February 6th, 2016
“What made you decide to come over?” my Dad asked me. He had taken one of my knights and both my rooks, placed them within a little box he’d made with martini picks.
I shrugged and pushed my lower lip up, the way I’d seen him do so many times in my life. I was looking at the board trying to see if I was playing into some strategy I couldn’t see. Or if I was just unlucky.
“No idea?” he asked.
“I saw a picture of a girl playing chess with her father on Twitter. It just made me miss this,” I said. When my father and I used to play, it was never overlooking Friday rush hour. If someone had told me as I child I would be doing so now, it would have depressed me. But there was something to the red and white candy-cane lighting of the 8 highway that offset the blue of early evening. There was something about knowing it may only ever happen once.
“Your mother called.”
“No, she didn’t,” I said reflexively.
“Did you tell her I’m dying?” Pulling my hands away from the board, I leaned back into the lawn chair atop his patio-roof. Massaging my knuckles, I could tell they were cold in the bone, that nothing would warm them any time soon. “Is that what you think?” he asked.
“No more than I ever have been.”
“You have AIDS, Dad. You’re dying.”
“I’ve had AIDS for six years, Andy. People live very normal lives these days. Why do you think I’m dying now?”
Down the hill, drivers seemed ready to smash into one another, more desperate to escape than to get where they were going. “Dad, why do we…”
“Do you feel like you’re kidding yourself if you think I’m going to be her much longer?”
“When I call you for help you aren’t there. When I… When I need you, you seem like you can hardly hold yourself together. You’re sick. Can’t we just be real with that?”
“I’m not too sick to be your father.”
“Dad, when you’re dead you’ll still be my father.”
“I know what you mean, Dad.” Hazard lights came on, flashing orange beneath a pair of headlights. The car made its way to the side of the road and the driver got out and began examining its vehicle.
“It’s your move,” Dad told me.
I’m not very good with bishops. The diagonal approach seems so limiting. The board didn’t offer a lot of options. “Why did Mom call?”
“You told her that her ex-husband was dying,” he said as I moved my queen out of her defensive position. “She doesn’t hate me, you know.”
“I guess I don’t know that,” I said to him, waiting for him to take my queen off the board.
“She doesn’t hate you, either.”
“It’s your move, dad.” He advanced a pawn from the starting line.
“What do you think you get out of life always expecting it to end?”
“I can’t… I can’t talk to you about my life. I can’t worry you about things neither of us control.”
“That’s not what I’m getting at, son. What I’m saying is you fail to invest in your own life when you can’t bring yourself to admit there may be a future.”
Placing my hand on my queen, I saw I could take a pawn, a rook. I could put him in check but he’d take my queen the very next move. I went with the later. It played out how I thought.
“What are you waiting for in life, Andy? Let’s say everything is as bad as you say it is… You’re in the one-day-to-live scenario… what are you waiting for?”
He took my queen and placed it on my side of the board, just within my reach.