I’ve been running long enough that everything in me wants to collapse and the grass is looking like an awfully good pillow. Every morsel of my body is getting back at me for those sports I never played and the exercise I never did. Just to rub it in, time slows to a caterpillar’s pace. You could solve a Rubik’s cube in the time it takes me to make one step. Slowly, I evacuate my body parts. It’s a skill I spend my gym periods perfecting. You try and imagine you don’t even have a body. I start with my legs. They still move but I just don’t feel them anymore, like an employee that keeps on coming to work even after you fired him. Then I release my kidneys, pancreas, ovaries, and all those other miscellaneous organs. Finally I reach the basketball court, light splattered liberally across it. I take a breather and check my phone, just in case she texted me back. She hasn’t.
I think of the next basketball court to check, and then take off. It’s times like these I wish I had my license. As I run I start to feel light headed, like there’s helium where my brain used to be. My whole body feels weak and I want to throw up my lungs. I’d do it, too, but then I’d have to stop running.
While I’m running, I play a few rounds of It’d be Easier to Just Have Crush on Yourself.
It’d be Easier to Just Have Crush on Yourself is a one-player game designed by me. The only things you need to play are:
- a crush on someone
- a burning desire to not have a crush on that someone
- a sense of humor
It’s meant for players over twelve. Gameplay can last from several agonizing months to several agonizing years.
The rules are simple. Player 1 (you) starts the round by thinking of fond memory of your crush. Player 2 (also you) then thinks of a reason it’d be easier to just have a crush on yourself. Then you repeat. You win the game by ceasing to have the crush. This has never happened.
Player 1: Remember the time that we walked all the way to Franklin Square and we shared an enormous tub of french fries?
Player 2: It’d be easier to just have a crush on myself because I would be able to have the whole tub of french fries to myself.
Player 1: Remember the night that my parents were away and Riley and I played drunk board games together? It was my first time drinking and her first time playing Monopoly. When Riley started getting bored, we added in Risk and then Catan. Before we went to sleep I had invaded Boardwalk with twelve armies and Riley had bought Kamchatka from me for $57 and three wheat.
Player 2: It’d be easier to just have a crush on myself because then I could just be Riley’s friend and just have fun with her instead of worrying what she thinks about me.
Player 1: Remember how in the gym locker room we compared breasts with each other?
Player 2: It’d be easier to just have a crush on myself because I can compliment my own boobs any time I want.
Player 1: I have a crush on Riley because I want to tell her everything I think. I want to tell her what I think about the crusts of peanut butter sandwiches, and about how I once got stung by a bee and I thought I was going to die, and how I actually sort of like going to the dentist’s.
Player 2: It’d be easier to just have a crush on myself because then I really could tell her everything. Right now, I haven’t told anyone that I have a crush on Riley. This is because the only person I would want to tell this to is Riley. If I just had a crush on myself I’d be able to joke with Riley about it. I’d be able to say things like, “And the best part is that we sleep in the same bed every night!”
After another four rounds, I come to the next basketball court. Sure enough, there’s Riley, by the free-throw line. As I enter the court the floodlights greet me, licking the night’s gloom off me. I sit down next to her. We’re deep in the mouth of summer and we’re both wearing more sweat than cloth. Riley turns and looks up at me from the ground. When we were in Seventh Grade we would have scowling competitions. Right now, Riley could win any of them hands down.
“I’m sorry I made you come all the way over here, but I wasn’t going to explain this over text. Also, I wasn’t going to call you. I’ve decided I’m taking a sabbatical from phone conversations.”
Almost every time I see her, Riley will do something that reminds me why I have a crush on her. Using the word “sabbatical” was that something.
I sit down next to her and say, “It’s okay, Rie, what’s going on? Why are you out here?”
“Well, I was walking across this basketball court and talking to Griffin on the phone when he said — and I quote — ‘There’s something I need to tell you. I’m breaking up with you, Riley. This is me breaking up with you over the phone.’ That sounded so melodramatic. He’s always so melodramatic. Did you know he gave me a sealed-wax love letter once? Like something out of Game of Thrones. So over the top. I mean, good riddance, you know what I mean?”
“Yes,” I said. I knew exactly what she meant. And I knew exactly what this meant. Griffin was out of the way.
“But then laying here on this basketball court I realized some unfortunate things. First, I don’t even know what ‘riddance’ means. Like, I couldn’t give you any sort of definition of the term ‘riddance.’ And then I realized that whatever a riddance is, this isn’t a good one. I mean, I know I should hate him — and I do — but also I still like him. I still feel the same way I did when I just had a crush on him.”
“That sucks so much,” is all I’m able to muster. I used to think Riley put up with me in spite of the fact that I don’t say much compared to her. Now I realize that’s probably why she likes me so much: I listen.
“So I just lay down on the basketball court and now I’m just trying my best not to like him anymore.”
And sitting there, perspiring next to each other, I know that this is my moment. I can tell her that I like her. She’ll know that I like her more than Griffin ever did. We’ll look at each other in a totally new way. And then we’ll kiss each other. And everything will be different.
But I don’t tell her I like her and I don’t look at her in a totally new way and everything isn’t different.
Instead, I say, “This is gonna sound weird, but I think I have a game that just might help you out.”
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