Dear “Craig” – if that is your real name,
Do you remember me? I’m the guy you just conned – nay, stole – almost £500 from at the bar last night. Of course you remember me, you’re probably at home right now throwing my hard-earned money into the air, rolling around in it and laughing at me with all your friends. “Where’d you get that money from,” they’ll ask, to which you’ll reply, “Some rube at McGintey’s last night. I beat him eight straight frames and he still didn’t realise I was a trickster.”
Let me ask you something, Craig – are you proud of yourself? Sure, I might just be some small town “hick” who trusts guys who chew on toothpicks and walk with canes, but I’d like to think I have a little something called ‘civility.’ So you’ll have to excuse me for my ignorance last night, I guess you were too busy thinking about the next gold watch you were going to steal or whether or not to beat down that paraplegic in the corner to think about what really matters in life.
And you know what really stings? You probably would have still taken that money from me without resorting to your little back door shenanigans. Ask anybody, I’m a mediocre pool player at best – it once took a friend and I nearly forty minutes to clear black-ball table. Plus, I’m a reckless gambler, if you’d waited long enough I’d probably have been the one propositioning you – and wouldn’t that have made your victory a little more legitimate?
When I play sports the rewards may not be financial, and they may not have the same historical resonance as all those megastars you see on the television, but is it not defeat all the same? Was I not just as dejected when I’d sobered up to your antics as any professional athlete? There I was, the loser standing small, humbled in defeat. Do you realise how depressing it is when your life can be summed up by the lyrics to an ABBA song? And not just because you know the lyrics to an ABBA song.
You may well have been the winner last night Craig, but let me ask you this: what value does victory have but not that with which we give it? Yes, “victory,” “defeat,” “triumph” and “failure” are all states of mind.
I’m not trying to say I was a winner in our encounter; after all, I did lose £500, paid for eight pints (although I seem to recall you drank very little) and had it not been for my friend Mike would’ve put up my car keys in collateral. But on a far more significant level though, I was truly the winner of our meeting.
What I’m trying to say, Craig, is that victory is a fleeting and transient moment our simple vacuums of life. It’s something that relies so little on skill and so much on providence that one must truly appreciate its fortune. To think, had the pool hall in my hometown not been knocked down when I was a kid I may have become a superb pool player and gone on to humiliate you and every one you care about. Or had you gone to a different bar that night you may have run into someone a little more proactive (violent) than myself, who wouldn’t have taken to defeat so casually.
Just as Olympic athletes train for months – years even – and have their whole lives defined by mere seconds, your good fortune in beating me at pool was one that owes far more to chance than it does my own lack of ability to either pot balls or spot an obvious con artist. Yes, if destiny is that omniscient then I must sit back and accept my fate. I believe it was either Arthur Schopenhauer or Sylvester Stallone who said that a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do; our lives and its inter-crossing paths had already been decided long before we met eyes. When we went cue-to-cue, Craig, it was the inevitable explosion of two mighty planets on a collision course.
Sure, I could’ve noticed that you kept mentioning that you were from “out of town,” or I could have become suspicious that the barman kept calling you “Sharky” – but I didn’t. And just as much as I can’t blame myself, I can’t blame you. Like Napoleon I was destined to fall to and surrender the contents of my wallet to you. There I was, finally facing my Waterloo.
We were always fated for that night, Craig, for it was written in the stars. It’s a night I know I’ll never forget, and I can only ask that you do the same.
I’d still like my money back though,
Luke (the guy at the bar)