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I looked over my bank account last night. I’d come to realise that I can live comfortably without working for the rest of my life as long as I die on Friday.

This wasn’t a realisation that your average man generally has, in fact it’s something that shakes you in your boots. Your average man usually tends to have a happy and loving family, parents, friends or at least knows where they fit in this world, their purpose, for better or for worse, I haven’t. Most of the time I tell myself that it’s for the better. 

*   *   *   *   *

I don’t have a lot going on in my life. You see, when God dealt out the handsome and charismatic cards, I received a pair of fours and as a result and as a consequence, it’s safe to say I haven’t had much luck with relationships in my life. But I am smart. I can solve problems and piece together information  in ways no one else would even think about.

Life doesn’t prepare you for breakups. They cause your whole world to crumble. Whoever said that time heals all wounds clearly hasn’t been through any seriously rough patches in their life. It’s only when you experience them for yourself that you come to realise how false and empty all those sentiments really are. The pain can be relentless. Dropping out of school. Then breaking up with ‘the love of my life.’ Followed by the death of my parents, definitely didn’t put me in a great position mentally and financially. 

I knew something had to change. 

My town of Quantico in Virginia. The scrubby expanse of dust and dirt stretches to the horizon in every direction. There aren’t many opportunities to grow and learn in Quantico, people usually wind up working in the mines or, if they dodge a bullet, starting up their own business. Like most things, I’ve come to understand that everything fits in some sort of a spectrum, a spectrum that I don’t currently stand on. 

Smoking cigars and betting cards. The gambling started innocuously enough. Perhaps it was the excitement and the kick of adrenaline firing that it had to offer. Or perhaps it was the chance to connect with people who were like me (or at least that’s what I thought). You know the ones – the ones with a story waiting to be discovered. Something, anything that might change the course of life. Add meaning and purpose. 

I decided to call it a night after a particularly bruising round. The stars punctuated the night’s sky in a way that the diamonds in my hands never did. I thought of all the times I had lusted often another ‘heart’ to complete any set – when my own romantic life had atrophied. I’d had my chances over the years – my first wife had not deserved the empty promises of financial security that I’d parroted so many times when she asked, yet again why I’d missed another family dinner. My son’s teacher had given me the eye when the divorce came through but my attention was always on the next big win. 

Then … silence filled my life. 

‘Life’s too short and tomorrow is no guarantee’ is something I’ve truly come to understand now. Looking down on the life that I had lived. I doubt any of the other guys around the round table thought like me. None of them knew anything about me or my story. All we have in common is that elusive hope, that every hand encourages, a sense of unity that a club provides each time. Though they weren’t real friends, none were. I didn’t know it then but I was on a path to self-destruction.

If there’s anything to be learnt from gambling, it’s never set your heart on the cards being dealt. And the phrase ‘money won is twice as sweet as money earned’ is nothing but a load of crap. The first time the cards were dealt in my direction, I received a set of spades. The sharp point of the top was a harsh realisation of what life had become and the symbolised the hardship that was always destined in my life. 

I looked over my bank account last night. I’d come to realise that the very insignificant number in the bank account was the only card that I had tried to hold onto…..and it was finally time. 

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