On a frigid New Year's Eve in Times Square, seven stories above the crowd below, which had gathered to usher in the new year, there was a high-stakes underground poker game going on at 1560 Broadway. It was Breezy's game.
Breezy, the 27-year-old, streetwise Irish-American kid from Yonkers, had set it up in a vacant office space which had been rented just for tonight, the colorful stacks of clay chips were exchanging hands in a very lively game. The players were having drinks, reminiscing about the past year, and playing good poker.
The game was Breezy’s own lucrative business which he shuffled from location to location around Manhattan two to three times per week. He had built up a following on the strength of his trusted name. Thanks to the advent of smartphones and the internet his illegal operation had stealth and mobility which past underground game operators could only have dreamed of. In New York, it is unlawful to operate such poker games, although they are technically not illegal to play in.
With a steadily growing list of players, Breezy has no difficulty putting games together for his customers. The average player shows up with $10,000 although the minimum buy-in is only $2,000. On any given night there is easily $100,000 on the table at all times. Most of the players in Breezy’s game are well-heeled businessmen, professionals, and even a few pro athletes.
Breezy deals the game himself with the help of Veronica, his chip runner, and Stacy, a professional escort, whose job is to offer free massages and “take care of” the players in other ways. Breezy nets no less than $6,000 a night from his games. Sometimes much more, and the best part is that it’s all cash.
Breezy has billed tonight’s fully catered game as a big event – a New Year’s Eve celebration. Eight of his biggest customers have been playing each other for hours already as the 12,000-pound ball atop One Times Square is now less than an hour away from dropping. He would have had nine players, but for the fact that New York Jets running back, Jamal Anderson canceled at the last minute.
These were Breezy’s best customers, regulars who provided him with a very comfortable lifestyle. He always went out of his way to make sure that his players were pleased and happy. Tonight, he went even further. Veronica had already placed the Dom Perignon on ice in anticipation of the impending celebration.
Then at 11:09 p.m. there was a knock at the door. This was a cause for alarm so far as Breezy was concerned because his game was by invitation only, and everyone who had been invited was seated around the green felt covered table. Veronica answered the door.
“Who goes there?” the slender brunette wearing a magenta cocktail dress asked through the locked door in her unmistakable Brooklyn accent.
“It’s Nathan. I’m here to take Jamal's place in the game,” replied the man in a deep, deep voice from the other side of the door.
“Jamal? You mean Jamal Anderson, the football player?”
“Yeah, that’s right!”
“Hold on a minute Nathan.”
Veronica gave the full report to her boss. Now Breezy had to make the call. He had Veronica deal the next hand as he answered the door.
Breezy packed a .22 caliber pistol, which he wore in a concealed carry waist holster. As he opened the door, he came face to chest with a huge 6’ 10” 295-pound giant of a man. Like his “friend” Jamal he was an African-American.
“What can I do for you, sir?” Breezy asked the man.
“My name is Nathan. Jamal sent me to take his place in the game,” the hulking man said in his deep voice sounding more like a giant than a mortal.
“Okay, give me a second to call Jamal.” Breezy took his hand off his pistol and removed his iPhone from his waist instead.
The man calmly said, “I think he’s in the Bahamas with his girlfriend to celebrate the New Year, but he did send me with money to play for him.” The imposing figure of a man then opened a waist pack revealing what appeared to be at least two stacked bundles of $10,000 each.
“You see?” The giant man said with a broad smile on his face.
Benjamin Franklin’s resigned facial expression on the face of the one hundred dollar bill was familiar to Breezy. Upon glimpsing the contents of the big man’s pouch, Breezy put his phone away and welcomed him to the poker table like a VIP. Introducing the titan as a friend of Jamal Anderson of the New York Jets. The other players at the table loved the newcomer even more than they loved Jamal Anderson. “Nathan” was by far the worst player at the table, or what they call in poker vernacular - a fish.
“Nathan” was donating chips to everyone. Until five minutes to midnight, when he was dealt a pair of aces, the best-starting hand in poker, and went all in with his last $3,000 only to be called by all the other players who figured they’d just gamble with “the fish.” It was a massive $27,000 pot.
When “Nathan” revealed his hand, there was a gasp of shock and disgust from everyone at the table. On the flop he was good, on the turn he was still holding the best hand, but then came the last card, the river card. It was the deuce of spades, and it cracked Nathan's hand. The player seated on the button just so happened to be holding a pair of deuces and had “rivered” a set. Thus, cracking Nathan's aces, taking all of his money.
The other players at the table began laughing uncontrollably and kidding him over both his poor play and misfortune.
