Game clock: a device that consists of two adjacent clocks with buttons that stop one clock while starting the other so both clocks never run simultaneously. Game clocks are used in two-player games to keep track of the total time each player takes to ensure that neither players delays the game.
Can you imagine a chess board, she says, stretching out as far as you can see in every direction, and then still, even further? And on the board, are all the black pieces and all the white pieces.
I nod and stare at my knees. She sits in a cane chair beside her desk on the other side of the glass coffee table. I am wedged into the corner of a hard, pale blue couch. She leans forward, her body open; knees slightly apart, forearms propped on her thighs and her fingers lightly clasped in front of her.
So if you can imagine that, can you imagine that the black pieces are the disordered thoughts, the ones that tell you not to eat? And that the white pieces are the recovery thoughts, the ones that encourage you to get well?
My body folds in on itself. I hug my arms to my chest and hunch my shoulders. My left hand moves on its own, slides its way up my arm and traces my right clavicle. I grab hold of the bone between my thumb and forefinger and pinch it hard.
Yes, I agree, but no matter which side wins, I still lose. If I choose recovery, I fail. If I choose the eating disorder, I fail. No matter what I do, I fail.
And that’s the logical problem, she states, huge portions of yourself are your own enemy. And you are so invested in the game. You’re living at war with yourself. But if you’re not the pieces playing on the board, then who are you?
The timekeeper, I retort.
I beg your pardon, sorry. Who?
I’ve just fucked up her analogy and I’m glad. She notices and says, Are you trying to be funny? Or are you serious? It is our third year together and despite my best efforts, she has learned to read me. Most of the time.
Oh no, I’m not joking, I snap. I’m the timekeeper, the clock. You know how in professional chess, there are the players and the board and the pieces, and then there is the clock? And the clock gets to decide how long each “player” plays for. I’m the clock. I choose which pieces are in control and for how long. But I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing the game.
Ok, she says, I understand. And I know she does.
But if that’s the case, she continues, what if there was another way?
I raise my eyes to meet hers.
What if you were the board, instead? What if it didn’t matter what the outcome was? The game could still go on but you don’t need to be invested in who wins or loses. What do you think that would look like for you?