A Dream That Came True
By: Gabi Kovalenko
My dream was to win the lottery someday. I didn’t want a $15 scratch off teasing me to go for the big win. I knew I was destined to win the jackpot, and it was no illusion of my desire.
No one plays the lottery, gambles, or bets without reason. You don’t need to seek more if you already have everything you need. I had nothing to lose, so I gave everything in my life to inch closer to my target. I could not fathom how long the wait would take me, but not a living soul could convince me I wouldn’t win when the right time had come.
Those who knew me had a wholehearted laugh every time they faced my auspicious nature. “Get a therapist, Milton,” “you just need a break from work,” “stop screwing up your life”- these were the consolatory messages I received from people closest to me who could not even develop a subtle understanding of the constant state of fear I was living in. My addiction to the lottery engulfed my very existence. I could not miss a week without getting ticket 11-24-41-59-64, and my attachment to these five numbers became vital. Every Thursday evening, I would run into the gas station just minutes from my rental to get the Powerball ticket I feared, for some reason unbeknownst to me, they would have already sold.
My father was a gambler, so I grew up knowing loss and disappointment. My parents taught me to be a hard-worker, and my father instilled in me the fear of failure. “Don’t be as stupid as I was, son,” he would tell me, “don’t repeat my mistakes.” My father was a naïve man. Sure, money ain’t doing nothing on trees, but when a million bucks is only five numbers away, I thought the opportunity couldn’t be avoided. When I set myself to the ritual of Thursday lottery buying, I became addicted to the tickets like a drug. I trembled to check the winning numbers every week, and I kept a collection of the 341 identical slips of paper, cumulatively, that I purchased religiously.
One week in November, I had forgotten to pick up my ticket in time. The following days turned into a living hell. Perhaps I could have won if not for my ignorance and lack of attention. Yes, I might have won the lottery a while ago! It was excruciating to forgive my own stupidity, but I transitioned from week to week, continuing to purchase tickets until the withdrawal exited my mind.
One person understood me. A coworker, friend, personal counselor… who wasn’t this girl to me? Barb had a way of giving me hope and making me feel less like a loser every time the lottery drawing came around.
We met at work one day; she was a bright girl straight out of school looking for a stable job to fund her future. When I pushed out of my cubicle one day and we met eyes, I felt drawn to the innocent young woman, but little did I know we would soon share our lives together. The job was a source of income, but we hardly made anything for ourselves filing papers and taking phone calls every day. When Barb moved in with me, we dreamt of traveling the world, becoming successful businesspeople, garbed in designer outfits and accessories, with a beautiful, large family and lots of money to enjoy our independent lives. For a few years, we worked in the same office building together, busying ourselves with our 9-5 job, and coming home to find hope in our dreams and united wishes.
Then an incredible thing happened. Barb’s only sister, a 22 year old college student, bought a winning lotto ticket and just like that, she landed $50,000. She was not a frequent player, nor did she have any true belief in being a winner. When we heard the news, it was hard to believe the miracle occurred within our own family circle. This was a story Barb and I would expect to hear only on television, and it took us weeks to fully assimilate the fact that her family became $50,000 richer.
For her secluded Idaho family, the chunk of money was beyond a dream. They owned a small ranch, making only enough for themselves and the maintenance of their farmland, cattle, and chickens. Barb and her sister, Donna, traveled far from home to escape the rural environment they grew up in, only to find themselves in radically different places, Barb in Los Angeles and Donna in Tennessee, leaving their aging parents to run the family ranch without any help. Donna graciously gave the lottery winnings to her family, knowing they needed it most.
The incident sparked a fire in our thoughts and illuminated the bridge to our dreams of the future. “Why don’t we give the lottery a go sometime?” I asked Barb. “What makes your sister luckier than us?” Barb was reluctant, saying it was a bad idea to risk our only money on a sparse chance to become rich. I didn’t believe it. From that point on, I became obsessed with the lottery.
My dreams escalated. I imagined hosting a grand party to celebrate me and Barb’s victory, even though everyone I knew doubted it could happen to me. It seems unluckiness ran in my blood. Six car accidents, seven stolen wallets, four broken ribs, and a childhood of crushed dreams due to my unsuccessful gambling father summarizes the hardships of my life. I knew it had to get better…I knew my luck would come one day.
