Maddie Chang | Art by Emma Ha

It starts with a kaleidoscope of colors, streams of neon that flicker through the window, inviting him to dance. 

He knows he’s not supposed to go back into the Casino. Yet, the building, stuffed with empty promises of glory and riches, stands so very tall in front of him. 

He knows he’s not supposed to go back in. The money sitting in his front pocket is for the bank; to be deposited in a safe space for this month’s bills. He knows he’s not supposed to go back in, that his wife would drag him by the collar and rip him a new one–maybe even leaving him for good, this time. He envisions his children’s faces, a heart-wrenching look of disgust they’ll give him if they find out he even thought about gambling away money meant for their college funds. 

He knows. 

But the bright lights and checkered floors, with the thrums of people humming so loud, he can’t help but stop in front of it. A magnetic force pulls him closer, a quiet voice with comforting arms, locking him in place so he really has no other option than to go in. It’s the apple that tempted Eve, one so enticing and sweet, being dangled right in front of him. He steps in, and– 

* * * 

He is a simple man; you can tell by the slight wrinkles on his shirt, since his wife isn’t here to iron them out. The small pieces of lint that appear after years of wear, clothing that’s seen every meeting, every work party. Everything is a sore-thumb in this clean-pressed room, and a reminder of every belittlement she has ever given him–every time she has thrown shirts at his face in refusal to clean, calling him worthless. It’s out of place under the fluorescent lights, entrenching the workers and players in a ring of glow like they are centers of the world. The mothers on their one day off, drowned in luxury, the men who hide their debt behind too-large mustaches and forced smiles. Maybe he does have the debt and the tiredness to match the others, but none of the splendor as a mask to hide behind. 

His fingers gently brush against the green in his pocket. He wants to, needs to, breathe in every moment and become part of this world. And since streams of money seem to be flowing out and right back into the players’ hands, he might as well do the same. Carpe diem, right? Take the risk. Take the risk. 

He approaches the workers, who deal out cards and lives with skillful flicks of the wrist like nothing in the world matters, saying, “I want in.” A single 20 is tossed on the table, before the roulette spins, red black red black and the red. 

Fingers tap in rhythm with the tick of each number, and he waits, waits, until finally– It stops on his number. 

And that’s the greenlight he needs before throwing the rest of the money down. * * * 

The feeling is a euphoria of colors, that same kaleidoscope, but this time drowning out all thoughts in his head so that he can’t help but pour more and more money on the table; pouring his future, his kid’s lives, and any chance of salvation. But with every peak, with every high, there is always the aftermath that comes crashing down.

“20,000 on red, eighteen,” he says, slamming bills on the table with a madman-like smile. His hair is a bird’s nest of unkempt strands, with his eyes devoid of any thought or logic, and confidence oozing after hours of endless winning. He always won back any insignificant amount lost. He’d stop after this round, he promises. He’ll answer his wife’s calls that vibrate quietly in his back pocket eventually, he’ll return home a hero with enough money to change their lives. 

It’s a dance with fate and he’s the one leading. Take the risk. Take the risk. The roulette stops on green.