I had to get out of jail. My sister’s forehead furrowed as I dramatically shook the dice in my hands.
“It’s gonna be a six!” I exclaimed. Lo and behold, I got my wish, and did a little victory dance as my sister watched, annoyed. But she followed up with a four and landed on the last red spot to finish her hotel chain. She whipped out a few hundred colorful dollars to pay the bank and then waited for me to roll. I got a two, landing right on her red square.
She reached her hand out and said, “Pay up!” I handed over more bright orange and pink dollars. My sister rolled a four, just missing my hotel. I rolled a three landing on her next chain.
Slowly, my sister got luckier, and I got unluckier—it had nothing to do with skill or strategy, of course. And then, all at once, I had only a single yellow ten left. Then I picked a chance card, and had to pay the bank $20, and my sister jumped up excitedly and said, “Ha! I win!”
I sat there with my arms crossed. My sister did a little pirouette on her heels. I kept it together until the second she turned away from me, and then I could feel a few tears build at the back of my eyes. Maybe I was just a sensitive kid, a sore loser when I was seven. Or maybe, I realized that there was something fantastical about Monopoly. Because who doesn’t want to stay in a world like that for as long as possible? A place where all money, everything, is neon and rainbow, and jail is only ever a temporary place, and all you need is a little bit of luck to avoid traps, and if you don’t want to take risks, well, the chance cards pick adventures for you, and send you around the board if you’re too chicken to take a chance yourself, and every real life concern is a cartoon, and things become yours just by landing on them, and you go in circles so it’s pretty hard to get lost…
The game wasn’t addictive, or so special to everyone—my sister was already in her room, moved on, drawing in a coloring book. That’s why I can’t really justify what I did next. But I picked up five or six of the plastic hotels, and my silver moving piece, and I cradled them in my right hand and jingled them. I liked the tinkling noise, the musical sound that the pieces made while they were still together. But then I knew I couldn’t protect them all in one place. So I slipped two hotels into my pockets; I slept with some under my pillow that night, and the little silver piece I put in my sock for the day. The need to preserve these imaginary things that were mine was frankly ridiculous. But they weren’t just mine anymore, they were of me. It didn’t matter at all that my sister had let it go. It didn’t matter that I had already lost…or that I was holding on to something for the sake of holding on, because, after all, it had been a long time since the last move was made, and why did I even care anymore? It didn’t matter that the game was over; it was better to keep the pieces hidden, safe, with me.