Checkmate

[A snippet from a writing project in gestation, which will probably make very little sense if you haven’t read the preceding snippets on the the Zia page.]

Right now I’m thinking it would be a miracle if I can get this knee taken care of before Christmas. It took days to figure out where the nearest MRI facility is located. You’d think the doc, given his area of expertise and the fact that he’s the referring physician, would’ve had an address or phone number for us, but no. “I think there’s a place in Veracruz, in a building across from this other building…”

The next day, the phone cuts out while I’m talking to my insurance rep. No more minutes left. Can’t get to the internet place or it’s closed, etc. Finally, I waded through the mess and got an appointment for next Friday. Then there will be another set of hoops to get tangled up in, at best resulting in me lying on an operating table somewhere in the United States sometime in the next month or so. “No te preocupes Bug,” Jesús is always telling me. “Don’t worry. Every problem has a solution.”

The long periods between medical interventions mean, of course, more days and weeks sitting around in the room immobilized. Fortunately, I was born without the gene that makes one prone to boredom, and I have always enjoyed solitary pursuits. I discovered the chess game on my computer the other day. It took me a few games, incrementally increasing the computer’s level of stupidity, to taste victory. I doubt I’ll play much more, though, as it ceases to feel like play if I have to think for more than ten seconds before making a move.

I never really enjoyed chess, mainly because I never played a match without it feeling like a personal evaluation of sorts, as if my opponent and I were comparing SAT scores or dick sizes. My college buddies and I set up a tournament once, and it turned out to be more stressful than final exams week. My friend Josh and I made it through to the finals where, if memory serves, I prevailed after an agonizingly tense battle. We sweated and strained for hours it seemed, hoping the other would make the critical mistake, which Josh finally did. The feeling of having superior intelligence did not materialize as expected. On the contrary, I felt rather like a shallow prick for wanting to win so badly. And as the blood slowly descended from the confines of my skull, I felt sure I’d never play chess again as long as I lived.

A great guy, that Josh. Always at the ready with a big smile, and possessing a robust, jocular disposition that kept his belly jiggling. I remember when he lost that belly, deciding one day out of the blue to dedicate himself to jogging. I was in the process of rehabbing from major knee surgery (again with the knees!) and happy to have a running partner. We ran grooves into the pavement and tore up the nature trails all across campus. After two months, none of Josh’s clothes fit him.

A year or so later, in order to look lean and mean for the big, college-ending trip to Cancun (again with the Mexico!), we stepped up the jogging routine again. Josh also convinced me it would be a good idea to hit the tanning salon, in order to get a “base tan” to protect our lily-white hides from the harsh tropical sun. We returned from our first session looking like a couple of boiled lobsters. A few hours later, as I was readying myself for bed, I began to itch a little. Within another hour, I was scratching myself like a flea-ridden chimpanzee, every inch of my body screaming for relief. I ran upstairs to check on Josh, finding him with his shirt off, scratching his back with a towel. He let out a big laugh, then said “It feels better if you take a shower,” and so I bounded back downstairs and ran the water over me till it was ice cold. Not two minutes after drying off, the itching returned with a vengeance. It was no longer a laughing matter, it seemed to me. I had to be at work the next morning, 7:30am sharp. It was already approaching midnight, and I surely wouldn’t be able to sleep standing up in the shower.

It finally hit upon us to run to the 24-hour super-center down the street. We frantically searched through the rows of boxes and bottles in the pharmacy aisle, ripping open boxes right then and there, pulling up our shirts and spraying each other’s backs with every anti-itch remedy we could get our hands on. We were lucky not to have been thrown out of the place, such a spectacle we were making of ourselves. Grabbing several bottles of the stuff that seemed to work best, we raced back home and proceeded to empty the contents within an hour or two. Relief lasted a few seconds at a time, at best. Noticing that running seemed to bring some relief, and not knowing what else to do, we strapped on our running shoes and jogged all over town, for what must have been a couple of hours. It had to be about 4am when we finally exhausted ourselves and headed home to take long, cold showers.

Soon the sun was up, and I needed to call in to work. I had a thing for never calling in sick. I don’t think I missed a single day of work in my life up to that point. I decided to tell the plain truth. To my complete surprise, my supervisor was very understanding. In fact, she had experienced the same thing once – “UV rash” she called it. I don’t know when the itching stopped, but eventually we passed out and woke up to long awaited, sweet relief. Needless to say, we cancelled our next tanning appointment.

In Cancun, sitting around the table at a restaurant one evening, out of the clear sky I suggested to my friends that we play a little game. When your turn came, you had to come up with a synonym for the word “fuck.” Any phrase or euphemism would do, from “shag” to “hide the salami,” but the first person to either get stumped or offer up a repeat had to swim naked across the hotel swimming pool when we got back. I assumed (wrongly) that one of the ladies would be first to get flustered, but after a long while, having exhausted nearly every fuck word ever uttered, in multiple languages, Josh slipped up, forgetting someone else had already said “bang.” I still have the photograph of Josh climbing out of the pool, his lily-white ass gleaming, his head cocked as it dawned on him we had taken his towel and clothes.

Later that night, I began a vomiting spree that lasted three days. The meal I enjoyed during the fuck game came up in barely digested chunks. At one point, I pulled a piece of chicken out of my nose the size of a McNugget. At this, none of us could contain our amusement. But I eventually got so sick I began to fear death was imminent. I ended up spending a considerable portion of my vacation money on getting medical attention. I was given injections of unknown substances and told I may have ingested some virus while snorkeling, or else was subject to Montezuma’s Revenge. In any event, I spent the rest of my vacation in bed, while my friends partied and parasailed and did their best to look bummed-out when they returned to see me curled up in the fetal position.

And so I find myself here again, whiling away my days in bed, watching the sun rise and set over Montezuma’s Empire, wondering when he’s going to call it even. He’s got me in a corner, setting me up for the checkmate. Down, but not out, I make my move, careful not to lift my hand from the ivory until the last possible moment, when just about to let go, lips pursed in an expression of subdued resignation, I suddenly, without a breath of warning, squeal like a pig being raped with a turkey-baster. I flip the board over wildly, scattering the pieces everywhere, grab my crutches and gallop for the door.

Every problem has a solution.

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2 Responses to Checkmate

  1. Larry V says:

    “A sequence of opening moves that is considered standard (often cataloged in a reference work such as the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) is referred to as “the book moves”, or simply “book”. These reference works often present these move sequences in simple algebraic notation, opening trees, or theory tables. A new move in the opening is referred to as a “theoretical novelty”. When a game begins to deviate from known opening theory, the players are said to be “out of book”.”

    Boshe, clearly you are “out of book” at the present. Operating outside of known theory. I imagine this is a frightening place to be. You are in my thoughts daily. If you need anything, you know where to find me.

  2. Bob says:

    Thanks Larry. I´m in the city of Veracruz presently, enjoying a high speed internet connection for the first time in a while. Spent two hours in the MRI tube yesterday. Picked up the results today. Not good. I´ll be returning to the US ASAP for the necessary surgery. Which will mean, of course, more high speed internet, so I´ll keep in better touch. I´m off to catch up on your blog. Thanks again.

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