We played Connect 4 last night, only it was Connect 5 and called by some other name. Its title escapes me now. I envy the title’s ability to flee as I remain both present and presently disoriented. The laminated gameboard rotated randomly. To the right. The left, too. I never knew which way it was going to turn. The game adopted all of the traditional rules—one color per player, proceed in clockwise formation, wait turns. Only, there was little tradition. Superficial familiarity lacked both substance and solidarity. Gravity played cruel tricks. Predictable patterns—rows and columns of monochromatic red and blue chips—turned chaotic. Four shiny reds in a row quickly turned to three blue with one red in the middle. Next, the three in a row of blue—standing in solidarity—rotated to form a patchwork of green, yellow, blue, and red—the blue wayward and alone—in a rotating fashion. Turns rotated, time too. I went through the motions, but my motions no longer mattered. I asked for mercy, following norms and niceties—added in merci, too—yet found none.
I should have chosen a different box from the shelf. There were many options. An overwhelming stack. Classics such as Life and Clue. Monopoly, too. Newcomers with familiar elements. Smart Ass. Noodlers. Blokus. Each wrong. I had no clue what life was any longer. Thoughts monopolized by news. And news monopolized by limits and limitations. Mirrors seeking Mercy. Mirrors revealing Memory. All elements of the game. As a child, I preferred Twister to Trivial Pursuit. Othello to Ouija. Now, I crave life with fewer twists and turns. Coffee and care spill unexpectedly. Carelessly, too. Temperatures rises and what has risen falls. I used to be able to visualize patterns. Count possibilities and pursue unique paths and distinguishable outcomes in advance of their fruition. Consumed apples before fully ripe. Bananas, too. Reality and ripeness a relatable route. Now, I feel as if I am always in a reactionary zone. Table talk and teams. Red on black. Blue on green. Unsuspected alliances and unsuspecting moves. Chips drop, then scatter. Traps taunt. Play persists.
I cleaned the stove top in between rounds. Scrubbed at grease that secured its position—its spots on this board of Life—long ago. Worked on the overhead hood, too. Spent a few hours scrubbing with little impact. As my fingers scraped, my eyes observed a community of ants on the floor. I must have dropped crumbs when I prepared the snacks—a bowl of popcorn, plate of crackers, and a bag of M&Ms. More colors than I recalled. More competition, too. Each a symbol of what once was. Memories washed in the kitchen sink and wiped with days-old paper.
I thought of the many communities I’d lost touch with, and track of, over the past eleven months. Dried pen ink and texting trains that trailed off weeks prior. Connecting the dots now an impossible task. Classrooms left off at Chapter 8 of War and Peace. Book clubs suspended at Chapter 4 of The Sun Always Rise. The No. 5 bus no longer runs, yet B and D still wait—and sleep—at the corner of 10th and Main. T lost his game of Life last September. Just as the news released upbeat updates on newly released milestones. Trials of many kinds. Bus seat companions, train station talkers, park wanderers, discount store bargain hunters, deli counter gossips, library lookers, ice cream servers, porch stoop dwellers.
It’s too bad the kitchen drawer, the one with my needles, is a mess. Connective tissue stretches, then snaps. Translucent fibers break.
Game night now part of the weekly routine. I could have gone cold turkey—like the sandwiches we had for dinner last night and the night before, too—but chose to go through the motions instead. Also like the sandwiches we had for dinner last night and the night before, too. Feign cooperative play. Stop competing, stop caring. Stop calculating. I’ve stopped writing, too. I want to, but no longer know the way nor what to say. Too many lost connections. Too many connecting options. Too many lost rounds of Connect 4. Connect 5, too.