The Gambler

Down at a local bar trying to nurse another one of my infamous heartbreaks. There is a betting game going on over a football match.

I liked the football and was attracted to it; the idea of players battling it out on a field for supremacy was both artistic and appealing to me. I watched most of the matches very closely and knew the teams and the players well.

Anyway, there was a betting game going on over a match being played between the blue team and the red team. They were both top teams and the match was a hard one to predict. I was out of a job by then and was looking for a way to make some cash (since I was also running out of beer) so I decided to try my luck and play.

The good thing about football is that there is a science to it – it’s a game of strength and weakness. It’s a brawl for survival that pits the fittest species with the endangered one.

I bet my money on the blue team. 100$ for them to win the game and a chance for me to quadruple my money.

I sat somewhere at the front of the bar near the large screen and followed the game closely. I followed the movement of every player, the play-by-play, every ball, every substitution…

I held in my hand a Heineken with the dreading thought that this might be my last drink if I lose. I caressed the bottle and looked at all the other hopeless fools who had bet on the match as well. In a way, we were all dumped in the same pit and this was our only hope in life. Our one shot. Our one chance.

It was a fair game for all the players but I felt cheated just by being in the same pot as them. Why should I have to contend against people who held good jobs and had nice families and drove fancy cars? Why should I have the same odds stacked against me? The more I looked the more I started to believe we were walking in the same narrow tunnel. There was no way to skip ahead and get to the front of the line.

The match was intense and tight (just as you’d expect any crucial and decisive event to be) and we were all on the edge of our seats. The players putting their hearts out had a duty toward the poor people like us: a duty to win and bump us ahead in life. Make us forget about the sweaty afternoons coming back home from the office or striking out with a girl you thought you had a chance with. They were our unmasked heroes wearing matching uniforms and marching toward the same goal. As I watched them deliver career-threatening tackles a single thought traversed my mind: victory. Victory for the players. Victory for the team. Victory for me.

But the one thing I’d forgotten was that luck was always a deciding factor and had a hand to play. In anything I aspired for or took a chance on luck always interfered and shifted the balance.

This was no different. A late goal for the red team settled it. The better team had lost and I was beaten to the ground.

The mighty had fallen and lost all credibility. I lost my belief in the world and in myself. Life seemed to snarl at my face yet again and laugh in it without a single care. Never mind if I never get another shot or live to drink another sip of alcohol in this lifetime; the important thing was that I was beaten. I had failed and my gamble had backfired.

I got out of that bar as soon as I could amid celebrations from the winning bettors. I had lost whatever money I had left and drank my last beer. I would wait a long time before getting another taste of that liquid.

Outside it was chilly. The air was sticky and the whole sky felt infuriated. It had had it with my antics and my silly games and naive optimistic gambles. I looked back with envy at the winners sitting inside. They were laughing, drinking, celebrating, singing jubilantly for the winning team.

They celebrated the victorious players on screen like war heroes returning from the battlefield.

A young man came out of the bar. The features on his face gave away his fortunes. He too was a loser like me, a lost man picking up the defeated pieces of his soul. He gravitated toward me as if I attracted him through some sort of strange pull. Was bad luck a force field like magnetic and electric fields?

The man gave me a friendly salute and said, ‘Tough night, eh?’

‘You have no idea.’

‘No luck?’

‘Not the slightest.’

He sighed. I sighed. We both sighed. We were different men with nothing in common except our bad luck in gambling. But somehow we understood each other’s pain. We both understood how much this night meant for us.

Our biggest fall comes from doing big things. Risking everything just to get ahead in life with no regard for the pitfalls of our maneuvers.  Tonight we were both beaten, and maybe even fairly so.

But for me, it was about hanging to that branch and staying in the fight.

The man eyed me again. Behind him, deep in the grey clouds, a full moon pierced the sky with its bright light. There was maybe hope for us after all.

‘So,’ he said quietly, ‘where do we go from here?’

‘The only thing that could fix this night is good sex,’ I told him.

Of course, it had been a while since I’d had any kind of interaction with a woman. And judging by my fortunes, things weren’t going to get better any time soon.