The romanticism of chess
I wanted to write a dissertation, but the connective tissue of the dissertation did not interest me. I wanted to return memories that would pop up like mushrooms and quickly fade away. I owe a lot to where I grew up, in a black neighborhood where people talked and spent time on the porch and in the corner, just like my brothers and their friends as they smoked weed. , drank Mickey Big Mouths and Heinekens, and talked all the time about the craziness of Vietnam, the nuclear war, and HP Lovecraft, and from there they embarked on the adventures of the neighborhood’s many memorable characters. I tried to do it here. A new opus will be released here every Saturday this and next month.
My high school girlfriend dumped me as soon as she arrived at UCSB and realized she could do better. She was attractive and lean in an era when being lean was perhaps the most important attribute for popularity in a university surrounded by beautiful beaches and populated by students strutting in bikinis and other rare swimwear.
Although I haven’t heard from him, I had fantasies about us getting back together, staying together, and having a family and all that. I thought I might win her heart again, but realized it was hopeless when she started to tan. It was proof that she had passed to the other side. We were courteous and sometimes saw each other in the outbuildings for lunch. We have been quite polite.
My little Layne always saw her sister Justine. They were an attractive couple in appearance and intelligence. He was reading the encyclopedia of philosophy for fun, and she was just as smart and serious about entering medical school. They shared a strong love affair. She didn’t care about his dedication to getting a chess master’s grade, even if that meant he would crawl out her bedroom window after his mother fell asleep – as much to be with her as to study the games of Kasparov. Fortunately for them, his mother was a heavy sleeper. His concentration was threatened when his aunt grew fed up with seeing him spending all of his time playing chess ten hours a day and mostly ignoring his homework as he prepared for a chess competition that could propel him to the rank of master. He didn’t care about school because he was actually a very smart guy and he could put him together to complete the required schoolwork, play basketball and practice chess and hang out with the sister. of my old girlfriend. I was surprised to get a call from her while I was home for a weekend. It was a succinct conversation, and that didn’t imply that she wanted me to be in her life.
“Your best friend is at my mom’s and he won’t be leaving.”
“I heard he was using drugs to help him focus on a chess tournament and he was going crazy. He refuses to leave, and my sister takes her side. Could you please go there before my mom calls the police on him? “
She started to cry and started begging me to make him go away. It was a strange position. She dumped me for a guy who had a withered arm and had been caught in a fire before, so he had weird facial scars. Somehow his scars made me doubt my own attractiveness, or maybe the guy had a really winning personality. I always wanted to be with her, so maybe if I made my crazy chess player buddy, she would want to start over with me. It was worth a try. Ever since my friend became an engaged and competitive chess player, he hasn’t had time to hit him on the porch and eat hot Cheetos and those weird off-brand tamales, speaking of sci-fi novels. and where to find the blowjob scene in Dahlgren.
I borrowed my mom’s car and drove to Ladera Park, which some thought was the next Baldwin Hills where black people with cash moved to get seriously upscale. This was also the place where my girlfriend’s stepdad shot a shotgun at us to be in the kitchen with his stepdaughters while they cooked hot dogs and fries. I was paralyzed with fear but my girlfriend bombed him, disarmed his ass and smashed the shotgun on the sidewalk. And I knew then that women were the stronger half of the gender gap.
Now it was all over between us, except for this last meeting which might change something and she would like me to come back.
I knocked on the door of their house in Ladera Park and my girlfriend’s sister answered and I could tell they did it, you know, like they weren’t going upstairs to breathe. And because of the sweet smell of air freshener and the bitter smell of cheap weed, they were happily settled. I was happy for them but he had to go. If the police rolled, his butt would curl up.
“Hey,” he said, and his eyes took a minute to focus.
“I’m glad you woke up because you have to get out of here.” “
” What why ? I have a chess competition and I have to concentrate.
My girlfriend’s sister nodded as if she had drunk the Kool-Aid with it. I thought about my girlfriend and how pretty and smart she was, and really wanted to get back with her, so I started lying like you do when nothing else works. My boy had set up the chess board and opened a big chess book and started running through the openings. Her ass wasn’t going to listen to reason, so I knew I had to lie. The whole time I was there he was trying to light a joint, but he was having trouble lighting it, so I assumed he had smoked more than a few bowls already. Finally, he turned it on and inhaled deeply as he went through the chess set-ups.
It was hopeless. He had found happiness in my old maid’s house, and he was never going to leave, and I would never find my old girlfriend again. Then it occurred to me what I should do. When in doubt, lie down.
“Dude, she’s going to smoke the house in the morning and you’re going to be trapped inside with it all.” “
Now I had his attention. ” You must go there ! “
“Maybe,” he said, looking annoyed. He got dressed and I thought I had managed to get him out of my ex-girlfriend’s house. He grabbed his backpack and put on his B-Ball t-shirt and shoes, and just as he walked out the door, he turned to me and shook his head angrily.
“I don’t believe her. This woman is always cooking up things to interrupt my preparation.
“You don’t want to be here if they try this place and start spraying poison.”
” I am not going ! He said and threw himself on the bed.
Like I said before, my friend was a tall, lanky basketball player who wore basketball shorts almost all the time. Somehow, in his anger, he forgot he didn’t have a jock, or even tight blanks. Under those basketball shorts, he only had his bare ass.
As soon as he landed on his girlfriend’s bed, his face changed from paranoid rage to agony. He screamed as if he had been stabbed and was about to die. Then to turn up the theatrical aspect, he curled up in the fetal position and moaned in pain.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, but didn’t really want to know.
“I twisted them,” he gasped.
“What’s wrong? “
“My nuts and I sat on it.”
My girlfriend’s sister rushed out of the room and came back just as quickly with the car keys. She took his arm and helped him up from the bed and led him all leaning towards his mother’s car outside. She carefully helped him into the car as he continued to moan in pain. I had to fight not to laugh. I watched them walk away just as her mother stepped out screaming that her daughter had stolen her car.
Although I managed to get my old best friend out of her mom’s house, my high school girlfriend still kicked me on the sidewalk. I recovered, but still don’t understand the evolutionary benefit of having large testicles.
Jervey Tervalon was born in New Orleans and raised in Los Angeles, and received his MFA in Creative Writing from UC Irvine. He is the author of six books, including Understand this, for which he won the New Voices award from the Quality Paper Book Club. He is currently Executive Director of Literature for Life, an educational advocacy organization, and Creative Director of Pasadena LitFest. His latest novel is Monster boss.