Dillon Francis at XS: We Both Know How Weekends Go

Fear and Dancing in Las Vegas

“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”
—T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“Today we have the chance to feel again
To hear the sounds that brought us in
To laugh, to cry, to live again
Like when we were young.”
—Dillon Francis, “When We Were Young”

I’m having so much fun, I almost don’t notice how thirsty I am. 

I keep sipping from the cup of water at my feet. Once it runs out, I’m just going to stay thirsty until the show’s over. There is no way I’m leaving my spot. I came all the way to Vegas to see Dillon f*cking Francis, and I’ve claimed a place with a great view: the ledge behind the second tier of VIP booths.

I’ve really claimed it, too. My senior year in college, while “Ray of Light” blasted at a fancy Harvard party, a friend told me, “You’re dancing like you’re on ecstasy.” Senior Year Sarah, don’t fail me now, I think as I dance wildly, careful to stay on the ledge and not accidentally kick any VIPs in the head. At one point, I break my nail on the giant pillar behind me. Worth it.

Every so often, impossibly thin young women in short tight dresses appear next to me on the ledge; but once they’re done with their selfies, the space is mine again. I’m wearing retro glasses, a 50-style prom dress, and a huge black crinoline that bounces as I jump. No one wants me in their background. I’m okay with that.

I am 42. I am recovering from a year of huge losses. I haven’t been to Vegas in 9 years, and I’ve never been to a nightclub here.

This is the story of how I went from one of the lowest points of my life to the XS Nightclub, jumping to the music of my favorite EDM artist and DJ, my fist raised and my crinoline flouncing as I yell, “YES ON YES ON YES ON YES!”

Part I: Lost My Mind

Part II: Money Sucks, Friends Rule

Part III: Magic Is Real

Part IV: Coming Over

Part I: Lost My Mind

This has been one of the worst years of my life.

In January, my father-in-law died suddenly. He was battling lymphoma and hospitalized with complications from chemo, but he was getting better. On a wall calendar, red marker circled the date he was scheduled to go home. Then Raf got a call saying his dad was in hospice care. Less than two weeks later, he was gone.

In February, my dog Verona’s seizures came back. Several tests later, her vet determined they were being caused by a brain tumor. Surgery wasn’t an option — Verona was at least 16. Seizure medication would lengthen her limited lifespan, but it changed her personality. The dog I’d had for almost 15 years forgot who I was. She stopped being housebroken, peeing on the couch. Every time she shook her head, she fell over, her 12-pound body smacking against the floor as she flailed in terror.

In April, I left a job I loved to parse out the grief consuming me. My freshman year at Harvard, my father died suddenly; but I thought I’d finally buried years of mixed emotions. But some memories are zombies that won’t stay buried.

I thought I’d have at least a month with Verona. In early May, less than two weeks after I left my job, her suffering increased. I had to put her down. She did not go easily. Then, suddenly, she was gone. Part of me will always be trapped in that moment.

Verona, 2004(?) – 2019
“i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

Of course, my 20-year Harvard reunion was a month later, and it was too late to get a refund. “You should go,” Raf said. “It’ll be good to see your friends. It might cheer you up.”

It was good to see my friends. But small talk with people I didn’t know well, all of whom seemed very successful and well-adjusted and unburdened by cancer deaths and unemployment, brought my insecurities back with a vengeance. And staying in my old dorm (way cheaper than a Cambridge hotel) shoved my face into more memories I thought I’d finally buried: drinking too much, hurting people who loved me, and other unhealthy reactions to my father’s death. More zombies I thought I’d buried.

I came back broken. I focused on freelance work to pay for rent, health insurance, and food. When I wasn’t working, I was sobbing.

Eventually, I started crawling back to the world of functioning adults. I applied for full-time jobs and got interviews. I started working out again. To my surprise, I’d lost a lot of weight. My workout pants had to be constantly hitched up. Even my bras didn’t fit. There’s nothing like the grief diet.

In September, I got an amazing job offer. That same day, my mom texted me. She’d been sick for weeks, and it was getting worse. After a month of painful tests, including a bone marrow biopsy, she finally had a diagnosis: MDS, a form of bone cancer. She’s not getting chemo, but she is getting shots that have similar side effects.

