no clever title



mundane moments in a mundane life
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He wove through the crowd with the unselfconscious grace of the inebriated. The liquid in his half-empty glass listed marvelously at extreme angles with each movement but did not spill. I found this defiance of common sense and the laws of physics hypnotizing. I waited intently for disaster. He raised his arms in an uproarious cheer with the rest of the bar (the lime wedge teetered, but did not fall) and swooped the glass in for a swig. When he put the glass down, his eye caught mine and he gave me a quick upwards head bob—the cool and dudely way of saying hello. I returned a slow nod—the hello of those caught staring. He got a fresh drink and navigated toward where I sat.
He leaned with some relief against the dark wood. He propped a foot on the rail and took a sip. “Well, hello, young lady.”
“And how you do in the tournament?”
“Won some. Lost more.”
“Did you practice?”
“I did.”
“How did you practice?”
“How often?”
“Five out of seven days a week, more when I could afford it. Less when I could not.”
This was how all our conversations began. He already knew my answers. They rarely changed. He raised his glass for another sip but stopped halfway and held it there, suspended. He gazed past me at some distant point. “How long do you practice for?”
This was new. “At least an hour during the week, maybe three or four on the weekends. Why?”
The glass completed its trip and he drank with remarkable speed. He set the empty glass on the inside of the counter. Although he smiled rakishly, his eyes were serious. “One hour is enough to stay where you are. Two hours and you might improve—some.”
The bartender brought him another drink with a stale lime on a plastic spear (likely the same one from the last drink). He tipped the bartender, examined the lime, and then deftly tossed it into a trashcan under the counter at the far end of the bar.
“Three hours, four hours,” he continued, “and you’ll get better for sure.” He paused, and absently stirred the ice in the glass.
“But six to eight hours is where things—become different. You see—you really start to see how it all works. Shots. Spin. Position and—” He caught himself, then exhaled sharply, as if in defeat. “—and when you see it, you’ll want more. Ten hours. Twelve hours. And you’ll get better and better until all you want to do is play. But you know, at eight hours, it’s already a job. More than that, and it’s your life.” He downed his drink. Another appeared automatically.
When he spoke again, his voice was soft, but clear and distinct. “And even then, when it’s your life, it might not be enough to get you where you want to go, to get you everything you want.” He smoothed his shirt reflexively.
He had dressed smartly for this tournament although there had been no dress code. Just another attempt at reinvention, some had said while rolling their eyes, he’ll go back to being a thug soon enough. He ran with a tough crew who trailed trouble. They were all highly talented, and it was generally accepted in wagering society that he—as fine a player as he was, as much as he had won—was the least talented of the group. He was, however, considered to be the most intelligent, the most disciplined, the most likely to make something of himself outside of the game.
He would have preferred to be talented.
“I shouldn’t have told you that,” he said, and he was smiling again. There was a shout at the end of the bar, and the waving around of paper money. He shouted and waved in answer. He stood and stretched. “All right, young lady, they calling me to gamble. You keep practicing. But don’t do the six-to-eight, okay? It ain’t worth it.”
“Yes, sir.”
He knew I was lying.
Then he was gone, weaving through the crowd, trying not to spill his drink, just another person late for work.


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