Backgammon On Benaulim Beach (And Other Things)

Pardon me, because I’m slightly sunburned, and maybe dehydrated; and drinking beer in the scorching heat, even if it’s only two, has a way of messing with your head; and the sweat hasn’t dried yet, and I’m covered in Arabian sea salt, which makes my eyes, or the area around them, sticky, tacky, chalky; and I’ve been here for four days, making friends, walking around the beach, laying on the sand, swimming in the water–rinsing, washing, repeating.  So pardon me, that is, if this doesn’t make sense, or if I leave you in the dust, or if I don’t introduce characters properly, or flesh them out suffificiently, or describe their motivations with accuracy.  If you lose me, it’s my fault, and I will take all of the blame.


Peter (37 years old, British Indian, bald, videographer, artist, wedding photographer, deep thinker, hash smoker–we spent last evening drinking brandy and smoking hash and debating various aesthetic theories) told me that there was a backgammon tournament on Thursdays at Hawaii (little restaurant by the sea, serves Western food to old hippies–i.e., not Hawaii the United State).  I had to go.  I had to.  I am a backgammon afficianado.  Eric and I spent days and days and days in the cold Montreal winter smoking joints and playing backgammon.  So I am good.  I am really, really fucking good.  I could crush you at backgammon.  And even though I hadn’t played in months, I was pretty sure I could win the backgammon tourament on Benaulim Beach.

The pot was 1000 Rs.

Hawaii, as mentioned–old hippies.  Hippies that return to Benaulim year after year after year to sit on the beach, smoke hash, drink coffee, and work on their tans and beards.  There were ten of us in the tournament.  Eight old hippies, me, and Stefanie.  Stefanie and I were opponents in the first round.  Stefanie, briefly:

Canadian, 28, married, stunningly beautiful.  Out of place at Hawaii.  Like me.  Only more beautiful.

Stefanie:  somehow beat me in a match to 15 points.  Let me explain.  Backgammon is a game that’s roughly half skill and half luck.  I say this because I’ve been beaten many, many times by far lesser players.  You know they’re lesser as you play them because 1) they are counting out their moves, and 2) the moves that they make are frequently stupid.  They are moves, in other words, that you would not make, because you are not stupid.  So, to take a quick example or two:  leaving people open for no reason, always trying to hit the lone man, irrespective of the rest of the setup–moves like that?  Stupid.  Amateurish.  And I know that you probably don’t care about all of this, but I do.  I dislike playing against amateurs.

Especially when I lose to them. 

Anyhow, the point of the story is that sometimes the stupid moves pay off.  Sometimes, against all odds, the stupid moves work out.  Because in the end, you’re rolling dice.  And dice do whatever the fuck they want to do.  They don’t always reward good strategy.

So Stefanie has been making stupid moves all game, and she doubled, and I doubled back, and it started out with a double because we rolled doubles on the first roll.  So the game is worth 8 points.  8 points in a match to 15.  It’s a big game.

And I’m ahead.  I’m sitting in my chair, taking out my men, and Stefanie is three rolls behind me, with stacks in the back of her home base, and so I’ve got it.  I’m going to win.  The only way she can win is if she starts rolling double sixes.

Which is precisely what she starts to do.

Two double sixes in a row.  A double four.  I am flabbergasted.  She’s suddenly ahead.  She’s suddenly going to win.  And now I’m the sorry bastard who needs doubles to have a chance.

I already told you I lost, so I’m not going to pretend there’s suspense anymore.  I didn’t roll my doubles, Stefanie won the big game and took the match, and I finished the rest of my Kingfisher in dejection.  

I wished her well in the next round, walked down the beach, glanced at fat Europeans and Russians–beached whales, really–tanning in the sun, and went back to Rosario’s to wash the salt out of my hair.  That was the end of that.


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