Everyone handles a crisis differently. But when you don’t drink, do drugs, have a lot of friends nearby, or have much money — what do you do?

I started jogging again. I HATE jogging. But it’s is the quickest way to shave down my anxiety spikes.

In mid-September, I scrolled through my phone’s music while on a treadmill, looking for something to power me through my workout. “Hey, Dillon Francis,” I thought. “I used to love his stuff.” I’d learned about him on Twitter in 2015 when a professor friend joked, “This syllabus is fire” and someone else responded, “I love that album.” I used to have “Money Sucks, Friends Rule” and “This Mixtape Is Fire” on constant rotation. But like many things I’d loved, they fell by the wayside over the last few years.

But not that night. I put on “All That” and felt like I could run through a brick wall. Then I realized he’s probably made music since 2015. I opened Spotify and clicked through every single and EP I could find. I loved all of it. 

“Dillon who?” every single one of my friends said. “Never heard of him.”

“You should listen to his stuff,” I told everyone. “It’s delightful.”

“Since when do you love EDM so much?” another friend teased me. “And why this guy?”

“There’s so much pain in my life right now. His music is one of the few things that brings me unbridled joy.”

“Magic Is Real” inspired my Halloween costume: flamenco dancer + unicorn = flamencocorn

In October, I flew back to Cambridge for the Harvard University Band 100th reunion. The morning before the flight, I watched Dillon Francis’ 2019 Coachella set on YouTube, then worked through my flight anxiety with a playlist of his music.

I strode back onto campus nervous — and had the time of my life. On the return flight, I contemplated how life-affirming it was to see old friends and wondered how to make that happen more.

I went back to work. I went back to the gym. I learned with great delight that the famous piñata was named Gerald — the same name as a major character in my books. And I learned you can buy Gerald at Party City.

UNWRAP THAT CANDY, BABY.

Which led to:

After watching the Coachella set yet again, I thought about how amazing it would be to see him live — to be part of that crowd, that dancing, that joy. Alas, I fear huge crowds. But maybe he played smaller venues.

I looked at his Instagram account and screamed.

“What?” Raf asked, running in from the other room.

“HE WAS JUST IN BOSTON WHEN I WAS AND I MISSED IT AAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHH”

“Is he playing Austin anytime soon?”

“Nope.” I looked closer at my phone. “He’s in Vegas a lot, though. We should totally go to Vegas!”

“I hate Vegas,” he replied.

But I don’t. I hadn’t been in 9 years, but I used to love it. And my new job was going well. Maybe I could afford a weekend getaway.

I posted the tour schedule on Instagram, asking if any friends wanted wanted to hang out in Vegas in November or December. My dear friend Reese, who I hadn’t seen in far too long, responded, “We’ll be there the weekend of November 15 to see Seinfeld!”

Sometimes, there are no coincidences.

I bought the most expensive ticket to the show. I had no idea what it entailed, but I was going big before going home. Then I booked cheap Southwest flights and scored a room deal at the Encore at the Wynn. This. Was. Happening.

I dyed part of my hair blue, then shoved my clothes and an enormous crinoline into my carry-on bag. I was probably going to be the oldest female at the show, and I’d be by myself, too. What if I spent all this money on something and it sucked?

But what if it turned out just as delightful as the band reunion?

I had to try. WHY PIÑOT?

Part II: Money Sucks, Friends Rule

I’m sitting at Tableau in the Wynn, looking at a menu, when a drunk man sidles up to my table and points at the wine section. In an accented voice, he says, “I recommend the European breakfast.”

I laugh politely. Oh Vegas, I think. Never change.

And good morning to YOU.

The man is insistent, though. He sits at a nearby table and leans back, asking me what I do. His friends cringe and encourage him to drink his coffee.

“I’m a writer,” I say.

“You should write about me,” he slurs. “My childhood was fascinating. Like a cross between Indiana Jones and Osama Bin Ladin.”

I smile and nod but keep looking at my food. Life has taught me there can be a fine line between politely declining a drunk man’s conversation and accidentally enraging him. Eventually, he gets up and says, “We will have to discuss my book another time. I am going to take a nap.”

