After dinner I put on one of the few dresses I packed and Luke and I ventured into Atlantis resort and casino for a bit of nightlife. Enormous columns imitating the temples of Luxor flanked the foyer as we entered the casino. I rushed over to one of the machines and started feeding it quarters. Luke touched my right elbow and murmured, “let’s check out the aquarium first and then we can play.”
“O.K., I didn’t know they have an aquarium.” I followed his lead down the stairs past several contemporary restaurants arriving at a colossal glass window housing what appeared to be the entire Atlantic Ocean. Soft serene music played in the background as schools of fish floated before my eyes. “Holy shit, this is beautiful.”
“This is the main entry to the aquarium but there’s more,” he muttered.
I stared in awe at the marine life, not wanting to move just yet. Pale grey fish with yellow tails, tiny yellow fish with blue eyes, colorful rainbow fish with hints of pink, turquoise and green shades. A shadow suddenly filled the aquarium as my head and eyes tilted upward. I pointed to the top of the window at a huge ray drifting above, “Wow. That’s the largest sting ray I’ve ever seen.”
“It’s a Manta Ray,” Luke said with conviction.
The manta glided through the water with the grace of an eagle riding mountain thermals, so effortless and timeless. I half expected Chopin’s Tristesse to start playing in the background as angels appear above. The classic music played in my head as the manta turned towards me with a large elegant smile the size of my entire body. I beamed back. A remora hovered around the manta’s large triangular wings seeming minuscule in comparison. Luke took my hand gently leading me into the main entrance where a Mayan archaeological theme jolted me out of a natural magical beauty into fantasy land.
I sneered, “seriously, where does this Atlantis Mayan connection come from. The Mayans in Mexico have nothing to do with Plato’s Atlantis. It’s two different parts of the world, two completely separate cultures. Not to mention…”
Luke interrupted my tirade, “honey, it’s just a resort. Don’t overanalyze.”
I sighed, “you’re right.” We passed several small tanks housing seahorses and the perpetually graceful jellyfish, artificially lit up and pulsating bright neon pink. Stopping to admire for a moment we continued to the next exhibit, a glass tunnel. Marine life surrounded us as if we were submerged undersea. A shark glided overhead and then to eye level as we watched the magnificent creature. Tuna, grouper, stingrays, sharks and the distant eel peacefully co-existed. “Don’t they want to eat each other like in the ocean?” I asked with concern.
He sent me a sideways look, “I think they feed them.”
“But still it’s their instinct,” I shot back. “I mean a shark with a tuna, in the marina they go nuts for tuna scraps.”
He glanced at me again with a shrug and a dismissing, “I don’t know.”
“Well I wouldn’t want to be that tuna,” I thought aloud.
We strolled through the lobster tunnel where thousands of lobster lay overhead and on each side of the glass passageway. Nasty looking creatures but they are tasty. We emptied into another room scattered with ruins and artifacts of mixed cultures. I snickered and sashayed to a tank holding a few dozen small flat silver fish.
“What are these?” I asked inquisitively.
Luke joined me at the tank, “Piranhas.”
I gasped while leaning in and examining their teeth. A bulbous head with big razor-sharp teeth gaped back at me. I cringed, “They don’t live in the Atlantic Ocean, right?”
He laughed, “No, just the Amazon river.”
Opposite the Piranhas sat a tank lined with fake ceramic vases and jars housing Morey Eels. They also exposed sharp teeth, a big green slimy head and blue beady eyes with pottery jars concealing their bodies. This must be the scary flesh-eating room, I thought scurrying towards Luke as he headed for the exit.
I caught up to Luke in the lobby, “let’s get a drink and then hit the casino,” he suggested.
We climbed the stairs to the casino entrance coming across a bar where Luke ordered me a glass of Pinot Grigio and himself vodka and cranberry with a splash of tonic. I stood at the gate memorized by a huge dramatic crystal sculpture rising perhaps twenty feet high. The light from above played on the variation in the translucent crystals ranging from clear to smoky grey. I recognized the work from a show I watched years ago on Dale Chihuly and his statues at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Luke returned and handed me a glass of wine while a tourist snapped a picture of the Chihuly piece . I jerked my chin in the air towards the direction of the artwork, “isn’t that beautiful.”
