It was the first time we were meeting
and she'd already asked me to rescue her--
more to do with the balding forty-something
seated at her left near the TV
than my own be-denimed measure.
"He called me a racist," she said at introduction
referring to politics he'd foolishly brought up.
His Boston accent hit my shoulder blades
reminding me of our prior acquaintance
at the bar across the street months back.
An Adderall bookie real estate mogul.
A wet dream of Big Pharmaceutical.

"Let me buy your first drink," he implored.
"I've insulted your lady and I'm very superstitious."
He was wrong about half.
I tried to joke my way out of his money
but he insisted, I was too tired to fight.
I pictured her naked
while listening
to her talk about her kids
(since that's what dating is)
until she left to pick them up.

"My girlfriend moved out today," he sobbed
into his lager. "My friends bet me
25-to-1 that she isn't coming back.
The bastards know I can't resist.
Do you think she's coming back?"
A pile of taproom lottery tickets
sprawled out among his currency
sang an affirmation.
"How many times in how long?"
I asked.
"Four times in a year."
"There's your answer."

"One more," I told the barkeep
not wanting to stay, but feeling for his addiction.
He hinted at pool hustling.
I played him, for free, and chastised
his letting me win.
"You're no fun," I told the shark
after every intentional scratch.
"I want to give you long shots.
I want you to feel good."
Uneasy eyes burned deep
so I offered to drive him
to the gin mill where he swindles.

In the lot we saw my landlords.
The brothers smoked thick Turkish cigarettes
while their boys photographed two new vehicles.
My intended passenger tried placing bets
about racing with a car he didn't own.
I saw their Eastern European disdain
for this cripple of a sinner
and pulled him away towards my truck.
"I'm sorry," he repented
when I told him
that baiting teenagers was wrong.

Outside the pool hall
in the dome light of my truck
I reminded him--David--
that she'd left him for his vices.
"There's good in you. Don't fill the void."
He shook my hand three times
and went to beat some fools
since that is what he does.

I found out, hours later
that she can't ever have kids.
A gamble--meeting people--
since that what dating is.

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