You're breathing chilled cigarette smoke and the room's spinning. You're aware of nothing except a piercing headache and the words "Wheel of Fortune" coming from nearby slot machines.
It's 3:30 a.m. and you're beyond tired, but your new girlfriend has miles of quarters to go before she sleeps.
Actually, you haven't seen her in two hours.
New relationships are sweet, but fragile, and there comes a time when you and she must pass the first true test of whether your love will last. That's right: It's the "L.A. to Vegas -- Friday night to Sunday -- do you two really have what it takes for a long-term romance" road trip.
Well, do you?
You packed light. One carry-on. Her? She brought five pairs of shoes and enough gear for a trek through Hoover Dam -- which is why it's 10 p.m. and you're stuck in baggage claim rather than enjoying impossibly cheap shrimp cocktail.
Trips such as these are a lifetime of highs and lows, successes and disappointments, all boiled down to a single weekend -- an intricate dance requiring timing, patience and, above all, that much-discussed "sense of humor."
It's one thing to giggle your way through your first sleepover. It's quite another when you're fighting airport traffic, your flight's delayed, the hotel gave away your nonsmoking room and the TV lacks every channel except PBS and Korean Home Shopping.
Did I mention no hot water?
Later that night, you both head to the casino, where your new love begins pumping silver dollars into the slots so fast it's starting to have a ripple effect on U.S. financial markets. The Dow begins to plummet. She's having a swell time.
You need air.
You're sleeping late. Or at least trying. The housekeepers knock at 8:30 a.m. You hear them laughing at your "Do Not Disturb" sign.
In hotel employee language the words "do not disturb" translate directly to "bang on the door with both fists." You send them away with a tone normally used for scaring off wolves.
They won't return for the rest of your stay.
She looks amazingly pretty when she sleeps. Quite peaceful. Not at all like the kind of gal who lost $153 on slot machines before briefly passing out on the stool. Hours pass. She shows no signs of waking up.
It's nearly 4 p.m.
She gets up in time for dinner, quickly showers, then throws on a really cute outfit, reinforcing your belief that she's the most adorable thing you've ever seen. You're in shorts and sneakers, which in Vegas passes for "black tie optional."
Off you go, but all the good restaurants have long waits, so you two kids end up in a buffet line that stretches halfway to Yuma.
Back in the casino, she launches an emergency effort to win back the $153, but instead shows an uncanny ability to lose nearly as much at video poker.
You explain to her why "five red cards" don't necessarily make a flush, while making a mental note to spend your next weekend getaway in wine country.
This time, you're up at the crack of 11:15. Unfortunately, the plane leaves at noon. The ensuing argument about who failed to wake whom in time to make your flight ends in a draw.
You spend a fair amount of time begging the airline to get you back to L.A. by Monday, as your plan to win a million dollars and quit your job has ended about a million dollars short. Plus tips. They put you on the 9 p.m. flight, which gives you nine hours to kill.
That night, you arrive at the airport in plenty of time. You plop down, exhausted, into adjoining seats.
You're holding hands. You're a couple. Still.
Howard Leff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.