Loving you was like loving a slot machine.
You were sitting under all these blue lights and I walked up with a backpack of quarters I’d been saving. I was drawn to you out of some sort of hunger and emptiness. I sat before your glowing face and ran my fingers over the scrapes and dents where others had taken out their anger on you over the years. I thought I could revive you, restore you. Other customers watched me with sad, knowing eyes. Yet I found you difficult to read and difficult to predict. I dropped my first quarter into your mouth.
I sat before you for days, weeks, months. Time shuffled slowly on as I continued to pour quarters into you. My backpack grew lighter. I began to recognize your patterns. Loss. Loss. Gain. Loss. Loss. Loss. Gain. If I left to attend to any of my needs, I would lose a fortune once I returned. But I kept playing, drawn to the odd chance I might strike it rich, to the idea that you would color my future. We were going to make it, together.
At last I did get angry. My quarters had disappeared, and with nothing to show for all the hours and energy I’d channeled into your game. I started to hate seeing those spinning cherries and lemons. It had been a long time since I’d slept well, eaten well, seen daylight. My head spun when I stood upright. So I tried to cheat you. I tried to break you. I sold my backpack to a leering bartender so I could keep playing. You didn’t budge an inch.
Everyone in the casino began to avoid me. I had death in my eyes and I wasn’t afraid to show it off. Joy melted out of everything. I could only think of you and those sweet promises you whispered. Through my fatigue I could still hear the meager jingle of coins you dispensed if I played by your rules without straying. This meant the world to me.
The world blurred. You and I the only inhabitants. Even in my dreams I played badly. Always losing, always disappointing. You became stone cold. I wanted my body to grind to a halt without fanfare.
Thank God someone pulled me away from the edge. Someone was there for me and it wasn’t you. Someone who called my name and turned me around gently by my shoulders. The despair on my face didn’t repel him; he drew closer. He led me away from you. He brought me to his room and allowed me to rest. We talked of pain and of healing. Of meaning. I was able to stand in the sunlight with no guilt.
Healing is a journey. I can’t tell you how long it took and is still taking. But I will tell you that the other day, we returned, and I walked right by you. It hurt to see you out of the corner of my eye, alone. I had to remind myself that it was a choice we both made. Now I walk through the world with presence. And that day, even with a smile.
We were retrieving my backpack.