“Run away. For your own sake. Now.”
Her low mellifluous voice rang in his head for the umpteenth time as he carefully deliberated his next move.
Time had transcended into the realm of infinity under the glittering casino lights. He had entered the premises around nightfall, armed with a dangerously optimistic fatalism. Clad in his finest suit, his usually messy hair slicked back, with a devil-may-care glint in his eye, he had exchanged his entire life savings for a resplendent, multi-hued pile of chips at the counter. Now, even as that relatively substantial pile had dwindled to a measly handful sufficient enough only for one last gamble, his tired eyes refused to stop smiling even as the rest of him felt otherwise.
Earlier, during the seemingly endless road trip in the rickety cab towards his ‘Final Destination’, the sight of a cassette tape deck, a forgotten relic in today’s ubiquitous unlimited all-access music streaming scene, jolted a wave of unbridled nostalgia through his senses.
A man of few words, the chauffeur’s attention was solely focused upon disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity; nothing can travel faster than light.
This suited his sensibilities well. Despite being a mandatory requirement for success in his ill-chosen career, he actively shunned small talk, especially for the sake of it. As oft was the case, his mind had just started slipping into a state of pointlessly dangerous rumination, dominated by pesky ‘What Ifs?’ and ‘If Onlys?’, when he somehow dragged it back to the present.
Holding the cover of the mix tape belting out tunes in the background, he couldn’t help but analogize it to his own life. Assuming at any point, Side A consisted of his past, and Side B his future, when Side A had reached the end of its play time, instead of turning the cassette over and pressing the play button on Side B, he had been wont to rewind and re-rewind Side A. And in doing so, each push of the rewind button made it futile to switch over and miss the beginning few tracks of Side B, leading to his future moving further and further away from him. Hence, the last tracks of Side A became the most played ones while Side B remained quintessentially unexplored.
“Not anymore!”, he silently vowed to himself. “This time I’m switching sides, punching PLAY, even if Side B consists of only static…”
His existence up till recently had been a remarkably unremarkable one, aimlessly manoeuvred to avoid any risks, discomfortingly comfortable, and to sum it up, lacking any discernible sense of purpose. He’d held on to a passively optimistic belief that things will fall into place only if he let the forces of nature run their course without any earth-shattering inputs from his side.
Alas, Lady Luck, oh so pleasurably whimsical at her best, charmingly reassuring when his fears needed to be assuaged the most, had finally seemed to have deserted him. Usually, this particular missus is the ficklest of them all, flitting from one eligible gentleman (or lady) to another at random. But, she may have momentarily lost her senses by sticking to him, volunteering to be his sous-chef even as he let the ingredients, comprising his potential, rot away past their expiration date.
He had it all in his kitchen to whip up a masterpiece equivalent of a Grammy-winning Side B. But he refused to don his toque blanche with aplomb and dirty his apron to become Le MasterChef Extraordinaire, fearful of burning his fingers, perhaps. He delegated all his responsibilities to the Lady, a more egregiously chauvinistic act than any, thus belittling all his grandiose claims of being a gentleman, flawed albeit. As if she didn’t have a life of her own. In a world of mortals depending on her for intervention in matters more grave than his, despite being Wonder Woman, she couldn’t exhaust all her energy on this singular lazy soul. A solid reason indeed, for her being fickle, else she won’t thrive or survive at all.
The science of Behavioral Psychology artfully explains the reasons why common sense is, at best, a misnomer when it involves the human mind. Several thought experiments conducted by decorated Nobel laureates in recent times (Daniel Kahneman, for one) establish evidence for centuries-old proclamations. The Prospect Theory, summarized as “Losses hurt more than gains of similar magnitude satisfy, in fact, in order of twice as much” helps explain mankind’s loss-averse nature during moments of decision making and why it’s best to ‘forgive and forget’.
Dwelling on the past is detrimental, he found out the hard way. Even if the quantum of losses and gains in one’s history is comparatively equal, keeping the past in active memory will continue to hurt no matter what, leading to a surfeit of increasing hurtfulness with each passing loss. Not only is it insulting to all his previous gains, the constant cycle of dipping into the proverbial pensieve of memories is exhaustively non-productive.
He had tried to wipe his memory clean before, to no avail. He had hitched upon magical mystery rides to escape the quicksand of his self-inflicted woes. Magic works, momentarily, but it eventually fails to uplift spirits, especially when they are bound to the deadweight of negativity and tossed into the sea of quicksand, pulling them into a downwards spiral towards the nadir.
Years of codependence on Miss Luck had distorted his perception of himself. Most times, when he glanced upon his countenance in a reflection, he could hardly stand the sight in front of his eyes. He instantly felt unloved the second her affection didn’t come his way. And when it did arrive, he felt unworthy of it, questioning what on earth he has done to be so lucky.
Now, as he sipped on yet another Aqua on the rocks (with a twist), the final spin of the wheel awaited his go-ahead signal. As is the case for most gambling establishments, the house has the odds in its favor, no matter which game of chance one embarks upon. The longer one’s jaunt as in any amusement park, the more one will end up paying. Simple!
In his case, he’d been frolicking long enough, without her by his side. He’d been placing relatively smaller bets in comparison with the high-rolling enthusiasts at his table, clearly not short of means or spirits. And steadily losing.
But he hadn’t come here to win. This time, he hadn’t spent his imaginary winnings upon circumventing the globe till the crow croaks, as was his usual wistful daydream.
He just wanted to prove to himself that he could survive, without Luck on his side. That he could switch the tape to Side B, and let Side A be.
He had never really valued his comfortable finances before, always taking them for granted. Now, as he stood at the verge of pecuniary ruin, it bothered him, but not enough. Yes, it’ll be a tough road ahead, but for a change, he believed in his own capabilities; to face the other Side.
Even if it meant he had to pawn his phone for a ride back.
Lady Luck or not, he will strive and thrive. Be someone’s Lucky charm for a change. Exhausted he was, but for the first time, ready to step up.
“Final bets, please. Sir!”
Gulping back his drink, he checked his watch, (2:03 AM, ironically), braced himself out of his reverie and evenly distributed his bets on the numbers 20, 10, 9 & 1. Potentially, he stood to win back everything. Or start afresh.
The croupier unenthusiastically spins the wheel in one direction, and then spins the ball of fate in another direction, as he’s done a million times before.
His heart starts pounding, visibly, as the wheel’s spinning velocity gradually decelerates infinitesimally.
Bzzzzz… Bzzzzz…!!! Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzz…!!!
Without his gaze swerving even for a second from the wheel, he picks up his phone to his ear.
“Hey, not now, I’m…”
“Run away. You Fool. For your own sake. Towards Me. Now.”