I remember every detail of our first meeting. I was moving a few boxes around the house sorting a few old clothes I wanted to give away- something I do once in a while, when a movie truck pulled up to the driveway opposite my house. I had a new neighbor. Good.
It was kind of getting lonely at this part of the close since my last neighbor moved out.
I just hope whoever it is isn’t some worked up crazy person. Too many crazy people these days. Picking the phone I sent a quick text to my pastor, asking him to come by and pick up the clothes. Relaxing since my job was done, I settled down in the kitchen long enough to brew myself a cup of coffee. With lots of milk and sugar. Just the way I like it.
A few minutes later, I heard a soft knock at the door- I checked the wall clock, He was early, and I skipped my way over to the door to open it. What can I say? Coffee makes me happy.
Opening the door however offered me a surprise. There was a man on my doorstep. But he was not my pastor.
“My name is John. I’m your new neighbor, moved down the street” he pointed at the house opposite mine “Just thought I’d drop by and say hi.”
What? I thought stuff like that only happened in the movies?
“Okay. You can come in.”
“I brought you a new neighbor gift. Here.”
Then he spied the unfinished chess game I left on the dining table.
“Do you play chess Mr?”
“Yes I do. But I must warn you, I’m terribly rusty.”
“Me too. This should be fun.”
And he proceeded to trounce me. Five games and I didn’t even win one. We bonded over chess that day.
Over the months, Mr. John became one of my closest friends. We met at least once a week to play chess. I got better, but still lost a lot of games. Won a few games. Slowly “Mr. John” became “John” and then simply “J” but for today, I’d rather call him “Mr. John” it’s a bit easier that way.
Several months into what was the most beautiful friendship I ever had, something unusual happened.
He didn’t visit for a full week. I went over to his house to find out what was wrong. I met Mr. John sitting on the couch. He was a sickly version of his former self, shrunken and reduced to little more than bones and a wrap of flesh.
I picked him up and put him in the car. The drive to the hospital still remains a blur in my memory. I only remember the doctor shaking his head and telling me Mr. John had only days left to live. It was cancer, they said. His health insurance would foot the bill. As it had been doing for so long. But the cancer was advanced and the medication and chemotherapy he had been taking without me knowing had failed. It was time to pay the grim reaper. But I didn’t want to.
They let me stay with him. He was unconscious most of the time. But then he woke three days later. Still shrunken, with pipes carrying fluids into and from his body, he seemed a bit stronger. He asked if we could play one more game of chess. We played.
He had me in a tight corner. As usual, he blew through my defenses like a storm and soon all I could do was run around the chessboard. Then he trapped me in a corner with his queen.
I had no move left. He smiled, and said “Checkmate.” Then he died, with a smile on his lips, and a chess piece in his hand.
“It’s not about the quantity of time spent, but the quality of whatever quantity of time is given.”