I had to lose almost everything before I came to my senses, sitting there at the dining table with my boyfriend Todd – watching him gamble away everything he owned and, as it turned out, a few major things that I owned too. I never considered myself to be stupid, but much as a frog stays in water that slowly warms up to a boil without noticing what is going on, it somehow didn’t concern me when he stopped winning at poker and started to lose. It didn’t concern me that the new car I was promised for my birthday didn’t happen because he didn’t win that money like he thought he would. I wasn’t worried when the extra cash we kept around the apartment, our tax-free stash and his backup bankroll, disappeared due to losses at the poker table. It didn’t alarm me when he would stay up all night playing poker online instead of giving me attention or holding me as I drifted to sleep. And somehow, incredibly, I didn’t panic when I came home one night to find the power had been shut off. “Dammit… well… baby, I was just a little short this month, I should have paid that on Monday after I won that afternoon – tell you what, I’ll pay it in the morning when I’m done here,” he said to me on the phone from somebody’s house somewhere, at yet another all-night game that he was likely to come home broke from. I used the light from my phone screen to guide me to the bathroom and over to the cabinets so I could get ready for bed, before falling asleep alone in even greater darkness than I was accustomed to. We shared a bank account, an idea that sounded great when he was winning money as fast as he could bet with it. He would only get better from there, he told me, which made sense – why would you get worse at poker with more practice and experience? But lately, when my card would get rejected at a restaurant or a store, it seemed rather stupid of me to have agreed to it. No matter, I trusted him when he told me that he was just one good game of poker away from replenishing the account, or just had to deposit some of the cash that he had. Sometimes that was the case, but more and more often it was not. At a certain point, I was paying nearly every essential monthly bill out my waitressing tips alone, and you can guess how much was left over each month beyond that. To make matters worse, he became more and more unpleasant to be around, snapping at me for even the mildest of inquiries into our money situation. But what was I supposed to do? It was my money too, and as time went on, it was mostly my money. Then one night, alone in the apartment, wondering when and if the losing streak would ever end, Todd burst through the door with 2 tons of swagger and threw a stack of hundred dollar bills into my lap. He told me that he met some guys through his connections in the poker games and finally managed to get a game with them. He’d been told they were suckers – guys who thought they were far better than they were, and who really spread the money around. “Thing is, baby, they dress and act like gang bangers – and they probably are,” he said, pacing excitedly in front of me. “For all I know, they’re playing with drug money, but I don’t give a fuck because I just took them for damn near everything they had!” The losing streak was over, and that one big win carried us for a few weeks and paid off some bills. The success didn’t translate to any of his other regular games, though, so after a few losses he went back to play with those same guys again. Only this time, he was not so fortunate; they took him for all the money he brought with him, which was everything we had in cash. At about 11:30 p.m., while I was on the couch with a bowl of ice cream, watching Beylikdüzü escort a movie, Todd came in and went straight back to our bedroom without even acknowledging me, only to emerge seconds later with his electric guitar in hand. “Todd, what are you doing with your guitar?” I asked. “Taking it down to Deon’s place – I need it to stay in the game,” he said, gathering his keys and signaling that he was ready to leave and be done with this conversation. “You’re going to gamble your guitar? The one you spent over a thousand dollars on a year ago and wouldn’t shut up about? The one you treat as though it were your own infant son, wiping it down with a rag after you use it? Have you lost your mind?” He sighed and turned around, resting a hand on the upright guitar. “Look, I can take these guys, I just had a shitty, crazy couple of hands that wiped me out. They got lucky, and so I just need something to get me back in the game with some cash so I can outplay them. The longer we play, the more advantage I have. You know that.” I’d heard this speech a few times now, and had always admitted that you had to take the good with the bad. If I was willing to buy into the whole gambler’s girl thing – sitting on his lap at the table, letting him buy me nice things, going to casinos on weekends and lounging all day in a