What if I didn’t win though? Maybe everyone was right about my misfortune. I had to back myself up with a greater chance for success. The weekly paycheck I got was for $280. I decided to use 1/4 of my earnings on my luck, $70 every week to purchase various tickets, including my lucky five number Powerball I still believed would be the big winner.
It took me months to begin to notice the subtle anguish of Barb. Instead of walking home together from work, I began to diverge to the Mobil gas station just a few minutes away to buy my tickets of luck. Some nights I would come home late, stopping by my friends to watch a late-night baseball game and share a drink or two. Still, Barb being the angel she was, always waited for me with dinner on the table and a loving heart, but I was pushing the limits.
I began to feel a boundary grow between us and it seemed there was a diminishment of life in her eyes. All I wanted, more than anything in the world, was to hit the jackpot and share the money with the love of my life.
It was a cold, April evening. I was running to the gas station as usual, to pick up my lottery ticket and head home to check on Barb. She didn’t want to go to work that morning and stayed home to rest for the day. I crossed the illuminated streets of L.A. as chilling raindrops scattered over my body, urging me to come home.
“Same as usual, Milton?” the gas station owner asked me, “Yeah, but I think I’ll take this one too,” gesturing at a jackpot instant win ticket. It was already past 6:00, and I wanted to see Barb before I upset her with another tardy evening arrival. I approached the ticket scanner and held out the new ticket I decided to try out. I was tired, hungry, and cold. It wouldn’t happen today.
I looked up. My tranquil state was disrupted by the sound of a high-pitched ringer. The plastic indicator above the clerk’s computer monitor lit up and began flashing wildly. “You WON! YOU WON THE JACKPOT!” he exclaimed. I stood there, my head spinning and my eyes running in converging directions. It’s hard to describe the feeling.
I felt a wave of heat run through my blood, then I began trembling as a reaction of my emotional overload. To be quite honest, I can not remember what I told the gas station owner next; I shoved the lottery tickets into my pocket and I began running home.
The raindrops transformed into a downpour of freezing rain, and I had to run with squinting eyes to see where I was going. I won the lottery. I could not believe it.
In the midst of my scurry back home, I decided to stop by a pizzeria to get dinner. Since I wasn’t sure if Barb was up to preparing supper, I figured it would be a pleasant surprise to celebrate with her favorite pizza. I waited for the extra-large supreme pizza pie and darted home with the box under my jacket in the pouring rain.
In just a few minutes I made it to the steps of my condo, and I proceeded to sprinting up the stairs to the door of my unit. Halting to consider how I would announce the news to Barb, I consolidated the thought that it would be a joyous moment regardless of how I chose to say “we won”.
I gingerly creaked the door open. The apartment was dark and cold, and I felt a breeze hit my face when I walked in. A window was open in the living room. The lights were off. Nobody was at home.
“Barb…Barb are you here?” I called out. I searched the apartment, hoping she was quietly waiting for me in the bedroom or taking a shower, but all was still.
I dropped the pizza box on the kitchen counter and sat on the wooden stool. My heart was already aching. For the last three years, Barb would greet me at home every evening, waiting with my favorite dinner and a smile on her face. Today was different. I trudged around the rental, my heart pounding with every breath I took. Suddenly I flash of white caught my eye, a piece of paper on the living room floor. I placed myself on the laminate floor to read it:
I apologize for doing this to you. You are a good man with a strong soul.
Perhaps it is my wrong for leaving, or your ambition that caused the silent war between us.
I knew you would never win that cursed lottery, and I could no longer support your degrading addiction.
Don’t search for me because I assure you we will never see each other again. I have been searching for a new life ever since you began testing your luck. You can’t live in lieu of a dream because only you can make it real.
Thank you for helping me build up to my own dreams.
“I won the lottery!” I yelled, “Everyone, I won the lottery!” but of course nobody heard or cared to know.
The next day, I packed a suitcase and arranged for a private car to pick me up. I was going to the lottery redemption center to cash out, in full, my winnings. If this was the way it was going to be, I wasn’t planning on telling anyone.
I stared out the tinted window of the car and thought about life in a way I never thought of it before. “It’s all a game,” I thought, “a brutal game, and I’m past the point of no return.” I didn’t know what would happen tomorrow or the day after, but I departed from my past because I would make sure never to return to it.
It’s a funny thing, I won the lottery, and I wished I hadn’t.