She looked around the room, seeming to be bored, perhaps mildly curious. Her eyes focused on the bookshelves. I had a collection of books in ratty shape stuffed into the two shelves. Various books I’d bought cheap and used and read, letting them slosh around my backpack as I wandered around the city in my off hours. She cocked her head, as she always did, trying to focus on the titles. After a moment she stood up and walked over to check them out. I was still dealing with the cold peanut butter straight from the fridge, and its persistent ability to rip the bread I had bought. So much for the high class product at the local bakery. 

She approached the bookcase carefully, as if inspecting some exhibit in an anthropology museum. Using one finger she moved a few volumes around and investigated further. She picked up an old, well worn book with a neon sticker with $1.50 written in faded ink. She looked it over, almost as if she’d never seen a book quite like it before. She opened to a random page and read a few lines. She then flipped back to the cover and checked the words, as if to try and understand what the excerpt she’d read had to do with the title. 

“What’s this book?” She called.

“Which one?” I couldn’t see which book she had. 

“My system. Is it a, um,”

“Chess book?”

“Yeah, you play chess?”

“Only sometimes and never well. I bought that my freshman year of highschool. I joined the chess club out of a lack of friends and a strong conviction that playing chess would make me smarter. And I think it was to butter up the latin teacher- latin was a huge pain in the ass, it was rumored that kids in the chess club got better grades.”

She laughed. “Sounds like the nerd win-win.” 

“Yeah, it didn’t last. I went to one chess tournament, did ok, but not great. Then my buddy smoked me up and the girl I like revealed she wanted to get down as much as I did.” 

“So you left the chess club? “

“Yep, but I still went by and played sometimes, I think it was one weekday after school I’d drop by. I think I was killing time between work and school. Something like that. The guys were nice too, cool as far as I was concerned.” 

“Why do you have the book here? Why bring it over the ocean.” 

“Well, you know Tom? We play together when we meet up. I found it in my parent’s house last time I was home and brought it here. I bought it way back in the day after the best kid in the chess club recommended it and I serendipitously saw it at a used book store in KC I used to go to. I think it was cheap too.” 

“Buck fifty?”

“Really?” I laughed. “Looks like I got a good deal. Never really read through it though, it’s not exactly a page turner. I think if you really understood it you’d be lights out at chess. I lack the discipline, or maybe the desire, or probably both. That probably doomed my chess career.” 

“Well luckily you picked up skills with girls in that era too, and I can tell you which I prefer you’re good at.” She laughed and looked at me seductively. 

I forgot all about the peanut butter and the bread and went over to her. She dropped the book and I remembered why I stopped playing chess in the first place.

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