It was my dad who taught me to lose. Saturday afternoons by a log fire. Always either too hot or too cold. Scratchy carpet. Tea. A sense of longing for my dad, even though he was next to me.
It was my dad who taught me to play chess. And it was my dad who taught me to lose. I’ve never been any good at chess- my mind isn’t that logical. I can only ever think one step ahead.
The first time I played him properly, I lost. I jumped up from my chair, infuriated and frustrated. Stamped around the room, scowling and growling and whimpering that it wasn’t fair and he was so much older than me and I’d only just learnt how to play chess. My dad sat, patiently waiting for me to come back.
This continued for what felt like years but I suspect was more like weeks. Slowly, I began to improve. Not at chess, but at losing. Each time, my tantrum would be gentler; less pronounced. And in the end, I didn’t mind. I knew he still loved me, in his own quiet way. I knew in the way he talked to me about books and in the way he spoke to me when he said goodnight.
By the time I beat him at chess, it didn’t matter any more.
I’m still no good at chess, but I know how to lose. And I thank him for that. Sometimes I long for those afternoons when he was both very close and very far away.