The Only Game I’m Good At

by Natalia Masewicz

Woman walking down blue corridor leading someone by the handIt’s been six months. 

C. is happy for me, happy I feel better. No, he does not want to cut me off completely from his life, he wants to talk, but when I say, What do you want me to do with all this love?, he turns into a ghostly string of dots that blinks on the screen for a moment and then disappears. Yes, we will be close one day but not now, he cannot tell me how he feels now, it’s probably better if we don’t talk. 

I swallow bitter rage, put my phone on flight mode, and close my eyes. 

I wake up at an airport in Tbilisi. Everything smells different and is so far removed from him that I feel strangely calm. The sweet scent of melting snow follows me around the dripping city, drowning in water. The streets wind up and down, half-empty. The sun blinds me with its hopeful message of early spring as nature screams, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK!!!

You’re checking in for just two days? The girl at the hostel desk hands me a key. Your room is on the second floor, go up the stairs and turn right. We’re having a pub crawl tonight at nine if you want to join! As expected, the room is occupied exclusively by men, the classic backpacker type, hair tied into ponytails and buns, Their North Face jackets beaming red and black across the room, their eyes following me around as I unpack. I am put on display, bright lights stunning me into a complacent smile until I leave the hostel and my body tries to become invisible again, blend in with the commuters on their way to work. 

Curled up in a valley flanked by pastel pink mountains, the city stretches and yawns beneath me. Its streets are narrow, filled with a cacophony of bangs and car horns. The dome of the church glistens in the distance as I take the wrong corner, wanting to get lost, my body soaring through the sky, becoming golden letters like the ones painted inside every church. I spin and spin in the morning sun.  

Hey! Where are you from? My body sinks, dances around groups of men standing at the corners, talking and staring lazily at the traffic. They stare at my body as I navigate a dark corner. Can I take a photo with you? I shake my head no but still smile politely, as if I were amused by the proposition. I walk faster and faster, squeezing through tiny alleyways, until the city is a blur. The sweet smell of baking bread sweeping the streets, oranges and pomegranates eloping together over the garden walls, wooden balconies leaning dangerously over my head. I am just a body, I do not want anything. I listen. For dinner, I have khinkali, barely tasting the palm-sized dumplings, and drink a glass of red wine.

The pub crawl feels like a naughty school trip. We’re seated in a circle on mismatched antique furniture. The Australian next to me tries to make small talk. I take another shot. I drown in sadness. Someone knows a better place around the corner. The street explodes in noise and glare—cars honking, lights stretching into infinity. We cross the bridge and I no longer know where I am. 

C. told me he is a good person. He is a good person. A good fucking person. At the next pub, I look at my face in the bathroom mirror and my eyes seem blurry. I know I have to go back to the hostel and yet I stay. Breathe, breathe, take a sip of beer, breathe. The pub crawl staggers to another bar. A dog follows us through the streets. 

Where are you from? A tall guy with a dark beard lingers behind. I let my body catch up with his while the rest of the group disappears. The air is clear, cold, and dark, still smells like winter. He tries to grab me by my hand. 

You cannot do that! I run away laughing. 

Why not? His eyes are chocolate brown and he has a nice smile. He wears a dark jacket over blue shirt, keeps talking. He’s Lebanese, a bartender but a bit of a businessman on the side. Why am I not surprised? Let’s go get another beer! He points at a neon sign that looks vaguely Japanese. The bar is full of people that know each other’s names. We drink and we drink and we drink. The only game I’m good at. 

I ask him about his life back in Lebanon but he just tries to kiss me. His eyes are melancholy. The barman looks at us and gestures to our empty bottles. One more beer? 

No thanks, we’re just leaving. The streets wobble slightly; I try to read the graffiti as it swirls and dances in front of my eyes. We stop by a brick wall—factory buildings, post-Soviet ruins, a memory of the tomorrows that never came. Hunched-over grannies selling colourful scarfs and jewellery at the market even at this time, more shouting, a bang, a honk.

Arriving at the hostel, he says, Not yet! Takes my hand and drags me down a side street until we reach a small, dark park—rowing machines, an outdoor gym—where we swing and twirl until the lights become one with the darkness and he pulls me on top of him and kisses me. 

His beard smells of a memory that I don’t recognize and I moan quietly as his hand finds its way below, underneath my skirt, and I don’t stop him; I hear those words echoing in my head—The only thing you’re good at is sex—from a night with C. long before this one. The bartender-businessman picks me up and pushes me against the wall, graffiti biting into my skin, K + M = <3 August 2017. His fingers crawl inside me like ants, eager with anticipation, tasting the walls, tagging my insides, writing words that will be instantly forgotten. STAY RUDE! shouts a spray-painted slogan next to my batting eyelid. I can’t see anymore. No more. 

The bartender stops. Did you like it? I swallow the tears, kneel, and open his zipper. A stray dog walks by, then stops and looks at us with lonely eyes. I ignore him and feel the warmth of another human body. It doesn’t seem like a body but a blind animal that tries to explore my mouth like an unknown terrain, to make itself at home. My mind wanders to the taste of pomegranates as I count to ten and try not to throw up. Finally, I stop. He puts his name and number into my phone since my fingers are numb from the cold.

 I’ll call you tomorrow! He is going to meet his friends from the hostel in a bar nearby, talk about this girl who was a real wild card, didn’t even get her name. I block his number as I walk away, down the street, passing by bars and music and people who belong here, to this place in the midst of mountains. My hands are shaking as I open the door to the hostel room. 

C. said, Once a cheater, always a cheater.

I stumble into bed. One of my roommates mutters, What?, half asleep. I pretend that I’m snoring loudly, but words keep streaming out of my mouth, into the room, into the night until I have to get up and run to the toilet and vomit them all out. 

It’s been six months and one day. 

Natalia Masewicz is a writer based in Berlin, Germany. Originally from Poland, she graduated from The Art School in Glasgow, UK with a degree in contemporary art curating. She has been a freelance writer for Blouin Art Info. She dreams and thinks in two languages, Polish and English, and often mistrusts them both. Her work is primarily concerned with attitudes towards body, language, and identity.

Photo by Nicolas Cool