As a child I once bet my soul on a game of cards. Now, aeons down the line, I was doing it again.
The man across the table from me couldn't match my eyes as he dealt the next hand. Full of bravado he had been when I'd walked through the door but now, as we sat face to face, my life on the line hanging between the cards in our hands, his passive aggressive façade had slipped away into uncomfortable silence. I couldn't help but feel scorn for the man that in ten minutes would most probably own my life.
I didn't even know how to play.
A naïve man would tell you that I hadn't any choice; that it was do or die and that, more than likely, it was die or die. But I knew better. Guns there may have been pointed to my head but I had as much choice in this as I had done as a child.
I had won that game and walked away confidently with the slip of paper in my hand that signified everything that I was; laughing loudly about how a torn piece of notebook didn't really worry me but secretly relieved that I didn't have to go to bed that night, worrying of my eternity.
Today; today was different.
My slim fingers coiled protectively around five different pieces of card. It wasn't a note this time; what sat on the table was me.
I held my tickets to freedom close to my chest, making no concern of showing that this mattered to me. I didn't try nonchalance, I didn't ooze confidence; I simply sat there, clutching my cards, praying to my gods.
"Lay your cards."
The game had been finished for a while, just not concluded, and all I had been capable of doing was watch the cards that I held and think of my past.
"Give me time."
I needed time. This was my life; I wasn't going to be rushed into loosing it.
I lifted my gaze now, staring at the beast in front of me with what I had hoped was a steely glare. As far as I was aware it worked, his bulbous eyebrows bunching as I slowly returned to studying my hand.
How could such an ugly man command such power?
He wasn't used to playing this game with a woman. I understood that the atmosphere here was so far gone from how his previous experiences had been. Laughing, alcohol, let's drink away our last moments in life. He hadn't searched me out or challenged me. I'd come here and I'd demanded a play.
I'd been playing with my life for years, since that first game of cards. It had been silly at the time but that night was when I truly came alive. From that point on I'd found ways to live on the edge. In that respect it was die, die or balance in the middle of true living.
I coughed, reverently placing my hand down onto the green felt, waiting to see who would own my soul.