If only I had left the table in time. If only I had been less stubborn. The game was a losing battle and under his incorruptible air, the croupier saw right through me. Never two without three. Luck turns. Jinx, that’s another story. I live on Rue des Solitaires on the ground floor of a four-story building, so all I have to do is step over my window to get out. Other than the ones above me, my neighbours are generally lovely. It’s only the little girl on the first floor that annoys me, with her habit of throwing water bombs at passersby. When I’m her target, I barely manage to keep my cool. I wouldn’t even go to this trouble if her father wasn’t a strapping nutcase. What kills me is not the silliness of the situation. It is to meet her dark, bored gaze behind the steamed-up window to which she pastes her voodoo-doll face. Outside, I wander all day, picking up whatever I find. Cigarettes, bits of glass, pieces of paper. Never money – it’s bad luck. At night, the café across the street keeps me awake. The blame lies with the cherry-red neon light that flashes on the ceiling until dawn. I don’t complain. Besides, I usually avoid falling asleep for fear of drowning in a pool of grenadine. I do go to the café from time to time. It’s an ordinary bar-tabac with a zinc counter, formica tables, leather benches, regulars and a predictable menu where the safest option is always a Croque-Monsieur with fries. Nothing to report besides that the old spotted mirrors in the back room, behind the pinball machine, don’t reflect reality, at least not exactly. The differences are slight and you have to be attentive to spot them, which is rare among people these days. It’s as if they always have better things to do than just doing nothing. For me, it’s the other way around: I have all the time in the world. And I mostly use it to eat cat’s tongue cookies while looking around me. At the walls of my bedroom, for instance. If I stare at them long enough, they move. I swear they’re moulting. One day, their skin wrinkles like sand at low tide; the next, odd blisters leave marks as deep as a crater on the moon. Sometimes, the mauve and sage veils of an aurora borealis sweep the room that, only yesterday, disappeared under the charred edges of a thick meringue riddled with candied fruits. It’s beautiful but sad because, deep down, I think they’re ashamed. Ashamed of being who they are, flat and peeled. So they overdo it. I know this feeling, and I would not wish it on anyone. “Just grin and bear it,” whispered a fake in my ear, just before winning the bet. Another one on which fortune hasn’t worked too hard. I wanted to see him fold, him and the others. I wanted to pluck them all. Bottom line, my pockets are empty. I will make my money back, for sure. For now, I keep quiet, I stay busy. I train myself to count on nothing and no one. I get great satisfaction from it, close to the one I get from cotton buds. One more thing, I fiddle with washing capsules. Feeling them swell as I squeeze them between my fingers until they burst takes my mind off things. Like the mirrors in the café: they don’t reflect what is going on, but what is about to happen. The lag is subtle: eight, ten seconds top. Most customers see nothing. A few, and not necessarily the smartest, get it straight away. What they ignore, however, is that changing the deal is impossible. They always end up acting as the mirror predicts. From my unmade bed, I see strange vegetables by a bouquet of lilies.