At the casino there is a poster advertising an upcoming Kenny Rogers concert. I consider myself to be far outside the sphere of Kenny Roger’s influence—in terms of age, in terms of location, and in terms of stylistic interest. Nevertheless, the song creeps into my ear as though it had been playing all along, as though the poster had a tiny speaker of its own. The catchiest songs are songs that the would-be listener says to themselves anyway: “It’s getting hot in here,” you might say, accidentally setting up what is just the first half of the entire line: so take off all your clothes. So far I have only managed to lose ten dollars in the penny slots, but the line rings true:
YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM.
The song trumpets in with an accompanying burst of irritation: this song will be stuck in my head all night, my bra will smell like smoke forever, I will never get that ten dollars back, this sticky dribble of cranberry vodka will stain my blouse. Permanence is a mixed blessing. Once the annoyance passed, I was left with a feeling of dread. What if everything you wanted came true? A hit single, coolers full of champagne, ruby necklaces, hearty pats on your back—but in repayment you had to sing that hit song for the rest of your life at every casino across America. Doomed to experience your own success, over and over. I thought I might print out a picture of Kenny Rogers and tape it above my desk. I might look up at him there and remember that once my words leave my mouth they are anyone’s to take away. I might look up at him and think something as obvious as: success is a gamble. But I have had two cranberry vodkas and so I will forget this idea, remembering it only much later when I find an email to myself, blank except for the subject line KENNY ROGERS.