I wish him and his friends a safe trip home, then stare out the window. I should’ve eaten outside, I think, looking at the house sparrows bouncing around. Of course, I would come to Vegas and want to spend more time with the house sparrows than the gambling tables.

A glance at my watch reveals it’s 8 a.m. The cheapest direct Southwest flight arrived at 7:30, and check-in isn’t until 3 — and the check-in system at the Encore is down. “I’m sure I’ll get a room,” I text Raf, when I am very much not sure.

After paying my bill, I head back toward the Encore, passing the XS Nightclub. Its gilded facade and velvet ropes offer no clue what to expect beyond the darkened doors. I stroll past a cadre of stores selling merchandise I can’t possibly afford. Vegas has always been a museum of consumption to me — a place where everyday people gawk over fetishized brands, where certain purses and shoes are as idolized like celebrities. But who am I to judge? I’m just a verbose weirdo in a piñata hat.

That’s right: I knitted a hat that vaguely resembles Dillon Francis’ piñata. Again, why piñot?

[insert Gerald whip-crack sound]

Eventually, I eye the one place I haven’t visited: the casino itself. I can afford to gamble a few dollars away. It’s not about winning: Gambling is entertainment, and you have to say good-bye to your money before you’ve spent it. It’s entertainment, not loss recoupment. Or so I tell myself at the prospect of losing $20.

I soon find a slot machine that resembles one I played years ago, when I put in $20 and won $125. Soon, I’m down $10. “This is stupid,” I think. “I’m going to try a different machine.” After spending another $5, I go back to my original choice.

A few spins later, the machine erupts into songs and lights. My winnings: $57.75. Astonished, I print the ticket and take it to the cashier. Maybe this is a sign. Maybe I’ll get my hotel room after all, and the show will be fun, and everything will be okay.

But anxiety is the loan shark of emotions: You think you can outsmart it, but it always comes back for another attack.

Distractions can help, though. So I take a quick trip to Venice.

In which I am having fun.

A terrible consumer, I sit in front of the Venetian’s shops without buying anything. I pull out my knitting, silently daring anyone to kick me out.

Reese texts me. She and her husband Jason are at the Forum Shops, but they’d love to meet up.

“Oh, I don’t want to bother her,” I think. “They have better things to do than hang out with me.” But half the point of this trip is to see friends. So when she offers to walk all the way over, I reluctantly agree.

But am I ever glad I did, because from the moment they show up, I have one of the best days ever.

First, we go on a quest to find their favorite slots: the “Star Trek” machines in the Palazzo. When you win, the machines play clips of the show.

“So many Kirks,” Reese says as we admire the machines and their retro styling.

Out loud, I wonder what you would call a plural of Kirks before answering my own question: “an Annunciation of Kirks.”

Then, we visit the last thing I expect to see in Vegas: a rare book store. “I love this place,” Reese — a fellow book nerd — tells me. I’m stunned that such an establishment exists here. I’m not sure how much business they do. But they are here, and they are open, and through glass panels we gaze longingly at priceless piece after priceless piece.

We stop for lunch at SushiSamba, a Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian fusion restaurant, and order incredible sushi, noodles, and a colorful hazelnut-flavored panna cotta with honey ice cream. Most importantly, we talk, laughing about things we love and sharing things that annoy us.

After the meal, we head back to the Encore so I can finally (hopefully) check in. Jason and Reese opt to walk outside. We pass showgirls in full headdresses and a huge waterfall, heading up and down enormous stairs as if we’re in an enormous version of “Chutes and Ladders.” Palm trees and gargantuan signs loom above us.

They don’t have to, but my wonderful friends wait with me in the lengthy check-in line. When we reach an employee, she asks if I have any specific requests.

“Something…quiet?”

“Is the 36th floor okay?”

You’re afraid of heights and elevators, my brain reminds me.

But what a view! another part of my brain says.

“That sounds great,” I say out loud.

I part ways with my friends so I can clean up and rest before dinner. “I think there’s a bathtub AND a shower,” I say, “and I plan to use them both at the same time.”

