A Broke Girl’s Guide to Atlantic City

First, get a roommate who works for an airline company. Book a free, last-minute flight to Atlantic City. Your roommate could be a counter girl; the type who weighs checked bags, prints boarding passes. Bonus points if your roommate is equally excited to go somewhere for spring break, even if she isn’t in college herself. Your roommate will walk into your apartment. She will see you binge-watching Netflix on the couch, spooning your dog. She will tell you that you’re leaving for Atlantic City at nine that night. Groan as you get off the couch, semi-disappointed that your weekend’s plan of not leaving the couch will now be disrupted. Head to the bathroom to shower, curl your hair and coat on the makeup that you imagine accompanies a place like New Jersey. Apologize endlessly to your dog that the snuggle-fest is over for the moment.

Head to the airport with just your wallet, phone, and Starburst-flavored ChapStick. Your roommate’s friend will be at the ticket counter. He’ll hand her the boarding tickets. When your roommate sees the seat assignment, she’ll shriek. She’ll try to jump to the other side of the counter. She’ll decide to stay in the middle on the scale that’s meant to weigh bags. You’ll be in row 7, seats A and B. “Seven is my lucky number!” your roommate will say. “Oh, girl. You know what this means.” She’ll start to sing the part of Dierks Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane” where he’s apparently also in seat 7A. You’ll barely hear her sing and shriek. You’ll be fixated on the low number the scale gives for your roommate’s weight.

Board your nine p.m. flight to Atlantic City. Tired golfers and retirees will stare at you and your roommate as you board. Fill the plane with your jittery energy from chugging two Red Bulls. Dressed for a night out while the rest of the plane will lean their heads back onto neck pillows, the crew will turn the cabin lights off. Your roommate will flash her Spirit Airlines nametag hoping for free drinks and snacks. Order two mini bottles of vodka, a can of orange juice. The older flight attendant will smile as she hears your story about how you’re heading to gamble for a few hours. She’ll give you some free peanuts. Chug your plastic cup full of the ice every article online tells you to stay away from, two mini bottles worth of vodka and a splash of OJ. Feel the heat rush to your face at 30,000 feet up from just one sip of alcohol. Realize that this is going to be a long night. Talk to your roommate about how you’ve both never done something this spontaneous before.

Land in Atlantic City. Try to find the cheapest way to get to the casinos. A man in a du-rag and fake leather Louis Vuitton jacket will try to lure you to his taxi stand. He’ll say that he’ll give you a cheap rate since he hasn’t had a customer to drive all day. Find a shuttle service where the woman seems to not really care if you take the shuttle or not. Choose to ride with her. Your roommate will need to go to the ATM first. Ask the police officer standing at the exit where one is. He’ll be the nicest person you’ll meet during your few hours in the state. At the ATM, the flight attendant who gave you free peanuts will pass by wheeling her small suitcase. She’ll stop; tell you girls to enjoy yourselves, but be careful. Your roommate will laugh while touching the woman’s wrist. She’ll tell the flight attendant that you know how to be safe. Force a smile at the flight attendant. Rub your palm onto your fake leather purse. Wait for the conversation to end, angry that your buzz wore off on the plane’s descent.

Board the shuttle with no idea which casinos to go to. A dreadlocked son will accompany a golfer father. They’ll be the only other passengers on the shuttle. They’ll tell the driver they’re going to the Borgata. Decide that that sounds like the place to go. You won’t know the location to any of the casinos in Atlantic City. Hear from the shuttle driver that most of the casinos on the strip are closed down; the three casinos separated from the strip are the only places worth going to. The shuttle driver will turn on the pop radio station. See dreadlocks begin to bob along to Taylor Swift. Throw your hands up and down in the air. Dance and sing along to the songs. Attempt to keep your energy up despite the down-pouring rain that will hit the shuttle.

Enter the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Your roommate will fist-pump and ask where Snooki is. You both will run around the fountain at the entrance; kids in a candy store. It’ll be your roommate’s first time in a casino. You love casinos. Addicted to them. Runs in your family. The sound of slot machines going off. People winning. People losing. The thick cloud of cigarette smoke that floats above. An adrenaline rush. When you register for your player’s card, the worker will tell you that this is the only casino in Atlantic City that is a Vegas-style casino. This will make you even more anxious to begin gambling. Your dream is to gamble in Vegas. That moment will be the closest to the real thing. You’ll look through the casino, trying to find a blackjack table. Lean forward onto your tiptoes. Try to peer over the first set of slot machines. See what’s beyond.

