Anjali Deshmukh
Lesson 23, or Blue Cascade: The Perimeter Can Be the Center

You’ve been chosen because you can see the future. That’s right, I hate to admit it, but you’re special. The game is not only about being able to read a map. It’s about projecting and foreseeing how patterns might play out in reality- any time. Anyone can cross reference conditions and spit out a number. But it takes someone special to stretch those conditions across time, read magic in the players, watch the concept of the game intersect with form, chance, choice, and information to blossom into a mirror of reality more vivid than you could imagine.

Ok, fair point. Maybe—maybe—any set of conditions can be any place across the infinite band of time. But we didn’t pick you because we thought you were some philosopher that wanted to wax poetic about time. We picked you, because you create your own boundaries and work within them. Because you just know, on some aesthetic level, where to draw your boundaries. This isn’t a science, it’s an art; its hermeneutical, not mathematical.

Case in point: 1962. It’s nice to see a spark of recognition from you every once in a while. Back then, no one believed that the game’s microcosm of space could also be a microcosm of time. Everything changed that year. Lelong and Huang both went from being underdogs of the season to the top two finalists in the game. You could tell that the bitter struggle to get to the final game had taken a toll on both of them. I was pretty sure that Lelong was on something during the game—dilated pupils, clammy looking skin… But I wasn’t analyzing that game. I was young then, a clueless idealist like you.

Lelong was visibly shaking within 2 hours —he was itching to call a break, but his coach Sarah was nowhere to be found, and I’m not sure he could even remember the rules. He just kept saying, over and over again, “where is she, where is she?” and looking around with those heartless, yearning gray eyes. Later, the whole world found out that she had sold him out, bet against him on the game circuit. She paid her price.

At the third hour Lelong made a weak throw into the tenth quadrant. I remember it was almost exactly 9:00pm. Huang’s coach called a time out seconds before Lelong’s shard hit the board. His diamond, a pale blue the color of polar ice, landed gently, sliding into the quadrant ten’s shadow, in tact, in isolation.

Yeah, exactly—no one used to throw there. It was the dead zone, the Siberia of the game. That is, at the time. Some people say he did it because he was incompetent, strung out with a floppy arm that did even jello injustice. But looking back, I think he was just desperate. We all do strange things when we’re trapped.

The judge accepted the move, and Huang jumped up and down like a golden retriever as everyone started to break for the time out. But not the judge. He calmly walked over to the other side of the board, took down the data, internalized the color, absorbed the shape, and he knew that this was the water on stone, the slow wearing that carved a ravine, that transformed random amorphousness into perfection.

Lelong had curled up on his player’s chair and was rocking himself back and forth spastically, torn between exhaustion and mania. And as the time out wandered on, the judge sat by quadrant ten, appearing to look at nothing. When the time out ended, he’d called in a sub to watch the game, and just sat there, staring at quadrant ten. Everyone thought he’d cracked.

Me? Well, I was young, but I just knew that I wanted to be one of them. I believed in them. Do you?

Back then, I didn’t really go to the games to watch the players. I went to watch the judges. And it was really worth it… because while everyone was watching the game, gawking at Lelong’s unraveling, I saw it. I saw the judge’s pure intuition cascade. I saw the slow cracks that shaved away edges of glass, the gentle heat that melted away angles, the ripple of breeze that carried Lelong’s shard closer than we have ever, ever come to predicting utopia.