“Why do we play chess?” she finally asked.
Without looking up from the board, where her fingers lightly lay at its edge, he asked if this was how she wanted to spend the final two minutes of their time.
Standing by the door, the warden, the watcher, the guard—whatever you wanted to call the silent presence gathering shadows around himself—nods his head simply.
They were sitting in the middle of the room, with fraying curtains fully stretched out so the flowers would not lose their scent to the winds so quickly. Around them, heavy bookshelves and forgotten spines kept out the outside world.
This was the only room he could be in, and the room she came to for him.
It was still her turn when she pinched the bishop, watching it scatter other pieces as it fell.
In a frenzy, she puts all the pieces back onto the board, the black with the white, the white on the black and the black on the black and the white on the white and the —
“Because everything is a waste of time,” he finally answers, his eyes shut the entire time.
“You know,” she says, no longer able to cry, “I knew you were going to say that.”
Moments pass and the sound of the wind that cannot be let in nearly makes its voice heard. He tenses up, slightly, as if by doing so, other words would find their way out.
Both wait for the other to speak.
Her chest is heavy but his is full of questions.
He looks up, at her, and at the warden, who looks away, and at the delightful flowers and their unmoving stems. The scenery is refreshing and he has summoned all the daring he needs.
“Excuse…me,” he tries on a smile, “who are you?”