I can see your eyes darting. You try to play cool. You were always good at hiding your feelings. At least to others, that is. Because I have learned to pick up the signs.
«I double» you say. And there is sheer silence for a moment. But I can hear 6 hearts beating faster than light, all around the table. I see hair shuddering up and the adrenaline rising. Another blow right in their face. They didn’t see any of it coming. Just as you prefer it. You glance over at me with your characteristic caustic look. You know that I know what’s up. You know I can tell what is going to happen. And you are sadistically pleased with it. You little bastard.
«Another bluff there little Johny? Aren’t you tired to play games man?» laughter all around. But you keep your cool, you know its just a desperate attempt. Trying to get into your skin. Feels like kids trying to play their parents.
«Man I think honesty is lost in our society. Nobody subscribes to values anymore.» and they keep on their little play. Your eyes say pitiful, but your face is motionless.
«I see it, little Johny» the guy says and throws some chips on the table. Falling right into the trap.
The last card drops like God’s decision, sealing the fate of things. There is a tingling chill knowing truth is hidden right in front of you yet everything is already defined. You can only observe it from now on. In this room, one card has more power than anybody else. The authority we all succumb to.
Everybody, in turn, passes on one after the other. Hopefully, they realized they are out of their depths and will back down. That would be the good plan. But it won’t happen tonight. You raise the bets again. And I get the feeling the guy is reeled into it up to the neck. Ready to crack like a little biscuit. He makes the ultimate move.
«All in Johny.. you see now where your bluff leads man? There is no back down now little guy.» He leans forward sticking his face over the table.
«You re in or you are out!»
I can smell this guy’s rusty breath from a mile away. Aggressive in his ignorant innocence. About to meet failure the measure he’s never seen before.
«Well, you leave me no choice there, buddy. I’ m in I guess.»
And the smile turns into worry in the split of a second.
«I think you just made the biggest mistake of your life dude. How do 3 sweet asses look to you?» He turns his cards over and throws them down, in the most theatrical of ways. Everybody burst out laughing with no end. Celebrating a victory that was never meant to come. You let them do it anyway. Why spoil the fun. A few seconds pass and they notice you. You still haven’t reacted to it. Doubts start creeping in. Clouds appear out of clear sky.
«Ok so why don’t you show your cards, man? Show us what you got.» One of his friends says. But you remain calm and relaxed. You sip into your nice cigar. In style. You exhale a blob of smoke around you. Enjoying the glory. You feist on their soul, as you drink from their cups. You slowly move your hand on the table and touch on the cards, as you stop momentarily and give him a final look.
«As you please buddy. As you please.» You turn them around. 4 beautiful kings appear. Denoting the king you really are.
The guy raises up aggressively. He threatens and yells and moving hands all around. It’s all too much to take in. And its gonna take time to come at peace with it. Meanwhile you glance at me again. And you node upwards with a little smile.
A few years pass but you are still the same guy I knew all these years. Crazy, goofy, and brilliant. You run downwards the aisle. Why are you running again? Why are you trying to help a lost cause? Haven’t you given up on it just yet? Your spirit is tireless and courageous. You knock on my door with bumping fists. The door is trembling and shaking like the broken cell that has remained of me. 2 empty bottles and a few pills scarce around me. But I don’t want to be bothered. I would rather stay down on the floor I m lying in. It feels soothing and justified. The way it should be.
But you keep pumping this door out of the wall and I know there is no way you’ll give up. I gather up whatever power I have left on me and approach the door. With slow movements and trembling hands from the various substances, I open the door a few inches. Just enough for my head to be visible and keep the rest in the shadow. You are standing there frowned up, holding your waist together with your two hands.
Me: «Hey man, look I’m a bit tired you know and..»
And then there comes a strong hit on the door pushing me a few steps back. You thrust in aggressively and grab me by the shirt before I find the time needed to recuperate.
«Man, what happened? What the hell are you doing?»
You throw me down on the chair for which I try to protest and get back up. But you are not willing to give me anything.
«Sit the fuck down. Just shut up and sit the fuck down.» You point at the chair as your eyes bun in flames.
I sit down and look at you stunned, moving back and forth in front of me ready to blow up. I know you for all my life but I have never seen you like that. You stroke your face trying to soothe your nerves but something is telling me it’s not gonna help.
Him: «You got to stop doing this..»
Me: «Stop doing what?»
Him: «Don’t you fucking mess with me. You know what you need to stop.» He points at the empty bottle and the pills.
«This and this..» and then raises his finger at me.
I’m lost for words. Any urge to object vanishes and I remain in my position trying to see where he is going with this.
Him: «I know it’s fucking hard. Don’t you think for a damn moment I don’t realize how tough it is. But this..this is not the way to come back.»
Me: «Maybe I don’t want to come back..»
Him: «Maybe you don’t know what the fuck you want!» He stares me for a couple of seconds, confronting me.
Him: «Look, man.. I know things are not going well with Kathryn and the kids. I know your life ended up like shit! But guess what, shit happens all the time.» He makes another round. «There is a way to fix this. I can help you..»
Me: «There is a way to fix this?» A burst of lough comes out of me.
«Maybe you didn’t get the memo, but let’s just say..things kinda.. deteriorated..» I gesture the revelation with my fingers.
Him: «deteriorated..what happened, give me the details», he asked eagerly.
Me: «Well, for one thing, she asked for a divorce..» I stretch my hand to grasp the drink but he stops me.
Him: «No, no, no, none of that. Forget about it. Just keep on going..»
Me: «Ok, well… she doesn’t want me to ever see the kids again. Things at work are going worse and worse…». I avoid his eyes as I try my best to hold my tears.
«Yeah, and… she asked me to never approach the kids again..basically, that’s what fucking happened» and I lose the battle before the response strikes me as a thunder
Him: «Of course she doesn’t.”
Me: «What?» the words shock me at my core.
Him: «What do you mean what? Look at you! Are you fucking kidding me? You are a fucking mess! what do you expect her to do, take you by the hand?»
I m still trying to come in terms with his assault.
Him: «I could give you an easy answer to make you feel better if this is what you want, but truth be told, you fucked up. Plain and simple» He approaches me and sits close to me.
«That doesn’t mean there is no way to fix this. Kathryn loves you. I know she does. She will have you back the moment you show her you got through it. But you have to stand back at your feet again.»
I’m still dizzy from what is going on.
Me: «It all sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?»
Him: «You are not into this alone. We are gonna do this together. Step by step..» You say and you manage to wake up something in me.
You look me in the eye and I know you expect to see a sign. Any sign that shows that not everything inside me is dead already. It feels futile but I nod condescendingly. And the game changes instantly.
Within a few days, I have given up on all my past habits. No alcohol, no drugs, no pitting on myself. I improve with every day passing and you are there with me guiding my way. Things improve in all aspects but you don’t allow me to see her yet. «We need to keep on improving» you say. A few months later and the person I was back the day you came to find me, does not exist anymore. I visit Kathryn and things start to get better and better. Till a miracle happens. We decide to give it another try. And the world restores some of its past color. Now I’m about to meet you in a few minutes in our usual hangout. It’s gonna be the last time before your departure. Your soul needed a new outlet to get its teeth on. And so you looked for it in foreign lands. It’s gonna be painful but I can understand it. Hopefully, you ‘ll find a way to cover your unlimited appetite. I look up from the table I m sitting on. And I see you from afar approaching me. With a big joyful smile…0