macau Tower.  I’d walked around the spooky old Protestant Cemetery and had seen all the cool Portuguese architecture in the island’s center square.  There was something sad about the place, something that struck me as particularly lonely and despairing.  Or maybe that was just the way I was feeling.  I’d been traveling alone for nearly a week.  Being by myself in Hong Kong wasn’t too bad; the crowded city streets made the city seem alive and full of energy.  Macau had a different feeling though.  It seemed like a fruit with the juice drained out, or like a day when the clouds are dark as death but the rain never comes.

Macau was beautiful but, by the second day, had gotten really dreary.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to make the most of things.  I went on a bus tour.  I walked along the wharf.  I bought deodorant.  In the evening, I ate dinner in what looked like a little Portuguese diner.  The sun set and I sat in the center square by myself smoking cigarettes.  I thought about the girl I was spending time with in Korea and wondered if she missed me at all.  I took more pictures than I needed to.  The buildings.  The giant casino.  The deodorant.  I wanted to make sure I’d remember it all.

At night I had nothing better to do, so I went into a rather posh bar close to the Casino Lisboa.  There were two large televisions, one showing rugby and the other one golf.  Those aren’t my favorite sports, but at least it was something to look at.  The bartender was friendly and spoke good English.  I ordered an Asahi and lit another cigarette.  I looked around.  There was a table filled with young people, college kids.  Next to them, and closer to where I was, there was another table where two older men sat.  They seemed odd together.  I will describe them:

1.  Indian Guy – Probably in his mid to late fifties.  Wearing a suit.  Thick mustache and thinning hair.  Well dressed.  Seemed somewhat sleazy though.  Probably masturbates a lot.

2.  Ponytail – Also probably in his fifties.  From somewhere in Europe.  Also wearing a suit and also seemed like a sleazy chronic masturbator.  Long grey ponytail didn’t help.

They spoke to each other in English, both in thick accents.  Shortly after my beer arrived, Ponytail got up and went over to the table of college kids.  He approached the girls and talked and laughed and kept motioning over to Indian Guy sitting back at their table.  Indian Guy would just laugh and shake his head ‘no.’  The girls smiled and nodded and seemed polite.  Ponytail didn’t leave though; he kept talking to them.  Like a shower running out of hot water, the girls eventually cooled towards him.  Ponytail was still smiling and nodding when the entire table of college kids got up and left.

This meant that Ponytail, Indian Guy, and I were the only ones still there.  I figured I had no place else to go, like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and so I ordered another Asahi and struck up a conversation with the bartender.  Still, my attention kept drifting to the other two.  Ponytail had, in an odd move, decided not to sit down across from Indian Guy, where he had been before, but rather to sit in the chair directly next to him, meaning that both of them were sitting on the same side of the table.  And now I could hear them.  Ponytail wanted to buy Indian Guy a drink, but Indian Guy was tired and didn’t want one.  Listening in, it dawned on me that these two weren’t great friends at all – it sounded like they didn’t even know each other.  Maybe they had met in the bar, just two guys wearing suits, looking for company, and they decided to team up.  To any extent, it was clear that Indian Guy wanted out, but Ponytail wouldn’t let go.  To make his position more clear, Indian Guy stood up and moved towards the door.  And that’s when the awful truth hit me:

If Indian Guy left, that meant I would be alone with Ponytail.

And, judging by his character, that meant Ponytail would likely come over and talk to me.

I was having none of that.  Even though my Asahi was far from finished, I told the bartender I had to go and asked for my bill.  From behind me, I heard Indian Guy’s departing words of advice/joke.

“Remember,” he said to Ponytail.  “In the Casino it’s easy…to lose money.”

That made them both laugh hysterically, as though he had said the funniest thing ever.  Ponytail put his hand on Indian Guy’s shoulder and kept laughing and laughing, not wanting to take his hand away and say goodbye, because when he stopped laughing, that would be it.  A man can’t laugh forever though, and finally Ponytail nodded his head, said farewell for the fiftieth time, and Indian Guy was gone.

“I’ve gotta get the hell out of here,” I thought, frantically.  I left my unfinished beer and darted out of the place.  When you’re a lone man at the bar with no friends, the last thing on earth you want is to be stuck with another lone man at the bar with no friends.

So I left.  As I did, I looked back into the bar one last time.  Ponytail was standing there by himself, in the middle of the room, looking quietly at the row of empty bar stools in front of him.

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