great spa – then I had to realize that there would be rocky spots, too. Still, something wasn’t right, and it had been nothing but rocky for quite a while now. “Okay,” I said, knowing further discussion was futile. He hastily swung his $1,100 guitar through the open door like it was an old shovel and slammed the door behind him, not even hearing me wish him good luck. I was asleep when he got home, but I woke up when he crawled into bed. He reeked of smoke but I couldn’t be bothered with insisting he take a shower- I figured I’d fall back asleep anyway within a few minutes. “So how did it go?” I mumbled, facing away from him. “Still own that guitar?” “They still have it. I’ll tell you about it in the morning, okay?” I really didn’t want to hear about it at all. Things were better the next week, and I thought the worst was behind us. We talked about it and he agreed with me that if he was really going to do this for a living, he had to play in small games until he got out of whatever rut he was in. He took a few days off, then started driving about an hour each way to the nearest casino to play in low-limit games. Business was steady at the restaurant, and I felt like I was getting my old boyfriend back again. He was under control; he could learn to play for a profit again, I knew he could. I’d seen him do it before. Friday we went out to dinner and a movie, something we hadn’t done in a couple of months, and then had great sex when we got home. It was the very best, loving kind, the kind where you wake up in his arms, right where you last remember being in an awesome afterglow. Saturday night, I made plans with some girlfriends to go out for drinks so my Todd would have to fend for himself. He said he might visit some friends at a nearby bar, but otherwise he had no plan. “No poker tonight, baby?” I asked, but with an arched eyebrow and a steady stare, delivering it more as instruction than anything else. “No poker,” he answered with a chuckle, then grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me in for a peck on the lips. “You have fun with the girls, I’ll do my thing.” “Whatever that means,” I giggled, and then left. It was about midnight when we’d all had about as many drinks as we safely could before driving became a really bad idea. I knew I was probably over the limit as I drove, Beyoğlu escort bayan singing some Lady Gaga song at the top of my lungs, but home wasn’t far, I reasoned. Besides, I knew how to stay in my lane; I was more careful after a few drinks anyway. I pulled into our apartment complex and noticed a car in one of our two assigned spaces, with Todd’s truck sitting in the other. “Fuckers,” I mumbled under my breath, then threw the car into reverse and drove a few hundred feet to the guest spaces, feeling lucky that I got one close by. It happens a lot during weekends, people throw parties and visitors pay no attention to signage, parking anywhere they find a spot. Fumbling for my keys outside the front door, I could hear people talking inside the apartment – different voices from anyone I might recognize. When I entered I saw Todd and three others sitting at the dining room table. I knew immediately what was going on, and didn’t even have to look to see what was on the table. Todd was smoking a cigar, which meant he was drinking, and he didn’t look very happy. The other men, all three of them black, were all dressed like they might be extras in a hip-hop video. These had to be the guys he’d told me about earlier – the guys he’d won so much money from, before losing even more to them. I hadn’t yet scanned the tabletop to see how Todd was faring against these guys but I was struck by the sight of three large, imposing men hunkered around a table with my far less physically imposing boyfriend. Even his dress, a short sleeve polo shirt and khaki shorts, seemed docile compared with their baggy jeans, tank tops, and oversize jewelry. “Hi guys,” I said after a few seconds, when my presence had yielded no reaction from any of the four of them. “Hi hun,” Todd responded glumly, brushing me off. “This your girl, Todd?” one of them asked. “You didn’t tell me you had a honey stashed up in here!” he said playfully, garnering no similar reaction from Todd, whose eyes were downcast, studying cards laid out on the table. “How you doin’, baby, my name’s Deon, and these are my boys Chris and Martell.” Deon reached out to shake my head. “Pleasure, Deon…” I said, then nodded at the other two before turning to Todd and draping an arm over his shoulder. “So much for promises, huh babe?” Todd just shook his head. “How’s it going?” “He’s trying to come back, he might still get there…. we got all night!” Deon said cheerfully, and with more than a hint of arrogance. I leaned into Todd’s ear. “Can I talk to you in the other room for a minute?” “No, just let me take care of this. I know what I told you, but it is what it is, babe,” he answered, dismissive and