Location: A riverboat in Shreveport, LA.
Date: January 1st, 2018
Time: 3:30 in the Morning
The lounge was smoky and sweaty. Even though it was January, the temperature stayed above 60 degrees all night. As Bret Bielema and I descended deeper into the casino to the bar lounge, fresh off both of us losing at the blackjack table (he always followed the 'card') I looked around noticing all the losers in that crappy pit not even realizing I was one of them too. I didn't like the energy coming from him. He had a needless stare he gave everyone, even the blackjack dealer. It was a face of conflict. The people we passed seemed to notice it without looking up from their loud nickel slot machines.
We found a dark booth that was so smoky it seemed like a volcano had recently erupted , filling the once clean air with airborne ash. We sipped on our flat, warm, end of the keg light beers. The ash tray in the middle of the table possessed the shattered dreams of those before us in the form of crusty yellow cigarette butts. We had only met two hours ago, but both of us knew I was going to ask him at some point. He had noticed the red ‘W' themed mastercard I payed for my chips with. I finally blurted it out after another unsatisfying sip of beer, "C'mon Bret, why'd you leave Wisconsin?"
I was prepared for the scowl coming next, but it still made me uneasy. The sweat drips coming from something trying to be bangs were a weird color. His eyes squinting and his lips pursed. He wasn't sizing me up or trying to intimidate me, rather, he was trying to acknowledge his existence in time and space. "The B1G", he started. The silence that followed was uncomfortable.
Not knowing what to say, I decided to finish the my beer. After taking the last gulp I looked at the residual bubbles and the cloudy reflection of the glass as a result of years of being washed with hard water. His fingers looked swollen as they grasped his pilsner glass. Suddenly he started again, "The horror, the horror."