Brake lights seem to waver up ahead and vanish. My eyes are dry from hours of casino air. Darkness cut only by headlights, and then an exit. Finally. Only 10 more miles to go, but I've seen the last of the street lamps and road signs.
My first hand, I flopped the nuts and got paid off. Poker is easy when it's like that, but it usually isn't. Six hours later I'm stuck and irritated.
Money is hard to earn, hard to win and easy to lose. Fleeting. And it doesn't seem to be worth all that much these days, anyway.
“I'd like to visit Washington,” says the guy next to me. He's a friendly sort; heavyset with a graying beard. He's older than me by about a decade, but I can see the resemblance. “They'd hate me there. I'm too conservative. And everything is so expensive.”
Queens versus aces, all in. Pocket fives lose a coin-flip. A set of tens versus a flush draw. Did I play them poorly? Tough to say. In New Orleans, I couldn't lose. Oklahoma is different.
Tail between my legs, questioning life and choices and identity and bank account. I hit the road, searching for a place to camp. There's a state park 30 minutes north, but in the dark it turns into a slow back-and-forth along pitch-black roads. A dog chases the van, deer bolt. There are no signs.
Finally, I find it. Empty campsites all around. I'm running on coffee and granola bars. I shove an uncomfortable wad of cash deep into one of my trunks. Paranoid delusions of being robbed by a drifter.
In the mirror, my eyes are tired and red. Beard, graying.