He glanced at the impressive piece and replied, “I guess so. There’s more glass art in the casino.”
“I’m ready,” I said, taking a quick sip of my wine and joining Luke as we walked into the brightly lit room. “So, what’s your game for the night?” Entering the casino, sounds of bells, dings and slots screaming various sounds flooded the air. It was smoky and I welcomed the freedom to smoke indoors.
“Poker.” He stopped and took a sip of his cocktail while searching for the poker tables. Spotting them with a knowing recognition I followed his lead. He leisurely walked by several tables glancing at the minimums and maximums listed on a petite digital sign. After a few minutes he turned towards me and declared, “I’m going to play here for a bit.”
“Sounds good, I’ll be at the slots for now.” I meandered through the nickel and dime slots then the quarter and dollar machines settling back at the quarter slot section. I was drawn to a machine singing, “Wheel of Fortune.” I sat down and fed a $100 bill into the machine racking up points for my cash. Twenty plus games passed and nothing. I took a sip of my wine while mindlessly pushing the maximum play button. Suddenly, the machine sang and the wheel spun. I attentively sat up in anticipation waiting for the wheel to stop spinning when it slowed and landed on $200. I grinned, looked around and silently gave myself a “woo-hoo.”
Twenty minutes passed with only a few dollars here and there so I decided to cash out with $80, get a drink and explore the casino. I was credited on a card instead of the bucket full of quarters I was used to in my youth. Growing up in Vegas the pounding sound of coins hitting steel was deafening yet exciting and an all too familiar sound. My mom worked at the Flamingo casino as a dealer, and although I didn’t spend much time there as a child when she’d pick up her check or visit the casino she often gave me a roll of quarters. Back then I would pull the side bar and wait for the 7’s to line up. Nobody really noticed a kid playing slots, although nowadays it’s forbidden and frowned upon. Perhaps that was in part due to my mother’s high status as a dealer. It was just a game to me and everyone looked in the other direction.
I stopped by the poker area to check on Luke. “Hey sweetie, I’m going to get a drink do you need a refill?” I said placing my hand on his back.
“No, they’ve been taking care of me.” He glanced at his cards making a pass hand signal to the dealer. “How are you doing?”
“Good. I won then lost, and now I’m going to get a drink and explore a bit.”
“O.K., I’ll be here.”
After ordering white wine at the bar and searching for another game, I stumbled upon a brilliant fiery glass sculpture. It radiated heat and energy with red, yellow and orange glass entwined resembling Medusa on fire. Damn, where’s my camera when I need it most. I took a few breathless moments in admiration then continued to roam. I passed endless slot machines full of hopeful winners and card tables filled with risk takers and players, including my lover who was still in the same seat. My eyes and body drifted towards the center of the casino where I spotted another glass sculpture perched atop a temple. Contrary to the previous heated Chihuly monument this one was cool and calm emanating a yin presence. Cobalt blue mottled with opalescent white glass symbolized the moon. A bright vibrant carpet lay beneath the temple and constellations painted on the ceiling bordered the sculpture.
I felt a light touch on my right arm and I immediately glanced back at Luke’s unbiased face. “So, how did you do at the tables?”
“I broke even. Are you ready to head back?”
“Sounds good,” I said placing my hand around his forearm.
When we arrived at the yacht Nick and Jamie were snuggled on the couch watching a movie. We fixed another drink and shared our Atlantis experience with the Kramers, and then tucked away into our sleeping quarters.
I was jolted awake in the middle of the night with a light finger sliding down the foot bed of my right foot. A chill fluttered through my entire body as I glanced at Luke realizing he was snoring and in a deep sleep. What the hell was that, it seemed so real but nobody else was in the room. My heart raced as I recalled the moments prior to waking. A gloomy voice whispered that I opened a portal. What the hell is a portal? If I don’t know the definition of this word then how could I be dreaming it. The voice and finger running down my foot seemed so realistic and creepy. I sat up attempting to slow my breath and calm my pounding heart. O.K., I’m not alone here. Luke is by my side and as far as I could tell we were still in the marina and not drifting towards a portal, whatever that might imply. I’ll have to look up the meaning in the morning but the voice seemed somber. Breath slow, I repeated to myself while I snuggled up to Luke.