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I'm considering giving up chess. As in never playing again. Not even in Washington Square Park with Mr. Haq or Zolov or Renny. Definitely not with Sam. Not with anybody. The fact of the matter is that I can't play anymore. I've lost my edge. The game confuses me. The last few times I played, I couldn't strategize. I was losing left and right. And for a grand master, that's humiliating.
More to the point, my life has always felt like chess, like combat. Life makes its move, and I make mine. Maybe I haven't been exactly comfortable with the setup, but at the very least I've been used to it. It's all I've ever really known.
Now it seems like I'm no longer even a player in my own game. I feel more like a pawn. And I'm not even sure of the sides. In the past it was easy to make out black from white, but now the board is a blur of gray.
Who is the white knight? My father or my Uncle Oliver?
I've had my doubts about all of this before. But I've never been as confused as I am now. The simple facts are these: my father is gone again, and Oliver is back -- asking me to live with him. And Sam? I can't even go there. My feelings about him are a negative image of what they once were: where I once had something pure and instinctive and a hundred percent right, I now have only empty, bitter pain.
Yesterday I tried to think of one constant in my life. Instinctively, of course, I turned to my friendship with Ed. But I nixed the thought before it even made it to the surface. Ed is a new person. There's no denying that I feel strange around him. I can't put my finger on exactly what has changed between us, but now that he's up and walking, there's a self-conscious awkwardness between us that I've never felt before.
Which of course makes me wonder if Ed isn't the one who has changed.
Maybe it's me.
And all of this thinking just sends me further into a spiral of uncertainty. I don't have time for it. I need to make some cold, hard decisions. To live with Oliver or not? God. What I would give for some advice right now. I've never much been one for taking (or asking for) advice, but I'm fresh out of strategies. The chessboard is a blank slate. A tabla rasa, as they used to say in ancient Rome. I'm unable to think for myself at all.
Sometimes I feel like confiding in Mrs. Moss, and I find myself almost bursting out and telling her or Paul everything, my whole story -- complete with all of the shit and misery and loneliness. But then I remember myself. Living with the Moss family is a temporary arrangement. I'm not going to sleep in Mary's room forever, no matter how hospitable her family is. Besides, these are good people. They don't need to be burdened with my problems.
Anyway, they can't help me.
No one can help me figure out if Oliver is just screwing with my head, or if he's really the well-meaning uncle he claims to be. So I have to rely on my own judgment. And that's a shame, since it migrated south for the winter a long time ago. So what do I do? Run to Oliver or away from him? Believe what he says -- that my father is actually "Loki" and has been brainwashing me? Or do I tell Oliver to drop dead?
I have to go back to the facts, though. I have to ignore my emotion. After all, emotion clouds reason. That's one of the first lessons of martial arts. And the facts are indisputable. Oliver has come for me twice, while my father has abandoned me twice. He's here now. My father isn't. That should count for something...right?
I'm not a girl who hesitates. I make my move and accept the consequences. So I should do it. Leave the Mosses and give Oliver another chance to prove himself. I mean, if I don't go, how will I know?
It makes the most sense.
So why am I hesitating?
Copyright © 2001 by Francine Pascal