I drove home via the pub again, ordered a $4 diet coke that was 80% ice and tasted like formic acid before fumbling my way into the tiny gaming lounge. I sat down in front of Cleopatra, pulled the first $50 note out of my wallet, glanced at the “Is gambling taking over your life” sticker on the machine, sighed and pressed ‘spin’.
Last Wednesday, I had confessed to my wonderful psychiatrist M at our 10:30am appointment that I had started secretly gambling again and had already been on the pokies that morning. She had suggested that my recent gambling behaviour, which for years had been limited only to manic meanderings, was now manifesting because I was just desperately trying to feel something.
When she said that I had disagreed, believing that it was more of a way of trying to numb myself, kill time, zone out to the rhythm of the machine or something. But at that moment, as I pressed the shiny red ‘spin’ button on the last of the $100 I had all but set fire to that afternoon, I realised that she was absolutely right. I was trying to feel something, only it wasn’t working.
I had felt nothing the other morning either. 9am when the doors opened, it was just me and an old guy that the staff knew by name, we nodded to each other in a sad gamblers solidarity and selected our respective places in the gaming lounge, pitifully giving our money away 50c at a time, scouring the rows of moving pictures for patterns, waiting for the elusive ‘big win’.
No, I had felt nothing, no excitement when the machine sang and danced, no disappointment when it’s little ‘click’ sound reminded me it was already out of credit. Nothing, not even the typical round of guilt that follows an unfruitful secret flutter. I walked out of the gaming room, through the double entry doors of the club and to my car where I drove to my psychiatrists office for our fortnightly appointment, she had spoken soothingly and I had just cried, because I was exhausted by the weight of living and I had nothing else to give.
I put my last $1 into the machine and hit spin, the machine swallowed its meal and I glanced over at the ATM for a moment. I reached for my wallet and stopped, I worked out that I had lost over $350 already that week. I had been so good for so long, this was giving me absolutely no pay off, I wasn’t feeling anything and I certainly wasn’t winning anything. No more.
And I walked away. Until next time.