I was six, maybe seven, when my grandfather taught me to play chess.
What a wonderful way to think and to engage with another mind.
I would watch him watching me over the top of his glasses as I’d deliberate.
And he’d smile.

In time, I got better. One hot summer, when I almost had him,
he turned on an oscillating fan and blew the light-plastic pieces away.

One day, I was nine, maybe ten, I set up the board on my grandmother’s kitchen table, oblivious at first to my grandfather gripping his chest, in the throes of a heart-attack. My grandparents had no phone. I remember running upstairs to our apartment, calling the operator and enlisting her assistance to get an ambulance to us.

My grandfather never returned home after this incident. He spent the rest of his days at Goldwater Hospital. My mom would make that trip everyday, a subway to an overhead-tram to a shuttle and back. I would visit on weekends.

I kept the board in the apartment set-up for over a year, awaiting his return and his opening move, anticipating gambits, and enticing endplay. Then one day, when it was clear there would be no rematch, I ceremoniously put on the fan in his honor, and blew the pieces away.

Chagall 2017

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