“Aces only win when they’re played right.”

I remember hearing this as a child, never really sure what it meant, but knowing it was a thing I needed to heed from the elders that said it.

I was manipulative when I was younger. I lied a lot, for reasons only a therapist would understand and was a master at redirection. I don’t know that I meant to be, but I felt I needed to be, that lying and manipulation were among the tools I needed to be able to wield so I could make it through. I controlled my boyfriend. I ran my mouth and never got into fights over it. I kept a second string of niggas on the roster just in case my man messed up. They went over and above for me even though they knew I had a man. Because I had them like that.

But I didn’t like me much.

I could always read people, study them closely, say the right thing at the right time, and watching either their arrogance provide me cover or their confidence waiver, depending on which I intended. Aces. I always pulled the right card at the right time. They’d be in awe of me. Wondering how I’d read them so well so easily. Who was I to get to them?

I also remember the saying, “Mystery is like rope. You only need to give people just enough and they will hang themselves.”

My timing was impeccable.

But I didn’t like me very much back then. I wanted someone to do things for me, not because I’d manipulated them into it but because they wanted to. So, I stopped. And just started to be me. No subtle manipulations, no subconscious persuasions. I just let me be me and dealt with whoever came on that honest level.

But sometimes I think honesty can only get you so far. Because many times when you’re honest, about who you are, about your faults, about your fears, some will hold it against you like a knife at your throat. They’ll exploit your fears, blame situations on you that have no bearings on the truth you’ve presented them. Many times, they’ll use this truth against you, convince you that your feelings are void because of your fears, blame their failures on your faults.

Not all, but some.

At least when I had control over things, I wasn’t getting hurt. No, not hurt. Devastated. Well-timed aces cut cards, never get cut.

And I’m getting better everyday.

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