by Steve Gergley
The morning after Jenny’s wedding, Kyoko lay beside me on my half-deflated air-mattress and asked me if I wanted to play a game.
“What game?” I said, stroking her smooth arm. Hot daggers of sunlight knifed through the blinds and cut across the floor, the mattress, the blankets, our bodies. The fun, sloppy fuck we had this morning after stumbling half-drunk into my apartment was the first time we’d been together in almost two years, and as much as I tried to stop my head from filling with visions of the two of us getting back together and spending every Sunday morning like this, I couldn’t help myself. The glide of her skin beneath my fingers, the warmth of her body against mine, and the smell of her hair filling my nose were too powerful for me to think about anything else.
“The Game,” she said, staring up at the low, popcorn ceiling of my shitty apartment. “I just lost, but it’s still pretty interesting. Me and my friends used to play it back in college.”
“What’s the game? And how did you lose already if we haven’t even started playing yet?” I slid my hand down her arm and interlocked my fingers with hers.
“You are playing The Game. Everyone in the world is playing The Game, all the time, whether they know it or not,” she said, her voice growing quiet. She pulled her hand away, wedged it between her knees, and turned her back to me. “And each time you think about The Game, you lose.”
“I guess I just lost then,” I said with a laugh. Turning onto my side, I drew shapes on her naked back with my fingertip: cars and planes and planets and people, boxy skyscrapers with sharp spires like toothpicks. She tensed at my touch. Long strips of muscle rippled beneath her skin. I sensed her slipping away to that quiet place inside herself where she shuts me out and hides away from the world, but I didn’t want to let her go again.
“Yeah, me too,” she said.
“So how do we win?”
“You can’t,” she said, sitting up on the edge of the mattress, her pink hair spilling over her bare shoulders. “The prime minister of the UK is the only person who can end The Game.”
“Wait, what? Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” she said, raking her fingers through her hair. “According to the rules my friends told me about in college, The Game only ends when the prime minister of the UK says that the game is up.”
“I don’t get it,” I said, reaching for her thigh, trying to keep her here with me for as long as possible. “Is that a meme or something? Do people say that a lot in England?”
“I have no idea,” she said. Her warm skin slipped past my fingertips as she stood up and started collecting her clothes off the floor. Warped bars of sunlight danced across her shoulders, her legs, the backs of her hands. My hip pushed through the dying air mattress and pressed against the floorboards. Kyoko walked into the bathroom and quietly shut the door.
* * *
Steve Gergley is a writer and runner from Warwick, New York. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found at: https://stevegergleyauthor.wordpress.com/