a poker story
Call me Theodore. Some time ago, never mind when precisely, I woke up early in the morning, all alone, sober and sombre, put my jacket on, grabbed my suitcase and went out of doors with the firm intention to get to the port. I met a pair of funeral processions before I had to take the first turn and two weddings after that. A trio of schoolgirls burst into laughter when I stumbled and nearly fell on the subway stairs; I blew them a kiss and their pretty faces flushed red.
Five minutes later I saw the building of NYSE. The house was already full of empty people who had nothing better to do than to deal with someone else’s stakes and hope they wouldn’t go aflop at once. I smiled to myself: I knew there was at least one free spot inside.
I kept walking, breathing greedily in and out. I could already smell the water and wanted to stamp the stepping on solid ground into my memory. Then I slowed down and looked around. My attention was caught by four bearded priests in long black soutanes sitting on a wooden bench. They all looked at me with reproach. It required a strong moral principle to prevent me from knocking their hideous hats off, but I stood the test and moved on.
I knew I could catch the sight of the liner any moment, so I slowed down more: not to torture myself, but because something urged me to. I was now passing a small casino, an antithesis of shiny monsters from Las Vegas, though adorned with an illuminated flight of stairs leading straight to its door.
I stopped, as if hitting an invisible wall, fished a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, lit one and took a deep drag, still staring at the stairs. I thought I’d make up my mind before I’d breathe the smoke out, but… a minute passed, then another one, then another, and then the second cigarette was lit…
… and then I told myself: “Theodore! Don’t you fucking dare! How many more excuses do you need to come up with? Why are you interested anyway? You don’t even like gambling.”
“Because,” I said after a pause, lighting the third cigarette, “I am not aboard yet. And when I am, there will be no more reason to try.”
I knew there was nothing to argue about, yet I was scared to instantaneously give up everything that had been planned. I was standing on the same spot, sick with nicotine, and couldn’t even shift from one foot to the other. I was trying to shut the doubts up, but it required more of my moral strength than letting the priests go. I closed my eyes and lift my head as if watching the skies; and then I said aloud:
“Listen. Stand on this very spot for a minute and wait for a sign. And if it comes, you better take it, whatever it is”.
And so I did, and when the minute was up I opened my eyes, looked around and saw the exact same picture I left sixty seconds ago.
The ship could have a safe voyage. I wasn’t ready to die yet.