Luggage in hand, I take a deep breath and push the elevator button. The smooth ride comforts me, though the ear-popping — indicating I’m now VERY far above the ground — does not.

The 36th floor hallway is a curved palace of navy, red, and gilded wall frames. I joyfully run down it, press my key against my door, and…

…paradise.

“This room is bonkers,” I write on Instagram. “I might never leave.”

Two calls to the front desk and an engineer’s visit later, I finally figure out how to use the shower. (Sometimes it’s hard to believe I went to Harvard.) I opt for the tub instead, though. It is vacation, after all.

I’m almost ready when I realize I’m running late. I literally dash through the Encore shops in a retro dress and giant crinoline, as if trying to reach a carriage before it changes back into a pumpkin.

“You look amazing!” Reese says when I finally appear at Cipriani, trying not to pant.

“I’m getting the truffle dinner,” Jason announces.

As promised by the Encore check-in employee, Cipriani gives us VIP-level treatment. A mega-attentive waiter and chorus line of servers whisk food to us and plates away from us. My friends insist I sample Jason’s truffle dinner; after a server shaves a giant fresh truffle above the plate and the scent swirls around us, I can’t resist. And I remember how good food can be. Not just rich or thick or exploding with flavor; but a pitch-perfect combination of flavor and delicateness, filling your mouth and stomach without overstuffing you. My risotto is incredible. The truffle dinner is incredible. Everything we eat is incredible.

And Reese is incredible. We met on Twitter about a decade ago, and while we message each other regularly, we’ve only hung out once in real life. Seeing her again is really and truly special. Over some of the best food I’ve ever consumed, we talk and share, and I try to communicate how much I care about her and how grateful I am for this moment. I am not very good at this. My laundry list of issues can turn me into a golden retriever puppy emotionally, overwhelming people because I’m just so HAPPY.

As we talk, a familiar song plays in the background: “Coming Over” by (who else) Dillon Francis: a sweet song about wanting to fix a relationship by coming over to talk it over. I think back to the days when being happy in someone’s arms solved most of the relationship’s issues. (Though for me, it was less “All I can think about is coming over” and more “All I can think about is how my father died suddenly and now I’m terrified something’s going to happen to you before we can figure this out PLEASE LET ME COME OVER.”)

If only coming over and talking things through could fix all of my broken connections with people: family, friends, non-romantic, romantic. If only I could find words as strong and as clear as the feelings in my heart.

After an amazing finale of fresh gelato with truffle shavings, we head back to the Encore slots. But I’m fading fast. I’ve been up for almost 22 hours. I hug my friends and say good-bye.

In my palatial room, I wash my face, then lie in a giant white marshmallow of a bed, thinking about how nervous I was about coming back to Vegas. Nothing ever turns out quite the way we hope.

Sometimes, it’s so much better.

Part III: Magic Is Real

Best. Morning. Ever.

Eventually, I get dressed and saunter once more through the Encore. Thanks to a coupon I received during the check-in snafu, my hands are filled with two large hot Earl Grey teas as well as overnight oats (no coupon for those, but they’re worth every penny). I’ve resisted the gift shops’ siren song, but I can’t resist the siren song of the slot machine. Not after last night, when Reese and I watched a wealthy-looking woman slide a bill into one, press a button, and walk away with $431.

I place my hot teas and food beside my favorite machine. You were good to me yesterday, I silently plead with it. Please be good to me again today.

I win one series of extra games, then a second. Then something makes the machine VERY happy. The music blasts. It doesn’t stop. The numbers spin upward, stopping at $218.50.

My heart pounding, I grab the teas, the oats, and the ticket with shaking hands, walking as fast as I can without running to the cashier. She congratulates me as she hands me my winnings. Barely breathing, I head back to my room and take photographic proof of my victory.

It went straight into my savings account. I know how to party.

Dillon Francis’ new mixtape “Magic Is Real” dropped that day, so I play the songs I haven’t heard while dancing around the room, glancing at myself in the mirror to make sure I don’t look too dorky. It’s been a long time since I danced in public, and an even longer time since I did so sober. Between my gray hair and wrinkles (and wedding ring), I know I won’t be anyone’s dancing queen tonight. But as long as I don’t get mocked on Instagram in a stealth-taken video, I’ll be all right.

