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“King. Me”

By Derek Malush, Point Park News Service 

Life is habitually referred to as a game. Numerous pieces, various rules, and the board on which we play is the ground we tread on.

Take chess for example. An intellectual’s game, which entails limitless hours of practice to mature one’s strategy. I often amused the thought of chess as just being an old person’s game. That when you see chess being played, it is, as sappy indie films tell us, usually two older folks trying to out-duel one another using their ripened wit and arduous tactics as if the rusted gates had just dropped down on the beach of Normandy.

As I attempt to make these methodical, yet indecisive maneuvers throughout the game I begin to think to myself, what if the moves I am making aren’t strategic enough? What if I keep trying to practice but right before my eyes the chess board becomes a blur of just two conflicting colors? This game has been an unceasing battle that I may never comprehend or grasp the concept of.

This is life, portrayed by a game that has haunted me for ages.

All I know is, I do not want to play this game.

But I need to.

Chess is a game where unalike pieces are intelligently combating on a battlefield to determine who is the canniest, strongest and cleverest of them all.

There are six representations that make up each side of the clashing colored ground. A King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn.

KING

“I could be a King?” I consider to myself.

“I have many friends, a family who loves me and people willing to do whatever it takes to protect me.”

“I could definitely be a King!”

However, a King denotes power, influence and control. Just as a real king would. He serves as the most significant piece to the game and can only move one space at a time.

My hand quivers like the tail of a dog trapped in a lion’s cage as I anxiously attempt to lure my King away from his domain on my first move. Only to learn that just the thought of touching something so respected, so valued, on my first move, was utter blasphemy. Not to mention that the King has limited reach and begins the game surrounded and protected on all sides. Critical, yet useless.

Attempting to make a power move this premature indefinitely lies in the shallow pool of rational thought. But what better way to demand authority than using a King to do it?

The end objective for the King is to escort him across the board without being captured. So in essence, the King does none of the work but has the most significance.

We all know that one person who was handed everything in life. Money, material belongings, a sense of importance or rank. With a wealthy upbringing, one can effortlessly miss the rather large details that make up who they really are. Yet, we mock who they are and gawk at how glamorous their life may be.

All the other pieces to the game, like you and me, serve as the offensive line. Creating a hole just big enough for the King to squeak through to reach the end zone.

Growing up, I played tight-end on my middle school football team. So maybe, I am here to help block for the King instead of trying to be him. However, once your King has been captured, the game is over, and you lose. So I just hope that I can block as well as I envy.

QUEEN

A Queen. So elegant, majestic and royal in presence. One may say she serves as the power behind the throne. Queens were portrayed often as a King’s “right-hand man”. Someone that just inherited the title because of their significant other. Yet, the Queen is perhaps not as important, but more versatile as the King. She can move any direction she wants, as many spaces as she wants, making her a prominent piece to the game. We all know that a King cannot be so, without his queen. That without a Queen, a King is weak, feeble and maybe not be as powerful without his influence behind the throne. In chess, the Queen represents herself. And because of the value that the queen possesses, she may sacrifice herself to benefit the greater good.

To be in such a position where you would need to cost yourself your chances of victory so that everyone else can continue playing, takes bravery.

In the summer of 2008, I was a freshman in high school. My brother Trevor and I were playing around with a blue BIC lighter that we had taken from our house. As we strolled down the dampened road, our feet slapping in the rain puddles, we stopped off at the local drug store for some candy. On the walk home, I lit a piece of paper behind a dumpster on fire with the blue lighter. Seeing something burst into flames at the age of 14 was oddly amusing to the both of us.

As the paper quickly scorched away before us, a police officer pulled up as fast as the paper had turned to ash. Fearful of what he was going to say to us, my brother swiped the lighter from my clammy left hand and stored it in his right pocket. When the officer asked us, who lit the fire, Trevor seized the blame for the arson charge that was to come. I could have simply told the officer that it was me, however, we both would have gotten charged at that point. It wasn’t necessarily who he wanted to be, but who he wanted me to become. I could now continue the game without any repercussions, as he awaited his court hearing 3 months down the road. Trevor did it for me. And it didn’t matter where it took him, but where it could’ve taken me was his only worry.

I’m no coward, but I cannot parade my ignorance around for someone who has endured so much distress, agony and sacrifice to achieve who they want to be. It takes resilience and determination to get to where you want to be, and I feel as if I am not worthy of this revered game.

Yet, I continue to play.

BISHOP

I speedily pick up my Bishop and whisk it across the board, praying that I can start the game with such a move. As the Bishop stands proudly next to its King and Queen, it has the power to move forward, backward, diagonally, and has the ability to capture any opposing game piece in its path. However, because a Bishop cannot jump over a game piece to claim its captor, they can only apprehend a piece of the cavalry by occupying the square on which it lies.

I then think to myself, I cannot just be handed such an honor as I am positioned adjacent to the sacred King and Queen, without knowing how I got there in the first place.

