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Kal Hawley

            Snap! The noise of nails being clipped never fails to make me cringe, although part of it may be my own reluctance to part with my long nails. I bring the nail file to the now too-straight edge and drag the edge across. I blow the excess away, the off-white shavings billowing out in a soft cloud. I examine my nails, now short and rather unattractive, and decide that they are satisfactory.

            I move to the small nook in between my bed and dresser and open a large box. Inside is my goban, as unmarred as the day I got it, and a small black bag. I lift the board out first, both hands situated carefully flat underneath, and gently set it onto the middle of my bedroom carpet. I go back and take the black bag, setting it to my right. I sit down, feet tucked underneath my butt, and straighten up.

            I run my fingers across the board in front of me, the blunt divots of each line kissing into my skin. My freshly cut nail scrapes against the wood and I immediately pull my hand up, checking for a mark. I sigh in relief and turn to open the black bag. Inside sits two large wooden bowls, sleek as the board they came with, as well as a white microfiber cloth.

            I lift each bowl out of the bag, setting both in front of me to my right. I grab the cloth and caress the board’s surface, putting just enough pressure to clean it. I fold the cloth into fourths and set it back into the bag. I open one of the bowl’s lids, carefully set the lid aside, and almost immediately the unique smell of stone oil reaches my nose. I breathe in deeply, allowing the scent to wash over me. The stones are matte but with a buttery smooth surface. They have little resistance as I push my fingers into the depths and close my eyes. I take in the feel of each individual stone against my fingers, some more worn from use, others chipped due to lack of patience, and the occasional with a nail scratch from years past. Eventually I begin to lift my hands up and as I reach the surface I sandwich a single stone in my index and middle finger.

           My eyes drift to my tsumego collection and I begin to set the first problem up. Only the soft pa-chi! of Go stones hitting the goban fills the otherwise silent room. Not even the normally deafening wind outside my window seems to be making noise. I lose myself in the sound, almost wanting to place more stones than necessary to continue the click-clack rhythm. Instead, observe the problem now laid out from paper onto board. My fingers brush the stones beside me as I think, and it almost feels like caressing the bottom of a riverbed.

           Hours pass like this, only marked by the change in lighting as I complete tsumego after tsumego. A final pa-chi! marks when I can no longer ignore the rumbling in my stomach or the discomfort in my bladder. I feel myself come back from the world of black-and-white and stones connected in their own mini constellations. I take care as I separate black from white stones, plopping them with a soft pit-pat into their respective bowls. I close the bowls, wooden lids scraping on the rim slightly, and push them back into the black bag. I stand, pulling the bag up with me, and press it back into the box next to my bed. I go back to the board, run my hands across it one more time, until grabbing it from underneath and setting it silently back into the box as well.

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