Do you want to know which three letters of the alphabet are the most dangerous? I’ll tell you; VLT.
Hi, my name is Johnny and I’m addicted to gambling.
My story starts out like most others. I lived a fairly clean life for most of my days. Sure, I liked a glass of red wine with dinner, was into some very specific and troubling pornography and enjoyed the films of Mark Wahlberg, but all in all I was living a pretty calm and untroubled life.
I never bet on anything or partook in games of chance. Frankly I found it absurd when I’d see a row of people in a bar sitting silently for hours, pumping bill after bill into those greedy machines. I’d wonder how someone could throw away their money so readily to something that didn’t even give them a thrill anymore and was clearly more detrimental than anything, as I flung back Crown Royal and ginger ales until I couldn’t remember what country I lived in.
Then came the day that sent my life spiralling out of control like a football thrown by a football team man who has some sort of hand injury that prevents him from throwing a football properly (I’m bad with sports and analogies).
I was waiting for my hired companion to return from the ladies’ cocaine room at an upscale nightclub, when the flashing lights and sensual purr of a nearby video lottery terminal caught my attention. It promised me riches by the hundreds, it distracted my judgement with bright colours and catchy music. And how could a game in which lining up pictures of cats was the goal be a bad thing?
I inserted five dollars. That wouldn’t be a big deal, I reasoned. That’s less than the price of one of the cans of sangria I’d been buying for my lady friend all night. I hit the max bet button. My five dollars became $7.50. I don’t know if it was the cheery fanfare meowed by the electronic cats or the amphetamines coursing through my blood, but something changed in me at that moment.
I played the cats until the bar closed. My date got bored and left or OD’d and got taken away in an ambulance or something, I don’t know. What I do know is that at the end of the night I was up nearly two hundred dollars.
I began playing video gambling machines of all kinds. I hardly paid attention to how much money I was losing, but fooled myself into believing that each big win was covering any losses and I was coming out ahead. I didn’t want to see the truth. That these machines were evil. That each time I lined up three sevens it might as well have said 666. 666 was the street address of a sushi place that gave me food poisoning once, so the number had bad connotations for me.
The VLTs were just the start, though. I quickly began craving the excitement of more high-risk wager games. Poker tables, roulette and blackjack all lost their thrill quickly, too. I started betting on horse races and dog races, then later dog fights, then horse fights. Once I lost $1500 to some German businessmen on an octopus fight.
Before long I was in debt to some rather undesirable individuals and I ended up resorting to more extreme measures. I narrowly escaped a game of Russian roulette with some Romanian immigrants in Chinatown. At least I was broadening my cultural horizons. I lost three fingers playing Clue in an underground fight club that had a pretty bad flu going around it at the time.
I lost an eye in a black market bet on who would see the first robin of spring. Then I lost my glass eye in a game of marbles and had to replace it with one of those big marbles, which I then lost betting on the Oscars. Though, with Jennifer Lawrence taking home the Best Actress award, we really all won that one.
And now look at me. When will it end? Will it ever end? I don’t feel like I know who I am any more.
I’m sitting at a desk I don’t recognize in an office that feels foreign to me. I look at the framed photo sitting here; a wife and three beautiful children, and they’re strangers to me. Who is this man? I don’t even know. He is scared and crying.
But I better not over think this, the mafia capo said if I don’t kill him by midnight tonight it’ll be me at the bottom of that river. Those were the conditions of the bet I lost to him on who could dance the Charleston for the longest.
Photo by Roadsidepictures via Flickr