I once copied a student’s homework in the third grade. Word for word, as it was a fill-in-the-blank worksheet on Presidents of the United States. As I turned in my worksheet in with the other classmates, the girl I copied off of received a zero on hers because she did not write her name on the top of the page. Resulting in the teacher not knowing who’s it was. I received a passing grade for the homework that day and she a failing one. I felt no remorse or guilt in my fake passing grade, however, today, I realize that I was given recognition for something I knew nothing about. My worksheet was plastered on the chalkboard for all to see as it was the only one that had all the correct answers. As I received credit and appreciation for my “work,” Stacy was sulking as she asked to use the restroom. When in reality, Stacy was the Bishop and I was just “pawn” scum.

Slowly, I’m beginning to acquire further roles throughout the game.

Moving my Bishop on the first move was unprecedented and ill-natured. Again, my unfamiliarity for the game and its integrity went right out the window like a paper airplane thrown in science class.

KNIGHT

When can I play and know my role?” I ponder so infinitely.

“Could I be a Knight?”

A Knight illustrates an armored soldier. Someone who will do whatever means necessary to win the war. Therefore, a Knight has slightly more power over the Bishop, only because it can hurdle other pieces in order to safely pave the way for its King.

So how can I expect to exercise my Knight if I am yet to measure up to the likes of a Bishop?

Six years ago, I was told by my doctor that I would be unable to attend college directly out of high school. Wanting to start life after high school is one of the most anticipatory feelings I believe someone can go through. You get to live on your own away from your parents, hang out with friends whenever you want and begin your early stages of adulthood. I wanted nothing more than to be able to raise my diploma with my closest friends from high school four years later. As my brothers, friends and classmates all had their trunks full with clear plastic bins and disinfectant wipes; I was opening my parents’ fridge to uncap the pre-dosed needle and injecting it into the top of my right shoulder.  

I didn’t really understand the specifics of liver disease; I just knew that it was keeping me from my 18-year-old dream of spending the best years of my life with my closest companions.

So no, to the head of the Phi-Delta-Si frat house, these were not the best years of my life. Instead, I scrolled through my social media feed, grimacing at all of the Class of 2016 posts as I angrily smash the “Like” button on a confused rampage.

However, before even starting this chess game I’ve been in for over six years; I have gathered that it takes discipline and a systematic approach to know what it takes to win.

At this point, I don’t even entertain the notion of wanting to play chess anymore. The pieces are not who they say they are and I don’t understand the board that it’s played on.

I’ve learned that a King can sometimes wrongfully be given its crown. And that a pawn can sometimes be the hero of a chess game if it reaches the opposite side of the board.

In the end, I have reached the conclusion that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be playing chess at all. That maybe I wanted to play so impatiently that I forgot the true nature of how I was going to win or who I wanted to become.

It’s odd to feel as if everyone around you is in complete control of every aspect of their existence. That everyone you see or hear is doing that much better than you are. It is tough to compare someone’s Chapter 26 with your Chapter 1. In this case, my book was burned at the stake, leaving me to rewrite everything I have already accomplished. My friends were graduating college on time when I was a sophomore. They are buying houses, apartments, cars and starting families when I had an Introduction to Political Science midterm due by 11:59 p.m.

Something that I thought was so complex turned out to be rather simple to everyone around me.

Then it hit me.

Like a snowball in January.

“Simple!” I awkwardly murmur to myself.

I come home from class and open up my basement door; walk over to the timeworn, dry-rotted wooden shelving, and pull out the one, simple game I could always understand.

I impatiently tear open the dusty box and dump out the contents. The pieces ring off the concrete floor like change in a deep pocket. I set up the board and its pieces. Turns out the two conflicting colors still portrayed the same ground I gait on. Yet the pieces were quite the contrary. I was confused at first on how I should make my first move; however, I knew exactly how to play. After all, checkers was my bread and butter as a youngster.

All pieces in checkers are equally powerful. There are no status symbols, rank or specific importance to any individual piece. It is not until they’ve earned their status that a checker can cultivate in power or importance.

Before making my first move, I think to myself, “It’s O.K to not know how to do something.”

It’s even O.K to not know much about anything at all. When we know how to do something, we do it. And when we know how to say something, we say it. Striving for acceptance amongst your peers often leads to the exact imperfection that once haunted us on that first day of high school.

And putting our hearts on our sleeve for a person does not mean were vulnerable, it simply illustrates the love we currently inherit. We do the things we do, the way we know how, based on how other people see fit. Maybe is it because we are afraid that if we step out of the social norm we will be criticized or judged?  If so, I’ve learned that’s O.K.

But there is one thing we do know for sure. And that is who we are. It may take years or maybe even decades to truly find that answer, but every move we make, big or small, is worth any postponement.

Play your game and know how to win. Or you might end up a checker in a chess game, like me.

As I effortlessly attempt to make my first move, my opponent has finally graced me with his presence and I can now begin this journey. I stare it directly into its soul and whisper, “King me.”

When you are “Kinged” you don’t just double in size, but you do so by carrying another piece with you.

Derek Malush is a junior at Point Park University studying the field of Mass Communications. He has covered the Men’s basketball team at Point Park for two years ago and writes various news stories, personal essays and copy for The Globe. He is making great strides in each of these categories and loves to share with people his stories as a person, as well as a student.

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One thought on ““King. Me”

  1. Gina Catanzarite

    This is one of the most spectacular and moving essays I have ever read. Bravo, Derek.

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