Apr 11, 2024, 06:24AM

Tuesday Morning Games with Ako

Ako arrived at Jules’ front door with a board game called Hedbanz.

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On Tuesday morning, Ako arrived at Jules’ front door with a board game called Hedbanz. After putting her coat and hat on the hook, Ako took her clipboard out of her bag and checked Jules’ blood pressure and heart rate. Jules was feeling a bit weak. His stomach was off. Last night, Ruby made quinoa and beans, with spicy chicken. Jules wasn’t sure how many times he’d needed to use the toilet overnight. At least twice.

Jules poured Ako Chai tea and another cup of coffee for himself. “May we have this coffee cake now?” Jules asked, pointing to the pink box. Ako had forgotten about it. “Have you eaten breakfast first?” she asked. Jules assured Ako he’d eaten some yogurt with granola and blueberries. “Yes, let’s sit down with that slice of coffee cake,” she said while walking into the kitchen. The coffee cake was in the microwave. The cinnamon aroma entered Jules’ nostrils. Jules and Ako each picked up a fork. Finely chopped walnuts, toasted with cinnamon and sugar were layered into moist cake. It was delicious.

Ako opened the box that contained Hedbanz. She took out the cards and the plastic loops. The idea was to put the cards in the slot, located in the middle of the plastic headband, which each player wore around their head. A person had to guess what their card was by asking questions. Each card displayed an animal, an object, or a food.

Jules had some trouble getting the damn thing around his head. Ako put it on for him. “They showed us this game in English class. I learned after arriving here,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Ako picked up a card and put it in the slot near her forehead. It read, “French fries.” Underneath the writing was a picture of a few yellow fries in a red and white paper basket. Jules chuckled a bit.

“Am I an object?” Ako asked.


“Am I an animal?” Ako asked.

“Well, I think most of us humans are animalistic, but your card doesn’t show an animal.”

“Okay, I’m a food. You say only ‘Yes or no,’” Ako said.

Jules nodded. Ako looked at the food question card.

“Am I fruit?”

“Nope,” said Jules.

“Am I a vegetable?”

“Sort of.”

“Yes or no,” repeated Ako.

“Yes, but not a healthy one.”

“Ah, so I am an unhealthy vegetable,” said Ako. “I must be fries. French fries?”

“Yes!” shouted Jules, inadvertently knocking his fist on the table for emphasis.

“Your turn,” said Ako.

Jules picked up the next card, examining it.

“No! You cannot look at your card! Put it on the bottom!” Ako explained.

“Oops! Easy, I’m new at this,” Jules said, taking a new card.

Jules put the card in the slot near his forehead. The card showed a passenger train.

“Oh, I like this one,” Ako said.

“Am I food?”

“No,” Ako replied, sipping her tea.

“Am I an object?” Jules asked.

“Yes,” Ako replied, sliding the object questions card over to him.

“Can you wear me?” Ako smiled. “No.”

“Do I have a screen?”

“No. Well, not a screen as you might imagine,” Ako explained.

“Am I a vehicle,” asked Jules.



“No. Not a car.”




“No, not a truck. Keep going.”

Jules sighed. His mind searched for vehicles.



“What the hell kind of vehicle am I? A goddamn Abrams tank?” Jules asked.

“No. Not a tank. You will get it,” Ako said.

Jules closed his eyes and imagined all the ways he’d traveled. How had he forgotten trains? All those Amtrak rides up and down the Eastern seaboard.

“A train!” Jules said, triumphantly.

“Yes, you are a train! Chugging through the night!”

“I love trains!” Jules said. “Though I guess it’s been a while since I’ve taken one.” Jules removed the card from the forehead slot. 

Ako agreed. “I love trains, too. I took the train from Paris to Barcelona after university. My friend was moving to Spain. We wanted to visit Paris and Barcelona. It was a wonderful trip. Except for one night in Barcelona at the end. But I love the feeling of the train. I think it’s like the experience of being inside your mother. What is the name in English?”

Jules rubbed his forehead. “Womb? You mean like a fetus? Before the baby is born? Inside the uterus?”

“Yes! Inside the woooooom!” Ako exclaimed. “It’s quite relaxing on the train. Like a baby when the mother is walking slowly.”

“You had quite an adventure,” Jules said. “But something happened? One bad night on the trip?” Jules prodded.

“Yes, a very bad night,” Ako said. “My friend likes to drink rum. We were dancing at a nightclub in Barcelona, looking for Spanish men! One man was very dangerous. I went to tell the bartender, but he wouldn’t help me. Finally, the security guard, outside. He was smoking cigarettes. I begged him to help. My friend was in the bathroom with this horrible man. The security guard stopped him. Finally. It was a terrible night. My friend had many bad dreams after this.”

“That is terrible,” Jules said. “So many despicable people in this world.”

“Yes, but the trip was wonderful. Seeing the cafes and restaurants and museums in Paris. The train ride through the south of the country. I would love to see more of France and Spain,” Ako trailed off. “But here we are. Beautiful Santa Barbara,” Ako forced herself out of her reverie.

Jules told Ako about his train trips in the northeast. Boston and NYC. Autumn was his favorite time of year to take the train. “One October, Violet and I decided to take the Vermonter. We wanted to enjoy the leaves for a weekend.”

“Where’s Ver-mon?” asked Ako.

“In New England, north of New York and Massachusetts. Bordering Canada,” Jules explained. “They have maple syrup and beautiful mountains and forests. Especially in October. The leaves of the maples turn many shades of orange, bright reds and golden yellows.” Jules showed Ako a picture of Vermont’s dazzling foliage.

“Beautiful,” Ako said. “I can see why you took the train to get there.”

Jules needed to use the bathroom. Ako checked the time. “Oh my! We’ve been having fun,” she called to Jules. “I must leave in five minutes.”

“Okay,” shouted Jules.

A few minutes later, Jules was hugging Ako goodbye and feeling that familiar loneliness creep back in. Bringing up the memory of that lovely Vermont trip with Violet left Jules with an unrelenting ache.

“So many moments in a life. So many trips, if you’re lucky. But only one life,” Jules spoke aloud to the universe, or the walls or his home. Then he retreated to his bed for another nap. 


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