I like playing games and so does the Witcher. And we both love riddles. So, soon in our friendship, we had started to play things like “Who am I?”, where you have to guess by asking questions answerably by yes or no and must score as few nos as possible. Later, when we had moved most of our conversation to chat via our phones, we came up with another game: “Guess where I am” on the basis of images that were as cryptic as possible, at first showing only places we had visited together, but soon expanding the whole thing to places unknown to the other, decipherable only be minor cues in the pictures. He is absurdly good at this game. He scored his second favor token by finding out the street my grandma lived in, who I was visiting at the time, just by two pictures showing mountain ranges.
The thing about the favors…. It is something childish we kind of slipped into. Maybe I also engineered us slipping.
In early 2014, soon after returning from the hotel in the mountains, he impressed me by reading one of my favorite book series, which he had denied reading before despite my constant recommendations, because he felt that the topic was absolutely not interesting to him.* Still, he suddenly worked himself through thousands of pages, all within one week. The things we do for love.
I felt so grateful for him trying to understand what all my fandom was about, I told him that I now owe him a favor.
In fact, I was always secretly hoping that he might use the favor for something he would not ask me otherwise. Something forbidden, that we both knew we wanted. A kiss maybe, or something similar, something just a little over the edge, rendered harmless by its clearly defined character of being a one time thing, just the one time favor I could not deny him. He never asked. I gave him a second one, and still he waited.
In April, he gave me a riddle. At first I thought it to be easy, as I knew its basic principle, but it soon brought me to my limits, made me near crazy with constant pondering. When I found the time besides work and family life, I sat down and scribbled sheets over sheets of notes. It took me days to finish it. Afterwards he revealed it to be “the hardest logic puzzle ever”. It doesn’t seem all that hard once you know the answer. Joining in on the game, he rewarded me with my own favor.
That’s when I realized this was leading nowhere. He clearly knew that I expected something but had no clue what it was, so he put me in a position where I had to act and show him what I had in mind. So I quit this whole childish charade, let it fall into oblivion. Anyway, a token for a favor is somehow insignificant if two people would do anything for each other anyway. I was hoping for it to be used as an excuse, but it was a rather foolish hope
In May 2014 he was moving to a new apartment. Oh, how many comments I had to endure about not having moved myself yet, despite owning a house. I think he did not understand yet how hard this matter was for me.
Anyway, I bought him a present and brought it with me when I visited him in his tiny old flat for the last time. It was a stepladder. I had told the Knight and all of my friends that it was “because his girlfriend is so small”. I got some good laughs out of it and the Knight called me evil, already knowing that there was no girlfriend anymore. In truth, it was a ladder for hugging. Now I could finally embrace him face to face, without having to pay attention on not smearing makeup all over his shirt.
I was by far more sentimental about him leaving this place than he was. All those memories we had together. These rooms had been a place where we were almost together, secluded, safe from the rest of the world. Knowing I would never see them again made me sad.
So I took my time leaving. I was standing there on this ladder for far too long, held him in my arms, knew I was missing my train and didn’t care a bit. For some brief moments we rested directly facing each other, our lips only barely not touching, mine already slightly parted and neither of us moved. I could feel his breath on my upper lip and asked myself why he didn’t do anything. Go on! Ask me for a favor! He did not ask, he did not move. But then, neither did I.
Some moments later I left his old flat for the very last time.
I recently cashed my favor for a picture of the two of us. It is on my desk now and I hold it very dear.
* He ended up liking it.
Oh, and by the way, I often do this – ask people about their favorite book and then read it, even if the genre seems totally outside of what usually interests me. I feel like it broadens my perspective as well as make me understand those people better. Try it, you might be surprised! 😉