Downward Spiral

I’d always known that Josiah and I were fundamentally incompatible. We shared a sense of humor, but we also shared a lot of not-so-humorous qualities. We were both stubborn, prideful, and, at the time, pretty immature. Risk brought out all those qualities and turned them up to the max. To this day I wish Josiah and I could go back to those pre-Risk days, when we would just goof off and hold hands and be flirtatious pals. But Risk brought out the worst in both of us, and we can’t pretend that it didn’t happen.

JOSIAH: I knew that we could/should never be officially boyfriend and girlfriend. I was far too self-centered back then, and an appropriate girlfriend would have had to praise my every farce and be unconditionally adoring. Your violent streak also frightened me a bit, but it also intrigued me—something about playing with fire comes to mind. Your fun-loving side was what kept me around, though. Fun > danger any day.

MAGGIE: Which is exactly how I feel about Risk. It’s dangerous, and it’s brutal, but it’s so fun. We played Risk constantly, obsessively, even though it was turning us into monsters. It didn’t help that we were living on top of each other, that Nico and I were 4,000 miles away from home, and that there’s nothing to do in Fairbanks but play Risk and go slowly insane.

JOSIAH: I remember losing sleep at night preplanning my moves. “If she takes the Northwest Oil Emirate, I’ll counterattack her South American troops with my naval stronghold in New Atlantis!” etc.

MAGGIE: And you played rough. You never once gave me a break. Every game was a constant struggle against your relentless onslaughts. It made me hate you, but it also sort of made me love you. I loved that we played as equals, that there was zero faux-gentlemanly “let her win” stuff.

JOSIAH: No way. Board game chivalry is for shmucks. I knew you LIKED to be given no quarter, to be treated like the hardcore contender you are. Perhaps I was hoping to build up to the aforementioned make-out-fest climax, but that moment never came…and this pent-up feeling lasted for days, because the games would last for days!

Scorched Earth

Partway through August, Josiah and I each hit a new low. We’d been playing a particular round of Risk for four days. Josiah had conquered the moon and most of the Western Hemisphere. He was going to win, and I couldn’t stand it. So while he was asleep one night, I purposefully wrecked the board. Then I lied about it. I think I tried to blame it on the dog. When I first emailed Josiah about doing this interview, I finally admitted to him that I’d sabotaged his game. What he wrote back really shocked me.

JOSIAH: Yeah, that was a true low. As low, perhaps, as when I secretly read your journal where you admitted the dastardly deed.

MAGGIE: You…you read my journal. Wow. THAT is low.

JOSIAH: Yes, I read your journal. The entry where you admitted to wrecking the game board was just a bonus, as I basically already knew you had, and now I knew that you had lied about it as well.

MAGGIE: I’ve always felt bad about wrecking the board—that was low even for me—but now I’d say we’re even.

JOSIAH: I think you left the journal in the living room one night while you and Nico were asleep. It was like dangling bread in front of a starving child. Plus, I felt like you were super angry with me already, so what more was there to lose by taking a peek?

MAGGIE: So…what did you find?

JOSIAH: Well, most of what I read was rather dry, because you were just objectively documenting what you did day to day. I remember the tone started to change near the end, and the ink flowed thick with Josiah loathing. I don’t remember specifics, just that the language became surprisingly vitriolic. I was a bit taken aback by how passionately you expressed your hatred for me. While I had occasionally become annoyed with you that summer, I never felt even close to the level of blind rage you were expressing in the journal.

MAGGIE: I needed to go home. I definitely needed to stop playing Risk.

JOSIAH: I think Risk was just a PIECE in the GAME of our twisted relationship.

MAGGIE: I slammed you for your sneaky, dishonorable Risk moves, but I made some real-life moves that were just as twisted. I think I just wanted to see how far I could push you. Pretty damn far, as it turns out! I can’t believe you still liked me after the way I acted, and the things you read in my journal. Your crush was indestructible.

JOSIAH: The Josiah-bashing in the journal didn’t even bother me that much. What did bother me was the glaring absence of Josiah-crushing! We had a lot of sneaky-fun-smoochy-times that summer, especially early on, but I don’t remember finding a single instance where you wrote about them, or if you did it was just like a factual report, no “and my heart went all a-flutter” annotations.

MAGGIE: My crush on you would resurface every once in a while, and I’d remember why I came to spend the summer with you in the first place. But those moments kind of got lost amid all the bile and tension.

JOSIAH: Not for me, they didn’t. My heart would explode every time you laughed at some stupid joke that came out of my mouth. I was head over heels for this girl who would be toasting my heartmallow to a nice gooey golden brown one moment, then plunging it into the fire the next.

MAGGIE: I was very cruel, I acknowledge that now. I knew I had all the power in our friendship. I knew you were infatuated with me, and that I could be as cruel as I wanted. And as annoying as you could be, you never deserved that.

JOSIAH: Reading your journal, it seemed my fears were confirmed, that I like-liked you much more than you like-liked me. So yeah, don’t open Pandora’s Book, guys—you’ll just be left feeling like a sorry sap.

MAGGIE: And also don’t wreck a board game just because you’re not winning. You’ll only feel like even more of a loser.

JOSIAH: It’s funny…friendship-shattering drama aside, this conversation has chiefly reminded me of how Risk 2210 was such an awesomely addictive game…

MAGGIE: I’d like to think that we could handle it now, and possibly handle each other too.

JOSIAH: Care to roll the dice again? ♦