The internet has provided me with a nice, lazy way of being social while keeping myself out of trouble. Just kidding – I don’t get into trouble. Formally sanctioned missions, of which there are none, according to the Dragon, are not trouble at all: I have an unlimited expense account and I can get away with murder. Literally. In this strange line of work the concept of trouble does not exist.
Filth and fog, well, those are epidemics. Trouble is too feeble a word to contain the scope and scale of their insidiousness.
If I ever manage to get out of this extended elopement with the sword of Damocles, the one thing I’d like more than anything else is to divest myself entirely of any relationship I’ve ever had with trouble. Ideally, I’d be the same person I was before I ever decided to mire myself in this nasty business. People I’ve run into from my childhood have remarked on how much I still look I did in elementary school. If, as Beaumont once told me, I am ever ground into such tiny little bits that the bees can’t figure out how to put me back together, I’d like my epitaph to say: Here lies Liling. / She was no trouble at all. There will be no trace of trouble in people’s memories of me.
Like I was saying, the internet is my sole retreat from the vicissitudes from the world. I usually use a laptop in Dragon HQ or sometimes, if I’m feeling a bit more social, the PC bang next to the police station downtown, where I can be alone together with others who spend most of their time tracking their progress and performance in their game of choice. I usually don’t spend more than half an hour or so playing browser games before watching movies or reading whatever looks interesting; the idea that one can make a game out of things that happen in the real world and rush home from despising the latter to gleefully playing the former into the wee hours of the morning I find to be somewhat demented. I guess I just don’t understand why anyone would want to make or play a game about running around and chopping up zombies and cultists and whatnot when they could be spending time not doing those things and maintaining their sanity and emotional stability. To each their own, however.
Like me, my parents tend to maintain a more sensible and somewhat detached relationship with forms of entertainment. My father, for example, is fond of the board game Go which he plays with the type of zealotry and fervor typically reserved for a full-swing Sunday morning televised gospel sermon. His matches are played in an atmosphere of reverent silence punctuated every so often by wafts of cigarette smoke swirling along with the dust eddies in the curtained sunlight of the storage room in which he and his friends gather on Saturday in the mid-afternoon for their weekly sessions. If you can imagine a Texan mega-church service minus the singing and with a golf commentator as the pastor, that’s pretty much how it felt to me when I would observe their games through the half-open door of the adjacent living room.
He does, from time to time, unwind with a rather more casual game of chess which he takes far less seriously. His more historically minded friends like to playfully suggest that it’s because chess is Indian in origin whereas Go is a quintessentially Chinese game; though my father cares nothing for such trivia, I think when it comes down to it, his friends are probably fundamentally correct. In any case, I don’t think he’s really ever understood why the pieces always start in the same places; it makes the game boring and predictable in his opinion. He prefers to play a variant called Fischer Random in which the back line pieces start in random positions, mirrored on both sides. He has great fun analyzing boards in the moment without worrying much about whether he’s in the mid-game or end-game or an Italian opening or whatnot: he reserves all of his mental energy and literary consumption for Go.
As for my mother, she sometimes plays a game with a multi-sided die that features different animals and sea creatures on each of the faces. The game is in guessing which one of them will land facing up when the die is tossed – well, to be more accurate, after it’s been rattled around inside an upside-down bowl on top of a plate. They usually play with shot glasses filled with fruit juice or, very rarely (usually on big holidays or during very important events) they’ll fill them with wine coolers. If the pointed edge of the die ends up facing you and you didn’t guess the correct animal, congratulations! You get to drink.
When my friends at school asked me what my mother did for fun, I just told them she plays mahjong. I didn’t have the energy to explain her game, so I just provided the first thing that came to mind that they would immediately understand and that would also satisfy their taste for the cultural exoticism they expected.
Sometimes I would make a game out of answering their utterly predictable questions and would start telling them things that would make their eyes go wide: we keep monkeys as pets in the backyard and eat them on holidays, that sort of thing. It amused me to no end.