Your mother will have warned you—repeatedly—about bed bugs so after First Things First (that being a stop at In 'n Out), when the bellhop brings the bags to your room, you will pick them up off the floor and place them on the chair. Because you grudgingly told your mother you would.
(You will refuse to go so far as to check under the bedsheets for drops of blood. You hate media hysteria. At least you think you do, until, at a greasy buffet, Le Gourmand Vulgaire points out that anti-bacterial wash is doing more harm than good, and you use it anyway)
You will fall back onto a bed that is more comfortable than any you have ever slept on. Sleep for two hours, three, maybe four. Pile with your husband's family but not your husband into a car and drive down the strip to a hotel casino. When the divorcee's make divorcee-humor jokes to each other, laughing heartily but making everyone else uncomfortable, you will try to make another joke to relieve the awkwardness. No one will laugh.
The bachelor party will have started hours ago. You will go back to the hotel room to get ready. You will have been a little nervous, in the days before, about this party. You won't know anyone there other than the bachelorette. Then you'll get to the party, where they're handing out what can only be described as penis tchotchkes, playing penis games, laughing at penis pictures on the walls. Someone will hand you champagne. Nobody bothers much with introductions because already it's starting to feel like you've always known these people. These beautiful people who are too beautiful to be so nice.
You and a friend you have just met will declare that more alcohol is required if you are to make it through the Thunder From Down Under. There will somehow be both too much and not enough thunder You are embarrassingly shocked, and yet not shocked at all. There are a few naked bums and lots of pirate costumes. The tone feels slightly off. Wonder: What is the RIGHT tone for a male strip show?
You will laugh at the bachelorette, pulled up onto stage, given a private—ahem—viewing. Spirits are high. The last time you partied like this, with a group of other women, you were all dressed like teenagers, like brightly wrapped candies or Christmas presents. Now you all look more like sexy martinis. A bartender will shout for free drinks for the women at the bachelorette party. They want to pour it into your mouth straight from the bottle. When you turn away, shaking your head, the others will laugh good-naturedly.
A man named Lion will escort you to a club, deposit you in a VIP area, reassure you he's going to take great care of you ladies, then disappear. This is your first real club experience, and you're feeling spoiled and important. You and these women get to dance together behind a rope. There are lush velvet benches wrapping around. Men edge their way to the rope, looking in sideways. Like vampires, they cannot enter without an invitation. A tiny blonde woman wearing a warrior princess get-up will come round every ten minutes to refresh your drinks. You ask her to pose for a picture. Later, you will search her out to love-tip her, but she will be nowhere found.
At this point in the evening you are all hot on drink and declaring openly your love. You love them, they love you, they love eachother, everyone everywhere is love love love. Who can blame you? You dance dance dance. You realize it is someone's job to come round with a towel and wipe up all the alcohol you spill. You find yourself in a gogo cage with all the other women at the party. On your raised platform, surrounded by people below watching, it feels as if there's only ever been the group of you. Those of you who are in relationships somehow emit a vibe to the crowd and no one bothers you. Those of you who aren't emit a different vibe, no one minds. You used to be so uptight about these things. Looked down on clubs. Worried overmuch about how you looked. Now it doesn't matter. You are dancing, you are young, your breasts are—it must be said—spectacular, and surrounding you is this unexpected tribe that has never been yours. But is, tonight.
You leave the bar and end up in another. Your group constantly fluxes in number. People leave and come back with unlikely quantities of food. Twenty sausage mcmuffins, fifty chicken nuggets, one order of fries. It is Vegas, it is 2 am, and the only thing open appears to be McDonalds. Two different people will basically fall out of their chairs when they find out you're NOAH'S wife. You're married to Noah??? You watch them stare, searching your face anew, trying to reconcile the person your husband was in high school with what they see now. Your husband is infamous here. Somehow, that night, you end up back at your hotel room. You think you kissed the bride on the head, well, you get kissy at weddings. Your room is on the 20th floor and has a view of the strip. Vegas is glittering. You tumble into bed. Later, much later, your husband comes home. He wakes you opening the door, your eyes crack open just long enough to see it: Vegas at dawn. Dawn is beautiful everywhere.
It will seem there are too many people gathered outside the chapel, but somehow you will all fit into a tiny room. The bride comes out and everyone cries. She is crying, you were not expecting her to cry, and fear you might sob. She is radiant, she is trembling. You all cheered heartily when the groom walked in and now here's the bride and no one can breathe. It is not the polite warmth directed at other brides at other weddings. It is a moment. A holy pause. An intimate room of people, intent on one thing, experiencing one all-encompassing collective emotion. Nobody moves except this bride in her 40's glam, film noir dress, her vintage veil, her lively eyes. Nobody moves until finally she says, 'husband-weird!', and you all laugh.
After the wedding, the air actually crackles. Cocktail hour passes on a balcony that makes you dizzy. It is warm, it is evening, the lights and eyes are bright. Someone will indicate that it's time to progress downstairs, to the dinner. You will cram with an impossible number of people, including the bride and groom, into an elevator. You are all a bit dizzy, you are all much too loud. The elevator stops early, the doors move open—to Dede, the patriarch, and Shirley, his wife. The passengers raise their hands, spill their drinks, cry an uproarious welcome. As if by cue you will all take up the cheer: "Dede, dede, dede, dede!" You are making the elevator bounce and no one is afraid. Dede is a Czech, he likes a good party. "Free drinks for everyone!" he will cry. You holler like the pagans you've become.
Again, you feel spoiled and exclusive. An elegant room, behind dark glass. Visible to but apart from the hoi-polloi. Waiters bring tiny tasty sushis and glasses of spirits. These people have shown you the best of everything; you know you'll never return to Vegas again because why slum a city after you've done it like a queen? Eat, drink, the love fest is on again. This wedding, these people. So intimate. Everyone is a cousin or a friend from way back. You'll keep telling them they're so beautiful, you can't help it, they are. Your husband strikes up a bromance, what better a place? Everyone is overcome. They are pulsing and rolling around you, swelling like a warm, joyful wave. A bride, a groom, a long time coming, a love, surrounded by love. You declare it openly because of the drink, but the feelings aren't false. This is your husband's history, his other life. They seem to accept each other as they are. You will ask them to be your surrogate friends. They will throw wide their arms and cry, they are your real ones. They open up and envelop you. It is warm, the air is thick, there is always room for one more.
They next morning, in the day light, everything has changed. You end up at a buffet, greasy serving spoons, the scents of too many foods intermingling and upsetting your party-tummy. You're all exhausted, you've wrung yourselves dry. The next day you will repeat, get me out of Vegas. You hate Vegas, the people, the excess, the waste. When you get home the dark prairie will sooth and comfort your eyes. But it doesn't matter, none of that matters. You are wasted, but before that was something else. Other cultures have names for what you encountered, what you touched. A clan, an energy, a raucous, reveling joy. You've felt it at other weddings and once at a Tori Amos concert. Something wild, something maybe primitive. The words spirited away come to mind.
Anything good that Vegas has to offer, you have had it. Maybe someday you will have a little more, but for now, this was enough. Good food. Good drink. Good people. Wild nights. Wild joy.
I am Vesuvius, and when I panic I say, "Grey Goose".