The girl sitting next to me was one of the most beautiful women I’d seen in my entire life. I was at a bar in the middle of the Bellagio Hotel’s casino, sipping a gin and tonic and steadily losing at video poker. The woman had taken the empty seat next to me and ordered a glass of wine. I guessed her to be in her mid-twenties, and she was dressed elegantly in a grey cashmere sweater and black pencil skirt. Her hair was the color of maple syrup and fell in waves over her shoulders. She put a $20 in the video poker machine built into the bar, then turned her head and caught me staring. I smiled. She smiled back, and said, “Do you have a strategy?”
Now, I’ve long believed there is not a more optimistic creature on earth than a middle-aged man who has been drinking. You see it all the time. Guys with pot-bellies and comb-overs chatting up cute bartenders and waitresses half their age. Confident that a beautiful and intelligent young woman is just dying for the opportunity to go home with an obnoxious and tipsy older man. While I didn’t have a comb-over back then, I was a bit chubby and had an unfortunate affinity for khaki pants and sweater vests.
As the gorgeous woman in grey cashmere kept chatting with me, I was certain she was smitten by my witty banter and mysterious aura. I figured she was like me, traveling alone, in town for a convention, ready to let loose in Vegas for a night. After we finished a second round of drinks, she placed her hand on top of mine and asked if I happened to be staying at the Bellagio. I gave her a sly grin and pulled my room key out of my pocket. When she said “I’d love to see your room,” a jolt of excitement shot through my body, and I thought to myself, “I am a god among men.” She then leaned in close and whispered, “It will be $1,500.” All of the blood must have drained from my face because she suddenly looked concerned and said, “Are you OK?” When I didn’t answer, she gave a sympathetic look and moved to the other end of the bar, where she struck up a conversation with another schmuck.
Last month I found myself back in Vegas, sitting at the same bar next to an equally if not more gorgeous woman, the one who’s been my constant companion for the past six years. The beautiful blonde who inexplicably enjoys my company sipped a glass of Chardonnay while I told her the story of what happened over a decade ago at the same bar. When I nished, the beautiful blonde chuckled and said, “Wow, $1,500. That would have been the most expensive thirty seconds of your life.” “C’mon,” I said. “It would’ve been at least two minutes.” She shook her head, “Ever the optimist.”