There’s a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain, in a town I’ve never visited before last weekend, where I hope to someday stay again. It’s modest with one bedroom, a living area, and a loft. The advertisement online says it sleeps two to eight people. We squeezed in a few more than that. Somewhere in that cabin, probably under an appliance or large piece of furniture, is a Jenga piece left over from a crowd of twenty somethings who spent a couple of days there just having a good time.
I’ve been on a Jenga kick lately. I don’t remember what exactly started it. I just know a few weeks ago I talked about it nearly all day long while shopping with my friend Jennifer. I never had Jenga as a child, and I’ve probably only played the real game a few times. I don’t know the game well, but I remember my 6th grade english teacher had a funny off brand version called “wooden tumbling tower”. I think that was also the name of the set we found later that same night at a bar downtown. Yes, on the day I became obsessed with playing Jenga, we found a set in a bar downtown. So after a day of beer fests and Christmas shopping a handful of us sat around an old trunk turned coffee table in a hipster bar and played Jenga with a set of pieces that were all different shapes, sizes, and carried crude handwritten notes on their sides.
Last Saturday night we were on the side of a mountain in a sweet little cabin with a crowd of some of the people I love most in this world. My endlessly thoughtful boyfriend spent two months planning the surprise birthday gathering of friends from work, and home. The refrigerator was full of food, the floor covered in air mattresses and pillows. In a bag near the door was a unopened Jenga game Jennifer purchased for the weekend.
It’s just Jenga. but Jenga, if you don’t know, is one of the most stressful games, based on a general knowledge of physics and architecture, that I can name. It’s a challenge from the start. Even when you’re just pulling pieces from a perfectly sturdy tower, one jumpy move could lose you the game. As expected, the tension just builds as the game goes on. Eventually you reach a fork in the road where everyone around the tower continues to act as competitors, or they all turn to cheerleading for the sake of keeping the tower standing.
Each player’s turn becomes a pattern:
Pointing out which pieces might be safe to move — silence while the chosen player delicately pulls it from the tower — silence as they place it gently back on top of the tower — eruption of cheers when they step away with the tower still in tact — repeat.
On a Saturday night in a tiny cabin in a town none of us had ever seen before, two groups of people I love from two very different parts of my life came together around a tower of tiny wooden blocks.
Someday some person is going to find that missing Jenga piece. She might just throw it right away. If she’s lucky she might, for a moment, be able to imagine the group of people who played a game of Jenga so intense they sent pieces flying to where they couldn’t be recovered.