One Reply to “1.24.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. He’s old enough now that I don’t have to let him win. Not like when he was a boy and I could push him to be better than he was. Back then I often gave him the lift of triumph when it was not earned – more often than the fall of loss. Now we sit down as equals and the game is what it is and he wins by merit, or I do.

    He lives in a city far from his home. The air is always warm there and the streets are so hot underfoot they seem to melt and run like water runs, and lemons and oranges grow on trees at every corner. He is a teacher, as I was once. There’s a class at the university where he is and it’s his class. He is doing well enough, he tells me, and he is happy; and there’s a girl he sleeps with, though I do not yet know her name and he does not mention her. If you look there are signs of her in his apartment, and beside the bed he has given up to me for the three days of my stay. I do not ask.

    He is happy, he says again.

    Once, there was a time I knew everything about him. I knew the way his mind worked, the thoughts that gathered in his head. And I could read his mood in the set of his lips or the shift and shape of his shoulders. Now he reads me. He is happy, he says and I am to be satisfied with this.

    I tell him his mother sends her love. He does not make reply or show that he has heard. I tell him he should call her more often. I try to make my words soft and indifferent. I say she waits only to hear from him. He shrugs and sorts the chess pieces on the board. He smiles when it is done and I do not know if it is the setting of the pieces that he smiles at or the thought of his mother waiting; or maybe he smiles to reassure me that he will do something of what I am asking.

    He lets me be white and I have the opening move. I shift a pawn away from the king. He nods, as if he expected me to do as I have done. He is quick to make his move. A dog barks at a passing car and is called to heel by a man who wears a vest and no shirt. A small girl is singing and fussing over her plaited hair. A woman smokes a cigarette and she makes a show of it, like she is in a film and the camera is on her.

    The game unfolds and the afternoon only gets hotter. I do not really pay attention to how he is playing. I am thinking of the girl he does not mention and trying to understand why he would keep her from me. He said he was happy and I do not know what that means. I am careless with my queen, but he does not punish me for it. I understand something then; I understand that today he is letting me win.

    Afterwards, he takes me to a café for a beer and something to eat. He pays for everything and pushes my money back into my pocket as if I am being silly. We sit opposite each other and he nods and smiles and he says it is really good that I came. He says he is so pleased to see me. He is shifting pieces across a board again. It is all we have now that I don’t really know him.

    It was his mother’s idea that I come, and now I am here I don’t know why it was she suggested I visit. I want to say that and to say again that he should call her, but I don’t – that move has been played. He sits back and blows air out of his cheeks and we wait in the breathless quiet for our beers to come. I am glad he is happy and that there is a girl; it is something I can take back to his mother. It is something.

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