No Way Out

That's it. I'm done. Starting today, I'm giving it all up. It's just getting to be way too fucking much. Wait; getting to be? No, fuck that. It is too much. It's been too much for a hell of a lot longer than I care to admit.

What am I talking about? Good fucking question. I'd like to say something witty here, maybe how the answer is complicated, or it's a really long story, or some shit like that, but it really isn't. I'm an addict. It's as simple as that. I've been addicted for years, since I was little more than a goddamned pimple-faced kid. Fuck, I was ugly back then. Still ugly now, come to think of it. But that's not that point.

The point is, I'm a fucking junkie. My drug of choice? Gambling. If there's a sport out there being played in some part of the world, you can bet your ass I've laid money down on it at one time or another. Baseball? Basketball? Football? Of course. Women's basketball in China? Some late night cricket between a couple of Japanese teams nobody's ever heard of? Oh yeah. If it's been played, I've wagered on it.

I'm not sure exactly what it is about sports betting that draws me in. Actually, that's a lie. I know what draws me in. It's the excitement, the thought of hitting the books hard and taking all the cash you can. It's the winning, that feeling you get when a bet comes through and you know you have that much more to work with next time. It's fucking great. You're king of the motherfucking world, and there isn't a goddamn thing that can bring you down.

Unfortunately, like with every drug, there's the flip side, the shit that ain't so great. There's that moment when the heroin wears off, when the high fades, and you open your eyes only to find yourself lying face down in a fucking gutter, covered in filth and just aching all over. It's those moments when your head falls into your hands and all you can think is 'What the fuck did I do?'. Trust me; I've been there too many times to count.

That's part of the reason why I'm giving it up. All those incredible highs are worth less than nothing when you're riding a week-long losing streak, with no signs of your luck turning around any time soon. When all you've got in your pocket is lint and a couple pennies, and even those are bent and broken. All you want to do is drink yourself stupid, but you're too fucking broke to do even that.

More than once I've contemplated ending it all. I've been so fucking beaten down, I just can't imagine my luck ever turning. One time, I even had the gun in my hand and my finger on the trigger. But then, out of nowhere, a miracle. I'm such a fucking degenerate, I couldn't help but place one or two more bets, even though I planned to do myself in. And wouldn't you know it? The Lakers win, I cash a ticket, and I'm back in the fucking game. Bow down to the king.

I've decided it isn't enough anymore. The highs don't outweigh the lows. Even when I'm on top of the world now, I can't help but think about whatever valley I'm going to crash-land in the next day, next week, next month. It was never like that before. That's how I know it's finally time.

As bad as things have been over the years, I have to admit, I've had a pretty good run. I'm forty-three years old and still alive, which is more than I can say for a lot of like-minded people I've met. I sure as hell didn't expect that.

How did it all start? Like all good stories do: from the fucking beginning. I was fifteen years old when I placed my first bet. Even after all the fucked up shit I've put myself through, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a hundred bucks on the Raiders to beat the Redskin in Super Bowl XVIII. I had the Raiders to win straight up, parleyed with the under forty-nine. Both cashed, and turned that hundred bucks into eight hundred. That was a great fucking day.

I continued to bet nearly every day after that. I lived in New York at the time, so there was always some sleazy bookie lurking around the corner, willing to take money from anybody, even a kid. There was this one guy, Marty, who I did regular business with. He was a cool dude, never fucked me over even though I was dumb as fuck and couldn't have done a damn thing about it.

When I was eighteen, I finally got out of the big apple. Me and a couple of buds got together and hit the road, looking for a new place to hang our proverbial hats. Enter Los Angeles, the city of angels. That's the definition of fucking irony, I can tell you that. Try living there for more than a week and you'll see what I mean. What a fucking hole that place is. Dirtiest city I've ever seen, and I've been to a lot of shitty locations in my time.

Anyways, my dumbass friends thought it would be a great idea to start up a band. It was Los Angeles; what the fuck else were they gonna do? They sure as hell weren't gonna be actors. I wanted no part of it, of course, but I did want a share of any money they made. Plus, I had nowhere else to go. So I became their manager. What a credit that is on my resume: 'Manager of a shitty fucking metal band that never went anywhere or did a goddamn thing'. Good times.

