By Adam Behan
Art By Andrea Clancy
He didn’t know how to play chess, so I showed him how. It wasn’t ideal that I was teaching him on the PlayStation 4. It’s much better to play with actual pieces that inhabit space and have that lovely shine. The symmetry of the pieces as they lined up was always very calming for me. I didn’t own a set, and I rarely played. But I knew how each piece moved, the basics. He seemed eager to learn and was reluctant to pass me the only controller I had when it was my turn to move. He pleaded with me to let him make the moves for me. I wasn’t going to fall for that trick. He has always been persistent, but I ascribe that to his spoilt demeanour. Every time he had to head home, it always ended in tears. I had to stand there and bear that.
Besides, he deserved to be spoilt, a boy in his position. We sat on the couch together, his blonde head rested gently on my shoulder, and soon he was getting bored. Chess was a slow experience; methodical, patient, and always devious. I couldn’t predict anything 3 three moves ahead. I couldn’t imagine what he was thinking. It was lightly drizzling outside. The clouds sagged over the hills like some soggy cotton balls. They waited until they were over at our house to open up, as always. My two hounds were never fond of my little cousin and always squeezed up to my chest, watching Patrick with suspicion in their wide brown eyes. There isn’t aren’t many other details as interesting as that, we. We were busy looking at the screen.
I wondered what it would have been like to grow up a few generations before. I was born just at the right moment to have a proper childhood before the tablets and mobiles found themselves in the hands of explosive children needing to have some sort of stimulation.
Then he asked me that random but pertinent question: “If we weren’t related, would you still like me?”
He usually stammered, but there was no delay in his delivery.
“If we weren’t related, Patrick, I probably wouldn’t know you.”
“But pretend you did, would. Would you still like me?”
I don’t know.
Am I obliged to look after you because you’re my little cousin, or because you’re my guest?
Your grandparents are in the other room, talking with my mother. They have no reservation reservations when it comes to foul language, and you comment frequently on their sailor’s tongues. I want you to be different from them, and I know it will be difficult, given the circumstances. It isn’t very fair that you have to be the youngest in the house when everyone but you is over the age of 20, and far too impatient for you.
We are all from the country, but Mum always forces an exaggerated rural accent when she speaks to relatives. I don’t like it.
I know you want to play DOOM, but I think you’re too young for the gore. I know I was, and I don’t want you to experience it the way I did. When I’m away in college, my brother has to look after you, and he doesn’t give a shit what you play. I want you to play Chess, and I know it’s boring, but I think it will benefit you somehow.
If we weren’t related, you wouldn’t be here, wasting my time. I probably wasn’t doing anything productive with that time, but it was still my time, being spent on you, without my consent. That is what it means to be related, Patrick. It means you need to come to terms with the absence of choice and agency in the family you get to have. It’s not a question of liking you. If I wasn’t weren’t related to you, you would be someone else’s issue, and I’m not prepared to think about if that would be worse for you or not.
I may not choose to spend time with you, but I choose to make something productive out of that time, otherwise. Otherwise, what kind of relative would I be?
I know you are always asking about me when I’m away. Mum always informs me of that. And it takes me back to those hours I spend with you, when I don’t have to be as responsible an adult as necessary. There is no risk in that sitting room. There is just you, me, and the PlayStation 4. I know you have always appreciated that time a lot more than I did, even though you are a child. I don’t know what it is you see in me. I just hope that if there is a next time, you can beat me in that Chess game.
Adam Behan is a Politics student in his second year of college here at UCD. Despite majoring in politics, he finds it very difficult to write about, so he tries instead to write absurd and sometimes personal stories to test his creative muscles. He hopes you enjoy reading about a loaf of bread as much as he enjoyed writing about it.