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How I learned to play backgammon

December 27, 2008

My belly is too big. My legs are too big for the small girl I feel like inside. I can braid my long curly brown hair in fancy ways and use lots of rubber bands and thats a good thing because my mother is hopeless at hair stuff. My green cords are tight at the top and wide at the bottom and go well with my green plaid shirt with the shiny snapped pearl buttons that do down the front.
“Can I change the station on the radio?” I ask although I know the answer, which is always and repeated now to me, “NO, when you drive you can put on whatever you want.” And then my mother asks, as consolation, “Do you want to shift for me while I light my cigarette?”
“Yea.” And I wait until I feel her step on the clutch and shift into fifth which is the hardest to get.
The radio is blaring Hall and Oates, “Your a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far and you know it don’t matter anyway…” and my mother and I sing along. I ask her if anyone my age will be there and she tells me, “Of course. Jason will be there.”
I groan because Jason is a dweeb and I hate him. They call us the “Bickersons” like we are married. Like we like each other and its just funny that we fight as though one must die if the other is going to live. Its hard to tell if we just hate each other because we are forced to like each other or if we really just hate each other. I always like everyone and its weird to despise him as much as I do and feel the heat of hate returned to so fiercely.
I can hear the party before we even get out of the car as soon as my mother turns the engine off. Bass bumping and laughter and yelling and singing. There are a few people standing on the landing by the door making out. The girl is wearing daisy duke denim shorts and a purple halter top and her hair is adorned with a white feathered roach clip, just like one I got at the fair this year.
My mother opens the door and Jackson Browne ‘s “Call it a Loan” is playing while several adults pass a joint on the couch and drink shots of tequila with chunks of pineapple instead of salt and lime. I instantly loose my mother to the crowd and I go upstairs to see if Colleen is here and she is not. Just Jason. We glare at each other and I say hi to his little brother Jeremy.
I wander downstairs and tell my mother I am bored already and when are we going home. She looks at me and smiles with bitterness in her eyes and says, “Later. No go away.”
I slump back on the chair and stare at this really pretty girl talking to my mother’s friend. She looks really stoned although I don’t really put that together. She looks really tired but won’t stop talking. Her eyes are half closed and her lips are glossy and pink as her hands tell a wild story to which my mother’s friend keeps saying, “No shit. Really?” over and over again.
Some other friend leans over and asks me if I know who to play backgammon. I tell him no and he says well, “Let me show you how to set up the board.” I tell him, “I kind of know how to play chess and I play checkers.” He tells me its different and we have to use dice. He asks me if I want to be white or brown and I say white.
We set up the board and we roll the dice. He goes first and shows me how to move my men around the board. He shows me magic moves that help block off spaces and I begin to hope for 5 and 3 or 6 and 4 or 3 and 1.
He doesn’t talk to me while we play and I concentrate on my game and am trying to figure out if I can win. I keep getting bumped off and feel mad but don’t want to sound like a baby. We play again and again. Its late on Saturday night and SNL is on. Everyone gathers around for Dan Akkroyd and his Julia Child imitation. He cuts his finger, well, Julia cuts her finger and blood is everywhere.
Everyone laughs hysterically except for me because I don’t see why its funny to cut off your finger and bleed to death on TV and wonder why no one is helping her. Him. Whatever.
I turn away, too embarrassed to say I am scared and listen to Linda Rhondstadt sing, “Just one look, thats all it took, yea, just one look…”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2008 8:17 am

    That’s how I learned to play backgammon:
    When I was about 10, my mother’s then boyfriend’s son stayed with us on summer holiday. He was year and a half older than me, and I immediately fell in love (not in a gayish way of course, not that there’s anything wrong with it), but he wouldn’t look down my way. Besides, he was on his mother side meaning hating all of his father’s life partners. Anyway, the only communication tool we’ve found was backgammon. He was really into the game, analyzing every move and everything. Beat me most of the time. Next summer he was already into chess, but the tutorial ended with the pieces movements. The next summer, my mother and his father were separated.

  2. January 4, 2009 3:04 am

    Hmmmm… Sounds like an entirely cool adventure. I probably would have like the girl that looked stoned. Awesome post!

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