For five years, we stayed in LA. Band members came and went, all of them progressively more fucked up than the last. They sucked pretty fucking bad, but everybody in LA sucks, so nobody knew the difference. There was always some sleazy little club willing to pay us a couple bucks to pump out some noise while some bleached blonde with caked-on make-up and tits bigger than her head gyrated her naked ass across a stage. And my share of that money went towards my habit.

By the time I was twenty-three, I was already starting to look beaten down. More often than not, people thought I was in my thirties. It was the stress that did it, made me look old and haggard. Well, stress and the drugs. Of course I got into drugs. Like I said, it was fucking Los Angeles. You live there, and spend the vast majority of your time hanging out in dirty-ass fucking strip joints with drug dealers and other lowlifes, you're gonna get into some really messed up shit. There isn't a drug in the world that I didn't try back then. Dear God, how I made it to my twenty-fifth birthday is something that escapes me to this day.

How did I pay for those drugs, I bet you're wondering. That's easy. I didn't. When you're a broke-ass, gambling-addicted manager of a no-good band, you often find yourself shacking up in some of the shittiest places imaginable. More often than not, I'd end up bunking at a buddies place, and usually he would have some other visitors at the same time. At least one of those guys would either be a dealer, or he'd know one. The drugs were readily available, and I took advantage constantly.

So, to make a long, pointless story a lot shorter, just before I turned twenty-four, I decided it was time to move on. I cut ties with the band, which by that point no longer had any of the original members anyways, and just fucking left. I planned to travel all over the country. That didn't happen. I made it as far as Vegas. Yeah, Vegas. Big surprise, right? Where else would a degenerate like me end up?

My first night in the city of sin, I hooked up with a stripper I met in some seedy little bar just off the strip. Fuck, she was hot. Leather skirt, jet black hair, and the greatest set of tits I've ever seen. She took me home, we fucked and that was that. I moved what little shit I had out of my car and into her apartment the next morning.

I was with Jasmine for two and half years. We had some good times, but more often than not, we would end up screaming and yelling at each other. Money was always an issue, mostly because I didn't have any and she didn't want me gambling away what she earned. A couple of times, I just went and stole a couple hundred out of her purse. She wasn't happy about that. She threw a wineglass at my head once. I lost it and gave her a black eye. Definitely not my finest moment. Jasmine left not long after that, just packed up and moved out. Was I sorry to see her go? Yeah, a little. But I was fucking someone else on the side anyways, and it didn't take long for the new girl to invite herself in.

The one thing Jasmine did that I will be forever grateful for was her getting me off the drugs. She told me the day after I moved in that she wouldn't live with a junkie. For her, I gave up the drugs and I've never gone back to them, other than the occasional joint.

Anyways, so it went, like a fucking loop, for over fifteen years. I'd have my ups and down, my winning streaks and my losing ones. When I was up, things were great. Everything was like a fucking party. I'd be getting drunk as fuck, getting with every piece of ass I could, and throwing money around like it grew on trees. When I was down, I was really down, suicidal, depressed, and ready to swallow a shotgun.

A couple of times, I tried to give up the lifestyle, get away from everything. I would get out of the city for a couple of weeks, head for less notorious locations and try to start over. It never lasted long. Everywhere I went, I'd invariably be drawn to where the compulsive gamblers gathered. I'd start betting again, and before I knew it, it was 'fuck it, I'm heading back to Vegas'. And back I went, to start the cycle over again.

There's my life, in a fucking nutshell. I'm a compulsive gambler, a degenerate, with no real friends, no family, and no lasting relationships whatsoever. And that's why I've decided I'm gonna quit. I'm gonna give up the gambling, give up on Vegas, and just get away. I'm serious this time. Always before, when I tried to leave, I knew in my heart the euphoria of the wins would bring me back. But like I said, the highs just aren't as high anymore, the lows are too low; the reward just doesn't taste sweet enough.

So this is it. I'm walking away. I'm going to get up out of this chair, walk out of this bar, pack up my shit, and move on. I'm doing it. It's fucking happening. I— wait a sec, my phone is ringing. Oh, it's a guy I know, a fellow gambler. What's that? He says the number for tomorrow night's Chargers-Bucs game is a little low. He says if I hit it hard now, I can get a massive pay-off; it's a sure thing.