At 4 p.m., I declare a moratorium — a four-atorium — and crawl into bed to sleep. Hydrating creams are slathered on my face, trying to fight the dehydration caused by casino air.

At 8 p.m., I get up and get ready to get down.

By 10:30, I am good to go, if excited and terrified (or as I call it, excitified).

I take the elevator 36 floors down.

I pass the guest list line, filled with at least a hundred people.

I walk through the casino to the XS Nightclub, praying silently. God, I know there are far bigger problems in the world, I think as I pass the dueling pianos and the bar, but I could really use your help tonight. This has been such a hard year. I came here to see a musician whose songs helped me crawl out of the darkness. Please let it be a good night, whatever that looks like.

In front of XS, one of the security guards looks at me. Her face breaks out into a wide smile. “Oh, I love your dress!” she says.

If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.

“Thank you!” I say. “I’m so sorry to bother you…”

“No, no! That’s what we’re here for!”

“Oh, wonderful! Can you help me figure out which line I’m supposed to be in?”

Her name is Nicky, and she is my guardian angel for the evening. I show her my ticket and mention that I’m staying at the Encore. Suddenly, I’m in my own line, and it’s right by the door.

HELLO THERE

After bouncers check my ID and wand me down, I enter XS, making a conscious effort not let my jaw hang open. It’s gorgeous. Even the bathrooms are palatial. After I wash my hands, employees hand me paper towels and one even complimented my dress. I’m sure they do that for all the guests; but every time someone tells me I look nice — especially when I feel out of place — it delights me.

I stand around for a while, then hit the bathroom one last time and grab a cup of water from the bar. I sit on the ledge behind a VIP table with a good view. Once other people stand on it and start dancing, I stand up and start dancing, too. I think back to my old flamenco lessons and the friend who said, “I love flamenco because it lets me take up a lot of space.” So that’s what I do: I take up space.

Eventually, the space around me gets crowded. A young woman in a white jumpsuit holds her cigarette uncomfortably close to my stretch polyester dress. So I hop off and jump onto to the next ledge over, moving around the couple making out and positioning myself in front of a large tiled pillar, the cup of water at my feet. No one can creep up behind me. It’s perfect.

Another DJ — Valentino Khan — takes the stage. I recognize more songs. I get more comfortable dancing, getting lost in the music. He’s loud and enthusiastic and dedicated to getting the crowd pumped, and I am here for it.

Around 1 a.m. — I’m not sure because my phone’s in my sequined purse, which I wave around like a pom pom — I look up and recognize the face of the DJ who’s just appeared at the table. And it’s Dillon Francis.

And my mouth drops. And my hands clasp over my chest.

Because it’s him. It’s really, truly him. And he’s so handsome. And tall. I did not expect him to be tall.

But it’s not about his hotness (though that doesn’t hurt). It’s about the music. It’s always been about the music.

About four years of blasting his songs in my car and on Spotify on a series of work computers, my ears and my heart embracing EDM after nearly 13 years with an ex who hated the genre.

About two months of my feet pounding on the treadmill as his songs drove me to run as fast as I could away from pain.

About how his music is the one thing that, in a year of grief, has brought me unbridled joy.

And he is here, about to start his set. And I am in the crowd before him, ready to work through my demons on the dance floor (or ledge, as it were).

I assure you Dillon Francis is not this blurry in real life.

I scream and jump. I sing as loud as I can to “When We Were Young,” and dance to the “Magic Is Real” songs and “Get Low” and “Drip” and “Need You” and, yes, “Say Less” (“YES ON YES ON YES ON YES!”). I even break out some flamenco moves when the “I Like It” remix and any song from the phenomenal “Wut Wut” comes on. At one moment, I swear he looks at me, smiles, and looks back at the table. The thought of it makes me so happy, my heart soars, buoyed by a cloud of joy and cartoon birds and stars.

And then he makes my dream come true and plays “Dancing Queen.”

