The Gambler, by Travis Lilach

        We were only seven when we sat next to a fire watching Casablanca.  We didn’t understand a single line, but we liked the black and white and we liked the end.  And when Bogie leaned in to a kiss with Ingrid, all you said, as if to the distant kissing gods, was, “I want that.”  And so I gave you everything I knew, and I pecked you on the cheek. 

            And you wanted adventure because you wanted to meet Indiana Jones.  And although I didn’t have a hat, whip or gun, I gave you all I had and held your hand in a playground full of cooties.  And they laughed at us, and we had to hide from our friends, but I held you crying on my shoulder and I reminded you that Indiana wasn’t always happy, but he always had an adventure.  And so we went on holding hands and smiling as they laughed. 

            And when you discovered boys, every boy but me, I found the boy you asked for, and I put you together.  And when he hurt your fragile heart, I gave you what you needed, my Indiana shoulder.  And although I never told you, I gave him what he needed, too, and he went home with an Indiana bruise. 

            Every winter I gave you exactly what you needed as I froze with no mittens, coat or hat.  We were barely 18 when I made sure you were the warmest girl in the state.  And when you asked me to dance, although I didn’t know a single step, I spent seven months learning.  Because you needed fun and I needed to give you everything I had. 

            And we were in our twenties when you wanted roses, and so I spent my savings, and I bought you a flower shop.  And you needed a ring to match your eyes, so I gave you everything you needed, and we were wed in a field of silly dreams.

            And we saw mommies and their babies, and you told me what you wanted, and I tried and tried and tried, but it ended in three years of nothing, and I couldn’t give you what you wanted.  The doctors said not to blame each other, and I held you on my shoulder, and you still blamed me.  And suddenly we did nothing but argue and I was confused and you weren’t sure what you wanted anymore.  I learned to eat in silence until the day you cried to me and filed those awful papers.

            You needed space, and so I moved to Wisconsin. 

            I had a beard that I didn’t really need, and you called me up and told me what you wanted and I sold my house and shaved my beard and jumped on a plane to find you.  We sat by that fire and you looked me up and down and told me what you needed, and it’s all I’d ever needed to hear.

            “I need you,” you said. 

            And I gave you everything I have.

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