January 23, 2008

Chess moves

In the shared kitchen at the hot springs resort near the Texas/Mexico border, I'm pottering around fixing my soup. Campbell's Chunky Chicken Vegetable and some very spicy Thai noodle stuff: mixed together that's going to be my dinner.

Also in the kitchen are a young couple eating already, but mostly leaning over a book in which they are both drawing things. I catch a quick glimpse and it looks like a bird, so I ask them, are you drawing pictures of the birds you've seen here? A little embarrassed, he holds up his book and shakes his head. "No, it's just a drawing," he says. It's an elaborate and actually very beautifully drawn fantasy creature -- one of those ugly but not really frightening monster thingies.

Nearer me is another young woman, also pottering around getting stuff together to cook. That is, she's working on something a little more ambitious than just making soup, which is my horizon for tonight.

Suddenly she turns and approaches me. Holds out a bottle and says, "Could you open this please? It's too hard for me." It's an innocent enough request, and that's all she says. But the way she says those few words, the way she stands there, her body language, I could swear she's flirting.

But anyway, I take the bottle, brace myself to battle to unscrew a stubborn lid, grit my teeth and ... it opens easy as pie. In a flash.

It was already open.

I'm puzzled, but what's to say? I hand the bottle back to her. With a too-cute smile and a swing of her hips, but without a word, she turns and sashays off.

Later, her boyfriend enters and seats himself almost regally at one of the tables. Watches her finish cooking, watches as she ladles food onto two plates, watches as she brings them over to the table, watches as she returns for two glasses of water.

Watching all this, he also talks to me, mainly about chess and the new world champion in the sport, Vishwanathan Anand. "How do you pronounce that?" he asks, "An-AAnd?"

Nope, I reply. It's "AA-nand."

"Gotcha." And every time he mentions the name after that, he says "An-AAnd". He doesn't ask about "Vishwanathan", which he pronounces "Wish-VAN-a-ton".

"I'm kinda glad," he says, "that there's finally a world champion who isn't from Russia."

There was Bobby Fischer, I offer.

"Oh sure, but that was 35 years ago!" he exclaims.

They eat. They hardly talk to each other. She, I notice, has changed considerably from her sashaying self of half an hour ago. Now, I could swear there's a sad air about her. There's some unhappiness between the two, some distress that floats across the room like a faint whiff of cigarette smoke.

Soup finished, I get up and wash my dishes, then say goodnight and walk over to my tent. They sit in silence, eating.

A week later, Bobby Fischer is dead.


Sidhusaaheb said...

Women... Can one ever understand why they say and do what they say and do?


A said...

Hi Dilip
I've enjoyed reading your blog (just came across it but ended up scrolling back many pages.)
Marfa is a great town - did you get to visit the Chinati Foundation?
If you're coming towards San Francisco it would be great to meet with you.

Anonymous said...

How convenient, something to write about Fischer just before he dies.