There’s pretty only one thing that you can do in Antibes after you’ve gone to the Hemingway bar and the tiki bar and realized that no one is going to be in town because both the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix are going on less than 50 miles away in either direction.
You can go to the casino.
The casino didn’t have a name. Or if it did, it wasn’t advertised. It was a black monolith of a building, hulking on the shoreline like an oversized remote control washed up from the depths. There was a fancy entrance, though, complete with flashing lights and an ATM machine.
Michael wanted to go to the casino real bad. Apparently, sharing a literal tiny barrel of fruity island drink wasn’t enough for the man. Sucking on a neon green straw while your close friend sucks on a sky blue straw, mere inches separating your soft, yet masculine lips – just not enough for the guy. Who knew.
Michael also liked to claim great skill at games of chance. Blackjack especially. He knew exactly when to hit or whatever. Stand. Double-down. Triple-up. Murder slate. Bearcat tourniquet. Like I said, “or whatever.” None of us really knew a thing about blackjack, so this was pretty much Michael’s vision quest evening.
We procured euros at the ATM and proceeded past the impeccably tuxedoed door custodians into the vast, low-ceilinged, uncomfortably empty casino. An acre of flashing, clinking slot machines populated with maybe four tourists, not counting us. Perfect.
The table games were on a platform raised a few feet about the floor so you could enjoy the expansive view of vacant casino real estate. Michael promptly sat down at the only occupied table which, fortuitously, was offering blackjack. Even more fortuitously, the dealer was an ice queen.
The Ice Queen.
Michael did not hesitate to announce her new royal title to the table and we all pretty much agreed because that’s what you do when you spend two weeks in the company of three other dudes. Any vocalized assertion instantly becomes fact.
Ice Queen looked sort of like a Mediterranean goddess version of Hermione, face and hair-wise, with the body of a Frankensteined amalgamation of all the best Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover models. I don’t think she spoke English, aside from one through twenty-one and other terms essential to blackjack. Any time Michael asked her about her life, marital status, whether she loved him back, she would respond by silently slipping another set of cards from the card dealer machine thingy. Schlick, schlick, schlick. I would have paid good euros just to watch her do that all night. It was like watching a skilled artisan carve a cuckoo clock from a cedar stump.
Other drunk gentlemen joined us, encouraging us to gamble more. Brits, mostly. Far more sauced, far more bleak regarding Ice Queen, gambling, Antibes, the world. One had been bouncing around the southern coast of France for months, apparently just losing money and getting drunk and working on his tan. An idyllic life, to be sure. An anger simmered beneath his slurred encouragements. Like he wanted us to keep playing so he could keep living. Like if we stood up with our winnings he would die. Maybe it wasn’t anger, maybe it was desperation. Regardless, it was bleak as hell.
Nonetheless, we played on. Michael loaned me euros, prompting Drew and Eric to pony up their own coin. 100 euros on the table, which didn’t seem like much since it’s all Monopoly money anyway. Or so Michael seemed to assert and, as mentioned early, all assertions were fact.
As night drew towards morning, our funds expanded, then dwindled, then expanded again. Michael lost it all, bought back in, gained some back. We all chose to pack it in with moderate winnings or after breaking even. Breaking even felt like winning. Not losing it all would have felt like winning. Just being in the presence of Ice Queen felt like winning. This is how gamblers become addicted.
The next night, we drank a 5 liter box of wine and went back to the casino. Ice Queen wasn’t there. Collectively, we lost some 300 euros.
It would have been worth it to see Ice Queen just one more time, though.
Iccceeeee Queeeeennnnn I love youuu