I can’t upload videos on my WordPress plan, so no “Dancing Queen,” but here’s a photo of me being VERY EXCITED ABOUT ALL OF THIS AAAHHHHHH

Eventually, drinks get spilled. The ledge becomes so sticky that my shoes cling to the tiles. I wipe it off the best I can with errant napkins and keep going.

As the night wears on, the gentlemen in the VIP booth in front of me grow more friendly. One of them tells me I’m welcome to join them in their booth. I smile and politely decline. They have gorgeous dates in skin-tight clothing, one of whom can actually get low to “Get Low.” I can’t compete with that.

After a few more drinks, they get up on the ledge in front of the booth, partially obstructing my view. I try not to be annoyed. After all, it’s their booth. And an hour of watching Dillon Francis without anyone in my way is a frickin’ gift.

At around 2:15 or 2:30, my water cup is empty and my energy dwindles. Keep dancing! my heart yells. Dillon Francis is right there! When the hell are you going to have the chance to dance at his show again?

But I’m so thirsty.

I rest for a few seconds, leaning against the pillar and holding my hands in a heart shape above my head. That’s when it hits me. In a moment of extreme and targeted self-consciousness, I remember how flabby my arms are. “My wizard sleeves,” I joke to Raf. “My bat wings.”

What if people have seen my arms and made fun of me?

What if someone’s taken a cruel video mocking me and posted it on Instagram?

What if Dillon Francis has seen my giant bat wings?!?

My arms collapse at my sides as I struggle to catch my breath. Get water, my brain tells me. Thirst is making you paranoid.

But I can’t leave my spot. Someone else will claim it before I’m halfway to the bar.

My foot hits something. A few tiny Fiji water bottles lie scattered around the ledge. One looks full, and the people who dropped them are gone.

I glance around, put my germaphobia on hold, and pick up the bottle. It’s sticky, but sealed. I crack it open with a mostly clean napkin and chug it.

Suddenly, like Marty McFly when his parents kiss in “Back to the Future,” my energy surges. I jump to the music again and pump my fist in the air again, bat wings be damned.

After what feels like no time at all, Dillon Francis steps away from the stage. He probably just went to the bathroom, I think. People start leaving. I keep dancing.

I feel something on my butt. Something clamping. Like a pinch. Shocked, I turn around and see a large man winking at me.

“No,” I say, loudly and angrily. “NO. Hard pass.”

He can’t hear me, but my face must be communicating my rage, because he walks away very quickly. A few seconds later, two large XS security guards appear behind me. I keep dancing. I feel safe again.

After what seems like a reasonable amount of time for a bathroom break, I ask one of the security guards if Dillon Francis’ set was done. He says yes. My heart sinks, but I thank him and climb off the ledge, descending back into reality.

“Did you have fun?” Nicky asks when I leave the nightclub. She’s so wonderful. I tell her I did. And I mean it.

I hang around, hoping to catch a photo of the musician whose songs brought me all the way from Austin to a casino at 3:15 a.m. Then I learn he’d left about 15 minutes before. Alas. Win some, lose some.

Still thirsty and hyped from the show, I sit down at the end of the casino bar and ask for a glass of water. My feet are done for the night, but I’m not.

“You were amazing!” a male voice behind me says. “You danced up there for four hours!”

I look up and see three older men.

“It was just three hours,” I say shyly. “But thank you.”

For a few minutes, one of them talks with me about Austin: how much he loves the city and how great this year’s ACL Fest was. His friends look done for the night, though. I bid them farewell and take a long drink from my water.

A very handsome young man at the bar who looks kind of like James McAvoy (rowr) stands up. He quietly asks me if I want to party.

“Excuse me?”

“The people I’m here with have ditched me,” he says while playing with his phone. “I don’t know what’s up with them. So if you want to go somewhere…”

Flattered but not interested, I hold up my left hand and show him my wedding ring. He grunts and leaves the bar as I add, “But I think you’re very attractive!”

I take one more gulp of water, then saunter toward the Encore elevators. Once I fall into the bed, I text Raf. Surprisingly, he’s awake. We talk for a few minutes before he begs me to let him sleep.

I lie in the luxurious bed, still wearing my retro dress and crinoline, too exhausted to get up and turn the lights off but unable to sleep under the brightness. I had a very good night and a great weekend, and I’m so grateful for that.

