She Never Learned

“And the knight goes like this — ”

She watches the love of her life on the floor like an oversized child, long legs splayed gracelessly out over the carpet, hands animating little medieval statuettes of two complexions on an eight-by-eight board. It had come to light she’d never learned to play.

“Don’t worry, I’ll go easy.”

He segregates the pieces and begins arranging them in front of her. It is late, the TV on but mute, the baby fast asleep down the hall. She watches the two armies materialize, her posture a studied lotus.

“White moves first, that’s you.”

And yet whenever it had crossed her mind to make a move herself there’d been a proposal, a joint mortgage, a surprise pregnancy, something in the circumstances always one step ahead of her. And no matter what the decision she never quite felt it was hers. These thoughts enter consciousness but remain at its far edges, babbling senselessly at her.

“The knight goes like this, remember?

He reads her mind in her pieces, his eyes darting, his posture ambivalent, restless, jutting. The love of her life. Time goes by unnoticed, the board between them descending slowly and with calculated steps into chaos.