I walked in. The school tables covered in eight by eight square cloths. It was sports day. Each big square had 64 tiny little dark-blue and white squares. There were two people around each, facing one another. No. They gazed at the little black and white things on top of the cloths.

“I can teach you how to play,” a 30-year-old white guy called Corey brought me back to earth from space. He was probably staring at me for a while, and my puzzled face let him know I had no idea what that game was.

“What is this?” I asked him. My eyes still fixed on one of the fabrics. A player was moving his little white thing, taking the other person’s black. He seemed to be winning.

“It’s chess. Each player has 16 pieces on the board,” said Corey.

Board. Pieces. That’s what those things were called.

“How do you win?” I asked.

“This is the King; you win when you capture your opponent’s king!”

Opponent? My eyes widened.

Corey knew I wanted to hear more. He taught me how each piece moves.

The Queen reminded me of my mom: always strong and the most powerful at home. The King reminded me of my late dad. The Bishops made me think of church.

I was still deciding which piece I liked best when he told me about how special the pawns were: they could change into any other piece on the board once they reached the other side! I wanted to be a pawn. I was not important in the world, but the pawn made me believe that I could be!

“Let’s play!” I was excited to play against him and wanted to win as quickly as I could.

Three moves into the game he took my queen. My interest for the game was drowned in sadness. Salt water pricked at the edges of my eyes. I was losing. I was losing horribly.

“Let’s play again,” I said to him.

“I can show you where your mistake was,” he said to me.

“No, let’s play,” I told him.

I lost again. I lost all the games we played. I was angry. My heart pumped. My blood rushed through my veins. I was sad. I felt betrayed. I wanted to leave.

I had started walking out of the hall when Corey said, “Justice, take the chessboard. Practice, we’ll play next time.”

It’s four years later and I still play the game. Corey and I don’t play as often any more after I went on a winning streak against him. I still lose every now and then against other people, but I have experienced that it is only through losing that I can truly learn.

I was always too chubby for rugby. I was always too slow for soccer. I couldn’t jump high enough for basketball. But on the chess board only my brain mattered! I could win against adults. I could learn from kids. I could be black and win. I could rule over the board. I could take back the land!

***