But as I drift in and out of consciousness, my skin sticky and sweaty, my heart grows unsettled. Tomorrow, I have to go back to everything I left behind, and I’m not ready.

Part IV: Coming Over

There is a problem with my bill.

I lean against the front desk counter and try to relax. Don’t look stressed, I think. Look like everything is fine, and it will be.

I glance toward the pool area, at where I heard Dillon Francis would be exiting the previous night. I remembered standing there in my dress just a few hours ago, sweaty and awkward but so hopeful. Now, I’m facing a larger bill than I anticipated, followed by a long flight home and the end of my adventure.

As if on cue, a familiar melody unfurls in the background noise. It’s “Coming Over” again. Suddenly, I feel like an old friend is comforting me.

Is it all right
If I come round?
Is it too late
To figure this out?
Would you stay up
To figure this out
Some way? 

I think of the video: a story of a break-up and the painful romantic failures that follow. It’s so spot-on. Whoever wrote it must’ve gone through that in real life.

I focus on the pool area and gardens, trying not to cry. Anyone looking at me would follow my gaze and wonder why trimmed hedges inspire such emotion.

I’d give away this,
Give away that.
All of my shoes
And all of my hats.

That line always makes me laugh. How many hats does this guy own, anyway?

The check-out employee hangs up the phone. She has a resolution for me. It ends up cutting the unanticipated costs in half. I fight back more tears, thanking her for her help. The Encore now has me as a customer for life. If only “Living at the Encore” was a career option.

I check my bags with a bellhop, then grab more Earl Grey tea with my last coupon. I sit at the casino bar, sipping it and playing with my phone when a familiar voice laughs and says, “Were you sitting here the whole night?”

It’s the guys from the show, who talked with me the night before.

“Yes, I was,” I say with a grin. “And I magically changed clothes here, too!”

We all laugh and wish each other a safe journey home. They leave, and I take another sip of tea, wrapping myself in gratitude for the weekend. I still have no idea how to fix the broken relationships in my life. But at least I had some respite from my year of pain. After all, flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else put theirs on.

But now, I have to return to the pain and grief I put on pause. And I don’t know when my next respite will be.

I haven’t even left Vegas, and I’m so homesick for it, I could cry.

‘Cause all I can
Think about is
Coming over.

Thankfully, the journey back to Austin is uneventful. Two days later, I plunge back into the cold waters of reality. I have to get a sonogram to follow up on a recent mammogram. “There’s a lump,” they say. “It’s a cluster of cysts. And it’s benign.”

Rarely has the roller coaster of life been this intense before 8 a.m. on a Monday. But the coaster lands safely, and I’m so grateful for that.

The last morning at the Encore. I’ve had maybe 2 hours of sleep and it shows. Worth it.

I don’t know when I’m coming back to Vegas. For now, I’m just trying to get through my so-called real life, channeling the good fortune I felt throughout that weekend (and drinking plenty of water). But I’m definitely coming back.

And I’m absolutely seeing Dillon Francis again. Are you kidding me?!? Now I’m driven to see more of his shows. And I want to find other EDM artists and DJs I can love almost as much.

Still not blurry IRL.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have such a great view of his show again. But I’m so excited about my next adventure. And who knows? Maybe next time, I’ll be surrounded by other people who are working through their demons on the dance floor, yelling “YES ON YES ON YES ON YES!” as somehow magic does become real, and the force of our joy finds a way to come over and heal everything still broken in our hearts.


Copyright 2019 – 2020, Sarah A. Ruiz & What the Kids Were Watching/Quail School Media. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Dillon Francis at XS: We Both Know How Weekends Go”

  1. This post makes me so happy, Sarah! It was SO GREAT seeing you in Vegas! What a lovely slice of serendipity, right? I am so glad you had such a marvelous time at Dillon Francis (still meaning to check out his stuff on Spotify). I know that this year has been tough for you (and honestly, it seems to have been pretty uniformly weird/bad for a lot of people it seems), but you are more resilient than you know and you will be okay. I promise.

    Hopefully we can get out to Austin for another visit sooner than later. Distance sucks, but you are awesome. 🙂

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