What no one knew, was that the fish’s name wasn’t Nathan. His real name was Hollis Newkirk. Nor was he a friend of New York Jets star running back Jamal Anderson, although Jamal Anderson was now dating his ex-wife. In fact, it was his ex who had informed him of Breezy's game and loaned him the 20k to play, Hollis was a recently released ex-con who had just served an eight-year bid for narcotics trafficking. His real intention was to rob Breezy, and so he did.
"Sorry, assholes! Everybody get up and face the fucking wall with your hands in the air.” The angry giant roared as he brandished a 9mm handgun aiming it directly at Breezy’s face. "I want all your money, and I do mean all of it mother fucker."
Hollis robbed the place and made off with every dollar in the room, $123,000 in all. Just what he needed to get back into the “coke game.” Thus, the new year began horribly for Breezy, but not so bad for Hollis.
The evening was cold, rainy, and damp in Sunnyside, Queens. It was mid-November. Nothing was working in Laura’s life. She was unemployed, suffering from severe chronic pain, and her seven year long - on again, off again - romance had finally come to a disappointing end. The pain in her life had become too much. She couldn’t even sleep at night. Laura had become deeply depressed, and it was time to make it stop.
Even the medications, which had worked before, were failing to give her relief. The hydrocodone was no longer effective in controlling the jabbing pain in her back. The Zoloft had become useless in healing the pain in her soul. Laura had become exhausted by it all.
They say that no one actually wants to commit suicide. Most people who eventually do often have been considering it for quite some time. There is a survival mechanism which most of us have which causes us to want to hang on for at least one more day. Today Laura is two weeks beyond her “one more day” moment. It is another cold, lonely Friday evening and the 38-year-old has tossed in the towel.
Her troubles began three years ago when she was injured while working out at her gym. It seemed like nothing at the time, but it turned out to be a debilitating injury. The pain in her back was so intense that she had no choice but to leave her $31,000 a year job working as a New York City Traffic Agent. Once upon a time Laura even had hopes of becoming a guard on Rikers Island or a police officer, but she didn’t score high enough on the test, and so those dreams died.
What bothered Laura most about resigning from her traffic agent position was that she had been on the job for 11 years, and was only 9 years shy of her retirement. Not to mention the great healthcare benefits, which she could indeed have used in her present condition.
Now she was having financial difficulties to add to all of her other woes. The things she could afford to do before are no longer available to her. What is even more painful is that Teddy, the love of her life, had abandoned her during her darkest hour. She felt jilted and jaded. “Teddy you bastard. I gave you the best years of my life,” Laura thought to herself out loud. She envisioned that by now they would have been married with at least two babies to show for it.
Laura was down to her last $158 when she visited the neighborhood liquor store the night before and spent $30 on a bottle of Death’s Door brand gin. With the gin and a glass in hand, she sat down on the green faux leather loveseat situated in the middle of her relatively large living room. In front of her is a bare wall where her 43-inch television once hung. She sold it on Craigslist to afford groceries for the month. Now she wishes that she hadn’t. It was the only friend she had in the world.
Reaching into the pouch of her blue hooded New York Mets sweater she withdrew a manila envelope into which she had combined 23 large white tablets of hydrocodone and 17 small blue tablets of Zoloft. Taken together with two glasses of gin, Laura knew that she would be on her way to the "great unknown."
Laura downed her first drink of the crystal clear spirit and then poured her second. Now she was feeling numb and relaxed. “This is gonna be easier than I thought,” she said to herself out loud as she poured all 40 tablets into the palm of her right hand.
It had begun raining again. The sound of the raindrops was exceptionally calming for some reason. Laura felt at peace as she gradually emptied the tablets from her hand into her mouth as if they were candy. In that moment she was reminded of one Easter Sunday when she was little and had stuffed her mouth with jellybeans. The thought made her smile. Then she began swallowing the blue and white tablets two and three at a time until they were all consumed. Laura then quickly wash the cocktail down with a generous swig of gin and assumed a fetal position on one side of the couch waiting for the dark angel to arrive.
Six or seven seconds passed, and her phone began ringing, buurrrr, buurrrr, buurrrr. She looked to see who was calling. It was Teddy. Laura smiled and answered it.
"Hello," she said.
“Hi Laura, it’s me, Teddy. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the way I reacted to everything. I need you, and I promise to be here for you.”
All that Teddy heard back from the other side was uncontrollable laughter. Then suddenly the angel of death hung up on him.
Side Note: If you should ever wake up wanting to end your life, there is help available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. Give them time to answer and let's see if you can't discover the strength to continue at least one more day. We need you.
Hi, I'm Lester Patterson,