I'm a fucking depressive. At least I like to think I am. It's hard to tell sometimes. Everyday I sit here listening to the sounds that emanate from the rest of the flats, yet nothing seems to make sense. I sit unconnected to what happens around me, unable to communicate the feelings of decay and loneliness that define my existence. The only problem is that nobody is aware of this situation. To others I appear stable and secure. The façade of happiness travels with me day to day.
It is hard trying to deal with the notion that you are mediocre. No matter what you tell yourself, you realise that you surround yourself with weakness for the purpose of understanding your own levels of unfortunate normality. However no matter how much I come to understand this situation I believe it is important to ignore it.
_ _ _ _ _ _
As I sit in my room looking at the sunshine pouring through the window an important decision comes to the fore - I need to reacquaint myself with normal feelings. I have to rid myself of the emptiness that characterises my engagement with people. I need to find a new beginning, a way that enables me to find some purpose. Gambling has always provided me with the sense of excitement that seems absent from normal life. That rush, the continued sense of not knowing which way the dice will roll attacks right to the core of my personality. I head to the dog track.
I board the tram that heads to the track. Large white behemoths of metal carting all and sundry from place to place. No noise. People sit, looking forlorn out into the passing grey streets. Everyone heading somewhere but with nowhere to go. Always moving. Trams glide. People sit. Life continues.
As I jump off at the stop and walk down the street to the waiting lights and sounds of a Tuesday afternoon track meet I look around at the surrounding houses and contemplate the families inside. The small red brick houses with a grey polluted tinge offer a glimpse of hope - lives of people who exist to support each other. No doubt that they all have problems but at least they can rely on each other to support each other in times of distress. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The gates approach, sounds pound overhead. Yellow, white, blue, the colour of winners and losers appear in front of me as I walk through the turnstiles into the stadium. Alcohol, success, smoke, loss - the sights, sounds and sensations of another day at the track. Life seems good and opportunities lie in wait. Failure seems a distant possibility. The tinny speaker system echoes throughout the stadium announcing the next race.
_ _ _ _ _ _
"That'll be 50 pence love" the counter lady replies.
I take a step back with my tea and look around at the track with its veritable collection of bruisers, nutters and jokers. It is hard to imagine a more entertaining bunch of social rejects. This is where I belong though, amongst the sights and sounds of the race; a special place where everything can briefly come together.
Race three is about to begin and my money is on a lovely little brown mutt, called Streets of Laredo, 3/1. Ten quid on the nose. A woman approaches me. Casual, yet smart, slender with an apologetic air, she is working for a promotions firm offering free samples of a local brew.
"Which one you got your money on?" she enquires.
"Number five, Streets of Laredo" I reply.
"She gonna win?"
"Hope so - otherwise the day is certainly continuing its downward spiral."
I notice a certain tinge of central European accent.
"So where are you from?" I ask.
"Gdansk in Poland".
The music strikes its opening cords, the bell rings and they are off, the race has begun. The dogs stride around the track, delving deep into the dirt, leaving puffs of dust in their wake. As they come around the final bend, Number two, three and five, my baby, are in contention. Neck and neck the three seek to make haste on the fleeing rabbit. As the line draws close Streets of Laredo moves a nose in front and crosses the line to take first place.
"Wow - you won" the Polish girl says turning to me.
I am in an advanced state of excitement. Damn I love to win. Even if it is only 30 quid.
"Yeah, I knew she was a good one - shouldn’t you be trying to promote that stuff to me?" I ask.
"Oh yeah…would you like to try one?"
I take a sip of the new brew looking at my new Polish friend the whole time. Attempting the seduction look. She just smiles. It does not work.
"Not bad to be honest."
"Excellent, tell you friends."
She walks away with a certain swagger. Buttocks swerving in their rhythmic motion. Typical. No chat, as usual. I carry on thinking about what could have been if only I was better. I while away the next two hours drinking tea, placing bets and losing money.
_ _ _ _ _ _
The meet draws to a close. I have lost most of my bets but because of a couple of nice earners I manage to break even. A proper gambler never breaks even. Another hint at mediocrity. Even my gambling is attempted in a controlled manner. Where is my Polish girl? I wonder what she is doing? I contemplate perhaps the biggest loss of the day.
With those thoughts on my mind I walk back through the turnstiles and into the desolate car park. A few battered empty Volvo's and Astra's awaiting their returning owners. The rain begins to fall with those fine, hazy droplets. The wind blows hard against my rapidly sodden coat as I stare at the dim orange light of the streets in front of me. I put my head down and continue towards the tram stop.