Sitting on the balcony, the sun fading behind us, a game of checkers in front of us.
I always play black. Opening move. Turn the board around. Your move.
I knew you were going to do that. Red moves.
Sheesh, you can’t even give me the opening move without commenting? Black moves.
You’re so predictable.
Only because you’re me, and I’m you. If you weren’t in my head, you wouldn’t know what I was planning. There. See how you handle that.
Hey, if you want your cunning strategy to be less transparent, go play with someone else. Red jumps black, and…capture.
Mom’s busy. There’s no one else to play with.
I meant away. With other people.
I don’t need other people, I have you.
You don’t have me, you are me.
What’s the difference? Black jumps red.
There’s no difference between us. That’s precisely my point. Don’t you want to talk to someone else once in a while? Red moves.
Why would I want that?
You’re so full of it. I know you inside and out. You just don’t want to get hurt again.
You know what? I do wish I had a friend.
That way I could stop talking to you. King me.
Ah, but that would require talking to someone else. A companion. A counterpart. An unknown quantity. Who would say things you wouldn’t expect and do things you weren’t used to. Maybe introduce you to new ideas or even…gasp…different games. Your move.
Are you trying to encourage me or scare me off?
Just managing expectations.
You sound like my therapist. Black moves.
Whatever. So? Are you up for dealing with new and unexpected things? Red captures three!
What if it’s something I don’t like?
What if it’s something you do like?
But what if it’s something I don’t like?
Well, then, you’ll have a few images in your head you’d rather not, but that’s nothing new. And you’re under no obligation to pretend you like something you don’t.
That’s not what everyone else has always told me, ever.
Well, it’s true. And they’re under no obligation to like everything about you, either. You can still get along. Even be friends.
Yeah, right. How often has that actually happened?
I’ve got a whole list. Number one, in kindergarten, when you and Mike used to play all the time. Number two, in first grade, you had three friends, and none of them loved space the way you did, but you still had fun together. Number three, in…
You made a list?
Good. Because if you’re surprised, we have a problem. Anyway, number three…
I get your point.
Do you? Because we’re sitting here playing checkers by ourselves. Again. It’s not a particularly expansive game. King me.
What do you want from me? Besides all my pieces. How’d you capture so many? Are you cheating?
If I am, you’d have been the first to notice. And I want you to go into the world and meet people and talk to them. Pick one or a few you like, and then disappear into their life entirely.
Connect. Engage. You don’t have to become codependent. Sheesh.
I’ve tried meeting new people, remember? It’s a waste of time and effort and just makes me feel worse about myself.
If you’d let me continue my list into middle and high school…
You’d what, remind me how many times I’ve been rejected? Capturing three reds. Take that.
This is a list of positive encounters. And it does have entries for those years. And for college. And the decade or so since.
Are you my mother now?
No. Just you. I can see all the things you don’t want anyone else to see. In all the places in your head that you never show anyone. The things you don’t even like looking at yourself. And you know what? Some of those are positive memories, and good feelings, and hopes.
I have a theory.
I don’t care.
I think you avoid the good memories because they remind you of how it felt when your dreams got stomped on in the past.
I’m not listening.
Oh, but you are. I’m all you’re thinking about.
What makes you so confident?
That phone number in your pocket. And how easily I’m racking up your black pieces.
What phone number?
Don’t play dumb with me. You’ve been thinking about it nonstop for days. It’s why I’m here.
Are you gonna play the game or not?
He likes you. You both like astronomy. You’ve talked at several meetings and events. Give him a call.
If I call him, will you leave me alone?
Nope. But I will help you through it.
Okay, say for a minute I did call him, we get together once or twice, do some stargazing, everything seems fine, I get my hopes up, but at some point he’s going to get sick of me. It always happens.
Do you want to hear my list again?
Fine. Most of the time.
Basically, you have two choices. You can take a chance. Maybe it’ll pay off, maybe it won’t. Or you can loose at playing checkers against yourself for the rest of your lonely life. That was your last piece.
Wow, you go dark really fast.
I learn from the best. So? What do you want?
Mom opened the sliding glass door, “Dinner’s ready.”
“Be right there.”