I scratch my head and frown at the board.
I sniff air through my nostrils like a bull.
I place a stone next to the white invader
and the print of my finger glistens wetly.
“That’s why they make the weaker player
play black in handicap games,”
someone once joked. “So you can see them sweat.”
My opponent, who has been running his fingers
through the stones in his bowl, making them
clack, immediately places another stone next to mine.
“That was,” he says slowly, “Not correct.”
I clench my teeth and wonder
how much the sudden flush to my neck and ears shows.
I was given nine stones, a nine-stone head start.
Nine stones scattered over a whole board
as if I owned it all already.
Nine stones, marking each of the star points
a sign that your opponent can give you
because you know how to keep nothing.
I look at the now-cut-off cluster of black stones -
a broken dragon, a clump of bones and flesh
tangled and ugly
and now dead, dead, dead -
and try to judge whether I’m so behind
that the polite thing would be to resign.
But I can’t tell.
So, I decide