The other day, puttering around in the project room with my wife, I bent down to pick up the contents of a small plastic organizer I had knocked over. A number of small wargame counters from the game "Port Stanley: Battle for the Falklands" had spilled out of the organizer all over the floor, and I wanted to pick them up before the cat took to chewing them. Royal Marines, a Pucara air unit, HMS Fearless, and a grab bag of Argentine infantry units had scattered across the old, dirty rug.
The counters and other things in the cabinet were the last artifacts from another age. They were twenty five years old, and holdovers from the days when I used to play wargames and role playing games, usually by myself. I couldn't bear to throw them away, and I probably never would. From every evaporated interest of mine I keep something--my paintball gun, my fishing rods, an old Apple laptop that I can't even power up anymore. I like having them around, as reminders of old passions, though they do tend to clutter the place up a bit.
I opened the cabinet doors, inspecting the contents. I pulled open one drawer and found I had discovered the Dungeons and Dragons dice drawer, filled with a number of brightly colored, jewel-like dice. These were relics from junior high school, during my time as a Dungeon Master. A Dungeon Master's dice collection was a symbol and extension of his authority, and I had a good collection.
The relics were semi-secret. I had mixed feelings about my past involvement in Dungeons and Dragons. Ten years ago, admitting that you were once into D&D was irredeemably tainting. Like the fact that you were an enthusiastic participant in orgies, it was not something you told women. Now, for some reason, it's cool to admit that you were once a D&D gamer. I have no idea why, but suspect Judd Apatow and his movies have had something to do with it.
I placed a finger in the tray and gave the pieces a good rattle. Protected from dust and dirt, they looked like they did the last time I used them...sometime in the mid-Eighties, probably while listening to Phil Collins tapes. It actually looked like I had just put them away.
Most of the dice were made from clear, brightly-colored plastic. Four-sided die were pyramid-shaped--each facet had three numbers, each number pointed in one of three directions. Six sided die--well, you know. Eight sided resembled two four-sided glued back to back. Ten and twelve looked like cheap, sparkling jewels. Twenty and thirty sided dice resembled buckyballs. I still had them all. Numbers were carved into each facet, and highlighted by using crayons of contrasting colors to fill in the number and make it really stand out. I never thought of myself as much of a decorator, but you don't want to know how much time I agonized over what crayon color looked best against ruby-red clear plastic.
I sat on the floor and idly pawed the pieces. I thought about the times when I used to play these games. I had never not been into girls--I'd had a huge crush in kindergarten on a half-Okinawan girl whose father had been in the Air Force. That really did nothing for my socialization around them--I was awkward around girls for decades. Games like these were their own entertainment, of course, but they were also a way to distract myself from the fact that there were girls out there. There were times when, wallowing in hormone-fueled self-pity, I would listlessly push cardboard counters around a map of islands in the South Atlantic wondering if I would ever find someone.
"Here, take this." I said, picking up a twenty sided die and putting it in my wife's hand. Clear and colorless, with strong black numbering, it had been used to compute innumerable fates in mortal combat against owlbears, orcs, and wolf-gods, divine how many pieces of gold should be in found treasure chests, and generally used to wow other gamers.
"You want to give me this?" My wife asked, slightly confused.
"Yep," I said. It felt like a sweet gesture, and it was. But it was a repudiation of all past doubts and uncertainties. Of all those times when I commiserated with Phil listening to that album where his face looks like a big, sweaty orange. It was planting a big nerd flag in the palm of my wife's hand, claiming her and our future together. It was a motivational YouTube video I wanted to show to every geeky, awkward kid out there who was a younger version of myself. Hold onto your dice, boys, and wait for this moment that I had.