Play at the slot machines in front of the bar. Those will be the slots where they offer free alcohol while playing. Put ten dollars in the machine. Pull the lever extremely slow. Look around the section instead of at the spinning wheels in front of you. Search for a bartender to bring you a free drink. Two machines over, your roommate will try to put her player’s card into the machine. She’ll put the card over and over into each machine in the row. No success. Keep pulling the lever, waiting for your drink.

Notice a guy standing a few feet behind. He’ll be swirling red wine in his glass. Wearing a black button-down, dark wash jeans. Smoking a Cuban. He’ll have been watching your roommate struggle with her player’s card. He’ll decide to make his move. He’ll sit in the chair between you and your roommate. He’ll tell you that his name is Robert. That he’s in the city celebrating his friend Winston’s fortieth birthday. Your ten dollars will be gone in the slot machine. Robert will buy you and your roommate a drink. He’ll offer you a Cuban. Gladly take it. You’ll smoke three that night. Some Cheyenne cigarette-type cigars, too. Ones that a nice older woman at the roulette table will give you. She’ll also give you a full explanation about how the cigarettes are made, how they’re different from regular cigarettes, how difficult they are to find. Drunk you won’t care even slightly about how a cigarette is made. Sober you will be interested in how invested someone can be with their smoking. Robert will talk about how much money Winston makes, how much he’ll spend gambling without even blinking an eye. He’ll brag about his friend’s money as if it is his own. He’ll finally decide that you just have to meet Winston. Wonder how this split will go. Obviously it will be your roommate with one of them and you with the other. Wonder if you’ll get the one with the money or the one who brags about his friend’s money. You’ll not really want anything to do with either of them. Your roommate will seem interested and you won’t want to leave her alone. Flashback to an hour earlier when your roommate was talking to the stewardess. About how you know how to be safe.

Robert will ask what you do. Tell him you’re a writer. Not exactly a writer that’s worth any sort of damn, but one that’s trying to be. He’ll ask what kind of writer. Tell him nonfiction. You want to leave tonight with something to write about. He’ll tell you that you’ve picked the right person to be around if you want a story. He’ll make it his goal for the night to give you something to write about. Assume that now this’ll mean you’re with Robert for the night. Your roommate will get Winston. Robert will ask you if your roommate’s boobs are real. Say yes. He’ll tell you that he would ask you, but he already assumes that your boobs are real. Your roommate is skinny with large boobs, so she usually gets that assumption. You’re semi-chubby with semi-large boobs, so it’s natural to assume that they’re real, you’ll guess. Realize that even though Robert is hanging out with you, he’d rather be with your roommate. This is usually the situation that you find yourself in. Later Robert will get drunk. He’ll keep asking you about your boobs. Assume that in his eyes your boobs grow a cup size with every shot. Your roommate will drunkenly tell everyone in earshot that you had a breast reduction. This will make Robert more interested in you. He’ll fantasize about being able to see your scars, thinks that they’ll be hot. Stare at his wedding ring. He’ll practically beg you to just show him one. Later, he’ll add you on Snapchat in hopes that you’ll send him some nudes one day. His wife won’t know he has the app. He’ll say it’s okay. He’ll ask, “Isn’t that what Snapchat is for?”

Head to different slot machines walking side-by-side with Robert. Your roommate will skip hand-in-hand with Winston. She’ll ignore all of her texts from her boyfriend. They’ll take you to the dollar slot machines. You’ve never played before these before. Your Grammie taught you how to play slots, told you to never play anything higher than the penny slots. It’s just not worth it. Robert will tell you to sit down in front of the slot machine. Watch as he’ll put three hundred dollar bills into the machine. He’ll tell you to bet five dollars at a time. Watch as the money on the screen in front of you dwindles away. Sit there and pull the lever over and over again mindlessly. Press different row and dollar combinations, trying every option available. Gamble away all of the money. Robert will ask what game you want to play next.

Head to the roulette table. Robert and Winston will each throw down a few hundred dollars. Stand there. Smoke Cubans. Shout out numbers for them to bet on. Say four. Your favorite number, it’s the day your birthday falls on. Winston will think four sounds like a strong number. He’ll slide two hundred dollars in chips onto the number. The ball won’t land on four. Winston won’t care less. He’ll ask you for another number to bet on. Decide to shout out random numbers, not caring whether or not he wins. You and your roommate won’t put effort into the bets you’ll convince the men to make. They’ll be able to tell. Robert will make a deal with you. Any money that you’ll win from gambling at blackjack will be yours to keep.