impatient. “Uh oh,” Deon chimed in again, chuckling, “do we need to give you guys a few minutes? We can go outside or something.” “No,” Todd snapped. “It’s fine. Deal ’em.” “OK, so that’s it, huh?” I said, backing away from the table. “Have fun then- and good luck…I know you always play your best poker when you’re drunk and chasing losses!” I was so pissed off, and for so many reasons. Deon raised his eyebrows for a beat, then announced the dealing of the next hand. I went to the kitchen, mixed a rum and coke that was so strong it was merely tinted brown, then stomped back to the bedroom and slammed the door. That motherfucker! I slung my purse across the room, into a chair in the corner. I thought about the rent that was coming due again next week, and a new round of utility bills that would be just behind that. I turned on the TV and saw that Training Day was showing on HBO; would we be able to afford cable this next month? I knew we had no cushion, Escort Bomonti and this time around, due to some necessary car repairs – yes, on the car that we couldn’t afford to trade in for something new for me, as promised – I knew my tips and wages wouldn’t even come close to covering everything, to say nothing of buying groceries or gas. I nursed my drink and started to cry, unable to really see a way out of this, unless Todd turned it around and starting to win again. But no matter how bad at poker those three guys really were, they had already taken him for a lot of money, and Todd was drinking this time, so his head wasn’t as clear as it should have been to play for real money. Why did I have to fall in love with a gambler? The only solace I had was that he really didn’t have much more to lose. Once the cash he had on hand was lost- all the money he’d been playing with at the casino all week- he would have to shut it down. That is, unless these guys were willing to loan him money, but owing loan shark gang members is only marginally better than having no money at all. Unless he could get his act together, I knew that the night’s outcome would be just another all too familiar crash and burn. I tried to block it out. I went online and fiddled with my Facebook page for a few minutes to check updates, but kept getting drawn back to pictures of me and Todd doing things together, laughing and smiling. How could I get us back to that place? How far gone were we? The rum I was drinking only helped to aggravate my increasingly helpless feelings about our situation. I looked at a picture of us together at a poker table. I remembered the night. It took place at an old friend’s house, and Todd had won the tournament. In the picture, I was sitting on his lap while he played. His confidence shone through, holding his two cards in one hand and holding me close to him with the other. What was the difference between then and now? Maybe he just needed my support; surely it’s no worse than him sitting in there alone, knowing I was mad at him. Extra pressure couldn’t be good. I stood up, steadied myself for a second, then walked back into the dining room to support my boyfriend. A thick layer of smoke hung over the table, but it wasn’t nearly as thick as the feeling of desperation that was present. I put one arm around Todd’s shoulder and asked if I could have a seat, motioning for his lap, but he brushed me off. “It’s okay baby, I’m just here to watch and support you,” I said, trying to mask the worry in my voice as much as I could. “You don’t want to watch this… trust me,” he said grimly, throwing his cards into the center and watching Deon drag a small pile of playing chips toward his own very large stacks of chips. I realized then that Todd’s stack was smaller than anyone else’s. “Maybe I’m your good luck charm,” I said. “A pretty girl in your lap couldn’t hurt.” I leaned down, trying to catch his eye with my smile, but to no avail. “If you’re gonna watch, grab a chair, okay?” he replied with a sigh, looking at me briefly before focusing on the new pair of cards that arrived in front of his chips. “Don’t take it personal, baby girl. Todd’s been acting like that all night with us,” Deon said to me, unable to conceal his smirk. “Please don’t call her that, okay Deon? In fact, could you guys just not talk to her at all?” Todd said, tossing two chips into the center of the table. Deon held his hands up, palms out. “Hey, you’re the man, I am your guest, or whatever… oh, that’s 100 to you,” he replied, signaling that he’d made a bet. Todd tossed, counted out some chips, then several more, raising him. I noticed that his last two bets were over half his remaining chips. “Raising me again, hmmm,” Deon said playfully, as if toying with Todd. “You don’t know when to quit do you, son? I’m all in,” he said, challenging Todd to push the remainder of his money into the pot. Todd stared at the center of the table for about five seconds, and then…

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