In ninth grade, my friend Amy and I had several classes together. We often sat with each other during class. We usually discussed books, but about halfway through the school year, Amy began discussing Dungeons & Dragons. It was obvious that she loved the game, and I couldn't help but be excited with her. The characters seemed fascinating.
I mentioned to her that I would like to learn to play the game. Amy gave a nervous laugh, and changed the subject. I mentioned my desire to play D&D again on another day, but Amy changed the subject. She stopped bringing up the game altogether.
The elf was out of the dungeon, however.
My curiosity had been roused, and I brought it up again. Amy looked unhappy, her eyes darting side to side, seeking escape. She would not look at me, but she finally blurted out her concerns.
"I just don't think that you're smart enough to play Dungeons & Dragons."
The sounds in the room became muffled, as if the suction of a vacuum had surrounded us. I could feel my face heating up. Taunts and insults from long ago welled up through a crack in my heart, spilling out like blood. I wanted to punch Amy right in the face, and my hands curled into fists in my lap. My maligned ego could have cheerfully kicked and stomped Amy into a red pulp on the linoleum floor, even as I wanted to curl up into a corner and cry. I took a breath, exhaling like a smoker with the first cigarette of the day.
I told Amy that perhaps she had a point. I did my best to appear unconcerned, indifferent. I even smiled. Amy was too relieved to see what her remark had done. She babbled on about how very complicated the game was, and how I just would not be able to keep up, and she was so glad that I understood. I just kept smiling. I asked if she would be willing to loan me her manuals. Amy ran to her locker and handed me her copy of The Dungeon Master's Guide, along with another book. I promised to bring the books back as soon as I finished reading them.
Except that I never did. I am not proud of it, but the books have remained with me for over thirty years. Technically, I never finished reading them, so I haven't broken my promise. I thought that I would feel guilty about keeping those books, but I never have. The anger has faded, but the books have stayed. They're a reminder. In gaming, there's almost always a burglar character, a trickster, who uses stealth and subterfuge to steal "loot" from other players or get the best of the monster. My friend insulted me beyond repair. However, I was smart enough to get her to cheerfully hand over her "loot" without a second thought.