It was Saturday evening, around eight. I was at my friend Ashley’s apartment. We were kneeling over the living-room coffee table, putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. We’d bought it about a week ago during a weekend shopping trip.
Now, after working on it for a few hours every evening since, we were almost done. Twenty or so pieces remained.
Ashley squinted an eye and scanned the puzzle, clenching a piece between her thumb and forefinger. Her tongue poked out of the corner of her mouth, as if she were deep in thought. She turned the piece every which way, holding it above every possible gap.
Finally, she pushed the piece into a space near the middle, and it snapped into place with a satisfying “click.”
“Got it!” she said, pumping her fist. “That’s eight pieces for me so far, and none for you.”
“It’s not a competition!” I said, glaring. “We specifically bought the puzzle to unwind after work.”
“Oh, yeah?” Ashley’s nostrils flared. “Well, it was certainly a competition last night, when you were winning. You wouldn’t stop gloating.”
“That was different,” I said, dropping the piece I was holding and picking up another.
“Of course it was different,” Ashley said. “It was different because you were winning. And now that I’m ahead, you’re all sullen and pouty. You’re so immature.”
“Am not.” I wrenched out the piece Ashley had just snapped in and flicked it across the room. “Oops. I hate it when that happens.”
Ashley sucked in a deep breath, then let it out slowly.
An hour later, we were almost done. I snapped in a piece, leaving only one conspicuous, jigsaw-shaped gap.
“OK, hon,” I said, grinning. “It’s all on you now. You get to put in the last piece.”
Ashley frowned, scanning the table. “Where is it? I don’t see it!”
I craned my neck, looking around. “Is one missing? Did we lose it?”
“Oh.” Ashley crawled across the room. “Here it is. It’s over by the TV. I forgot you threw it when you had your little temper tantrum — because you were losing.”
I crossed my arms. “Like I said, it’s not a competition. At least not tonight, when you’re ahead.”
Ashley returned and snapped in the last piece. “There.”
We both knelt there together, looking at the finished product.
“Well, I said after a while, “that was underwhelming. Should we go to bed?”
“Yes, please,” Ashley said.
Later that night, around two in the morning, a huge crash jolted me awake. I sat straight up in bed, eyes wide open.
I immediately noticed that Ashley was missing, and that a light was shining down the hallway from the living room.
“Hey!” I called. “Are you OK?”
“I’m so upset!” Ashley called. “It was dark in here, and I knocked into the coffee table. Our beautiful puzzle is in a million pieces on the floor!”
I rubbed my eyes. “You mean a thousand pieces, Ash.”
“What’s that?” Ashley called.
I sighed and shook my head. “Nothing.”