Philip smiled at me from across the chessboard, “We haven’t done this in a while.” I nodded, unsure of what to say. Ever since I’d spoken up, we’d only seen each other in the company of others. The game was almost finished; I was wining at this point. I scanned the board, making sure my plan was still doable.
“This is nice,” I agreed eventually, making my turn on the board. About two months ago, I’d done something seemingly reckless. Now, after seeing his reaction, and eventually sorting it out, everything was back to normal. Well, on my side it was. Who knew what he thought.
It had been two years ago that all went downhill. Some tiny part of me had denied it for a while but unfortunately, I had developed feelings for Phillip. The big issue by the end was that I didn’t like liking him. I saw him more as a close friend than as a petty crush. As the year anniversary of my annoyingly impractical discovery passed, I decided to act on my irritation. That is, for the next year, I argued with myself about whether I liked him or not. Let’s just say that when I was in the strictly friends mentality, I was much happier.
As the second year came to an end, I was truly sick of it. I wanted out, I wanted better. I wanted to be able to spend time with Philip without wondering why I felt the way I did, or without being aware of every little thing. I set out this neat conversation, spent weeks rendering and changing the internal dialogue. I seized the chance on some risky day not long after we’d seen each other for the first time in a month.
The conversation ended short when I panicked. He was still processing it when I fled. We didn’t speak for a week. The next time we spoke, the subject was only briefly brought up. All was seemingly forgiven. A couple weeks past until I brought it up again. That conversation was slightly longer, and made me feel much more comfortable about speaking up.
The whole point of the arrangement was to make him realize. And to make me come to my senses, but at this point I hardly remembered what I was supposed to think in order not to like him. So, mission accomplished, I felt both relieved and terrified. All that confusion evaporated once we’d properly settled it, which was great for me.
All I knew now was that most (all except two) of my friends thought I still liked him. The other downside was that no matter how much I tired, I still got these annoying bits of insecurity regarding him. These bits of insecurity ensured I took every one of his thoughts and actions personally.
Now that all was well, the only thing I could do was attempt not to question what he thought of it all, and hope that even if I took it personally, I’d eventually realize that it was stupid to freak out about everything. Philip had gotten far enough that every once in a while, he’d bring up topics that he only talked about prior to speaking up. He’d even introduced me to his girlfriend. (Admittedly, she’d been the one to chaperone most our evenings together. She was busy today.)
I sat calmly in front of him – and him alone – for the first time in some time, and it felt great. We continued to play chess quietly for awhile, but he eventually cracked, laughing. “Why are we playing chess?”
I smiled, “Good thing you ask now,” I said, placing my queen in a position of total power over his king, “checkmate.”
He laughed, scanning the board for any mistakes, any chance to redeem his loss. “Aw, damn,” he muttered with a smile.
I chuckled. “Yes, how sad.”
Tossing the pieces into the box, he looked at me. “Get Jenga. You’re dead,” he threatened.
I shrugged. With my unsteady hands and impatience, I didn’t stand a chance. “Whatever floats your boat, hon.”
On the floor, surrounded by board games and card sets, we played for hours. To Philip’s satisfaction, he did win Jenga more than half the times we played it. Even then, I was good at card games. I watched him suffer as we played Set, sat through his pleading as I beat him every time. Even with all the frustration I faced, nothing would beat the fact that he enjoyed board games as much as I did.