*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
I was minding my own business, playing the slots at the local casino, when an older man sat next to me and struck up a conversation. Clutching my fistful of twenty-dollar bills more tightly in my hand, I continued playing while trying to hold up my end of the conversation.
Most of what the man said was lost on me. I didn't trek forty minutes from home for conversation; I just wanted to gamble.
The conversation eventually wound its way to whether I was married. I should have replied in the negative. Instead, I said simply, "I'm divorced."
My admission earned me both a lecture about being a divorced woman and a heartfelt prayer for God to forgive me for what the stranger called, "the sin of being divorced."
How could leaving a man who failed to love, honor, and obey me possibly be a sin? My ex-husband treated me terribly. He treated me in ways most civilized folks would not dare to treat their worst enemies.
Now, I was being called a sinner at a casino for leaving him? Yes, that's exactly what happened.
After I admitted to "the sin of being divorced," my unwelcome companion asked if we could say a prayer together. I agreed, not because I wanted to say a prayer in the middle of playing games at a casino, but because I didn't know how to say, "No."
He squeezed my hands, and I squeezed my money. He asked me to close my eyes, and I lowered my eyelids just enough so I hoped I looked like my eyes were closed but I could still see our hands.
I couldn't help but wonder if this was a trick, but it wasn't.
We both bowed our heads, and the man led us in prayer about what I terrible person I was for getting a divorce. He carried on and on until I wanted to scream.
I couldn't believe a man was shaming me at the casino for being divorced. He was at a casino! Surely, he could have found something else to worry about, like his gambling.
Just when my anxiety was peaking, and I thought I would have to wrench myself away from him physically, the stranger stopped praying. "Amen," he said, and he was done.
We said our goodbyes, and I turned back to my slot machine. My hands were sweaty and some of the sweat wasn't even mine. I didn't like it, but I couldn't turn away from my game. Not yet.
Eventually, I pulled myself away from the slot machine and went into the bathroom to wash my hands. Then I set up shop in a different section of the casino, hoping that stranger wouldn't find me again and think of something else about my life to condemn me for.
I did not see him again.
What would you have done? Comments are welcome.
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