Head to the blackjack table. Watch in amazement, once again, as Robert will throw down five hundred dollar bills. He’ll tell you to sit. He’ll say he’s your coach when you don’t know what move to make next in the game. Throw a twenty-five dollar chip onto the bet circle. You’ll get blackjack on your very first hand. Robert will rub your back and tell you to just “keep it up.” He’ll slip the winnings into your purse. Feel guilty taking any money. Try to put the chips from your purse back onto the table. He’ll tell you not to try that again. Keep betting, increasing the bet amount with each hand. Eventually you’ll be winning one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar hands. The men at the table will buy you drinks; you’ll be strong competition. The casino will have to change the dealer three different times because you’ll be winning so much. They’ll be down about three thousand dollars at one point because of how much the table will be winning. Go to the bathroom with your roommate. Tell Robert not to take your place, not to jinx the winning streak that you’ll have created. Your roommate will dump out your purse. Count the chips in the sink. See how much you’ll have won so far. Seven hundred and fifty dollars. Cup your hands around the green chips, barely able to hold them all.

Walk back to the blackjack table. You’ll see that Robert lost all of the money that was left on the table while you were gone. Scold him for losing his own money, not listening to you when you said for him not to gamble. He’ll tell you that he has a new idea, a way for you to make some money. He’ll want you to leave with a good story, at least one thousand dollars in your purse. Walk to the bar with Robert, your roommate and Winston. Order a Jack & Coke and a shot of Fireball. Robert will hand you the drinks. The Jack & Coke will look normal. The Fireball will fill a rocks glass halfway and look unusually milky. Rise up your rocks glass to meet the other three shots waiting. Your roommate will yell, “Happy birthday to Winston!” Before anyone can take the shots, decide this is the perfect time to call out your regular toast. Stare into the cloudy Fireball. Wish it were its regular color. Holler out, “Here’s to honor: get on her, stay on her, if you can’t cum in her, cum on her!” Throw your head back. Down the shot in three large gulps. Keep drinking every shot and whiskey drink that Robert will hand your way. You won’t feel drunk enough for the amount of alcohol that you’ll consume in a few short hours. Your roommate will be trashed. She can’t really handle alcohol since she usually just smokes weed. She’ll ramble on and on to Winston about how much she wants a boob job. He’ll reply that if she keeps hanging around him, he’ll pay for it.

Robert will ask you what your ethnicity is. Tell him you’re Portuguese and French. He’ll ask what your roommate is. Tell him she’s mixed. He’ll reply that that’s very “in” right now. Laugh. Hear Winston, as he’ll try to take your roommate to his hotel room to smoke some weed. Hope that she says no. Robert will think that you’ll be equally as drunk as your roommate. He’ll finally bring up how you can make more money.

“You know, I really have a thing for feet. Does that turn you on?”

Tell him no, not really. You’ve never experienced someone with a foot fetish.

“I bet you have some nice feet. Can I … just … touch them?”

You’ll be curious about this whole foot fetish thing, so you’ll agree. He’ll begin to rub your feet through your black tights. He’ll rub in circles around your anklebones and feel the length of every toe.

“Oh. These are nice. What would you say if I offered you … five thousand dollars … to have sex with your feet and cum on your toes? It’s kinda my thing. I’d rather do that than regular sex.”

Drunk you will pause and think about how you haven’t gotten a pedicure in months.

“Okay. What if I go down on you? Then have sex with your feet? Is that worth five thousand dollars?”

You’ve never had someone willing to pay you to go down on you (really though, has anyone?). Sober you will wish that you took the money and let him fuck your toes for five minutes. Drunk you will look at your roommate, so open and willing to believe everyone is a good person. You’ll notice that Winston is also married as he talks about his wife. Apparently she’s Russian, so he’ll say, “that pussy’s right.”

Smoke another Cuban as you walk back to gamble away the rest of Robert’s money. You’ll rather bet two-hundred-dollar hands than walk out with extra money. Decide to play craps. Know this’ll be an immediate mistake. You’ve never played craps before. You won’t even know how the game works. Start throwing chips onto the table. Trust that wherever they land is the right place. The dealer will ask you where you want the bets to be placed. Point to different places on the green. Gamble away close to five hundred dollars. Get the phone call that the shuttle you scheduled is outside waiting.

Say bye to Robert and Winston. Your roommate will exchange numbers with Winston. Don’t give Robert your number. Say your phone is dead. He’ll realize you won’t see each other again. Your roommate will hug Winston goodbye. Slightly wave bye to Robert. Leave no room for hints of nonexistent desire.

Head to the cashier’s counter. Cash in the chips that remain in your purse. You’ll feel guilty. Better free money than toe-sex money.

Krystin Santos

About Krystin Santos

Krystin Santos is a graduate of the University of Kentucky's MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she is an instructor of English at Louisiana State University.

Krystin Santos is a graduate of the University of Kentucky's MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she is an instructor of English at Louisiana State University.


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