By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

In the picture I’m sitting in a big, empty room with a high ceiling. I’m at a bar with a scared look on my face.

To my left are the heavy, wooden doors that lead into the Oak Room at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Ky.

My wife and I are alone. There isn’t even a bartender. They’re piping in that scratchy, haunting, late 30s jazz that makes you feel like you’re watching a noir movie about your own murder.

“I feel like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shinning,’” I tell my wife, and she frowns a bit. Then she walks down the stairs and into the main lobby, where the green skylight casts a weird glow over the Christmas tree.

You can’t see it, but I’m thinking about a hand of Texas Hold’em from the night before. I had two pair, and I caught the last card on the river. The woman beat me with a flush. Brazen girl, she kept raising the bet. Like a fool, I followed.

“Flush,” she said, fanning out the cards with pink, delicate fingers. She said it so nicely, with such a soft, feminine flourish of the tongue. Pretty, with mercy, like a hot, sharp sword to the neck. A clean, smooth cut that finished me.

Legend has it Capone liked to play cards in the Seelbach, in a room deep in the guts of the building, called “The Rathskellar, a vaulted space with marble floors, crown molding and secret passages.

In the picture I’m thinking of Scott Fitzgerald getting tossed for acting a fool.

Angie likes to slip the noose of family small-talk on post-Thanksgiving Fridays. She likes to walk near Bardstown Road, in the pretty, tree-lined neighborhoods where gays and young professionals make for good neighbors, where restaurants serve appetizers of sourdough drizzled with cracked pepper and olive oil.

At the moment of the picture my wife and I are tired of praying, tired of remembering our recently deceased loved ones and making a fuss over kids who need spankings.

We’re ready to bet on horses and eat beer cheese sandwiches in cafes with rust around the window sills. South-end dives with signs that say “Whiskey by the drink” spelled out in neon letters that haven’t worked for years.

“Papi was a Louisville man,” Angie says as she and I eat fried cod, garnished with a dab of ketchup. We’re in a fast-food restaurant called Moby Dick. There’s a whale painted on the side of the building. We order fried cauliflower and frog legs and talk about the Vietnamese swarming the south end neighborhoods.

“Kale greens?” I ask her. They’re milder, more absorbent than our Southern turnips, good with a dash of vinegar.

In another picture I’m standing in front of the childhood home of writer Hunter Thompson. This is the east end, the Highlands, now a posh neighborhood. Hunter used to drink beer in Cherokee Park and make trouble with uppity neighbors.

The sun is setting and Angie and I are headed home. The east end streets are scattered with leaves. The neighborhood looks like a John Hughes movie.

“I’m glad you love me, and I’m glad I met you,” I tell my wife. “It could have been different.”

She shakes her head, and hands me the car keys.

“Let’s eat at Demo’s in Nashville,” she says. “You can try on a pair of snakeskin boots, but you can’t buy them.”

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com

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