It takes me 42 seconds to think of a longer word, and BEAT is all I can muster. I place it at the center of the board. Double-word, 12 points. I suck. My opponent, he's a 42-year-old cow-nipple pincher from Worcestershire, England. "I have a little farm," he says. "My wife and I milk cows and turn them into money." I say I'm a foot reflexologist from Manila, Philippines.

I am a fictional character living in a fictional country filled with other fictional characters like Wendell Caplili and Jessica Zafra.

He adds ACK to make TACK, C on a triple-letter score, 16 points. "Philippines," he says. "It's just as lovely as I've seen it on TV." Have you been here, I ask. "No," he says, and adds a smiley. "El Nido looks really nice though." That polysyllabic place you live in, I say, I've never heard of it before. Where is that exactly? "Midlands," he says. "Central England."

Given the choice, Wendell Capili chooses to be an optimist. Jessica Zafra chooses to be a pessimist. Together they annihilate each other.

I lay AMEN down KA, double-word down and across, 24 points. "How long have you been here?" he says. He meant here in Scrabulous. I say I'm a noob. I haven't played Scrabble since high school. What about you? "Been here a couple of weeks. Just for fun, really." Married with children, I ask. "Yes," he says. "Two kids." A boy and a girl. The girl's in high school, the other works in a dairy factory. "Must be nasty working with people's feet."

He tiles WEB up the B of BEAT, and makes loser points of 9. Not really, I say. I disinfect them before the massage. Depends on the area you press. Heals illnesses. What's your foot like, I ask him. He laughs and says, "I'm big boned. My feet are pale. I wear socks everyday." Do they stink? I type a grin emoticon. He grins back. "Sometimes. When the weather's really cold. My feet sweats in my shoes."

In this construct I choose to be a foot reflexologist. In the UP Diliman construct, Capili is a professor. In the construct of the writing industry, Zafra is a critic and a satirist.

I place QUEEN across the double-word grid from AMEN. I rack my brains, wince, and change it to ELOQUENT, T a blank tile. Scrabble! 104 points. "Not bad for a beginner," he says. WOOT, I type. I break into a Dance Revo. "You are EVIL EVIL EVIL. I hate you. I quit." He LOLs and ROTFLs. Hey, I say, What's your name, by the way? "Chad," he replies. "You?" My brain hangs for 5 seconds then I type, Call me Patrick. "WTF, you're a guy?" Pause. "Not meant to insult." Patricia, I type. I was kidding.

In Scrabulous I am Patricia, my vital statistics 36-25-36, all of which are perfect squares. My wardrobe hues are mostly red, pink, and purple. I wear catlike eyeglasses. Capili wears glasses. Zafra wears glasses. We all have defective genes.

Chad tiles HME to spell HOME down a triple-word score from ELOQUENT, 39 points. "How old are you?" he says. 24, I say. "Do you have a family?" I prefer to be single; I have converted myself into a public temptation. I type in a smiley. He laughs and says, "If I visit the Philippines, will you tour me around?" Sure, why not, I say. I'll even give your bony feet a massage. "That would be nice," he replies with a smiley. I'll open your Qi, I say, your energy field, and grant you a horrible disease. LMAO. "Do that," he types back, "and I might kick you with my other foot." Grin.

We're all but a mental construct of our own creations. Sometimes it manifests, sometimes it doesn't. Writers create worlds: comprehensible inkblots printed on white paper. Like black coffee and white sugar, black defense and white offense in chess, the world is really black and white. What you see in old television screens are really gray people and gray objects. Color is just a human invention. I choose to color my world in the form of writing. Chad chooses to be a cow-nipple pincher in the idyllic construct located at the other side of this fabricated planet. The Earth doesn't really resemble the shape of an orange. It's shaped more like a pumpkin, squashed on both poles.

I lay OX below the E of ELOQUENT, X on a double triple-letter score, 50 points. Your wife, I stress, where is she? "Fixing dinner." What's she cooking? "Steak and white asparagus with truffle soup." Sounds appetizing, I type. I don't know what truffle soup tastes like. "Some sort of mushroom," he says. "Sharp and oily. Delicious. It stinks though." Laughs. "What do you do on your free time?" I filter my interests and say, I read cult fiction or hike mountains. "Wow," he types. "Mountains here. Windy. Occasional blizzards." Sucks to you, I say, laughing. Do you have snow? "Sometimes. Weather's erratic out here. Cold. Around 8 degrees."

The truth resides in our heads. Or high up above in the realm of Forms and Ideas. What is Truth? The truth is, nobody really knows. Nobody even knows the truth "nobody really knows". Reality: the fictional Patricia, half-Filipina, half-neverborn. Capili, half-sunshine, Zafra, half-hellfire.

He tiles WEEP across WEB, P on a triple-letter score, 15 points. The score's 190 to 79. "What book are you reading right now?" I glance at the stack of books at my bedside table and type, How to be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson. "What's it about?" Freedom and fine art of doing nothing. He ROTFLs and says, "Doing nothing? Interesting. You're a loafer then?" I work smart, I say. I'm a sybarite. He doesn't reply to this so I ask, Do you read? "When I have time. Crichton, mostly. And some detective novels." I've read Next, I say. DNA manipulation and stuff. "Really?" I work on my tiles, wait for him. "Yes," he says a minute later. "I just checked my bookshelf. I have Next. But never get the chance to read it." You should, I say, The plot's complicated though.

Do you know me? You know me, you know Chad, only in the confines of this text. You know Capili drinking milk in the fictional dimension of the television screen. You know Zafra in the character of her books. Beyond that, what makes you think we're real?

I place L to make LEX, and spell the word TOOL on a double-word score, 18 points. "My wife is spying on me," he types LOLing. What did you say to her? I ask him. "I said I'm playing Scrabble with someone from the Philippines." He pauses a moment, then types again, "It's been 20 years and I'm still in love with her." Why are you telling me this? I type but scratch it out, backspace. I key in a smiley and say, That's nice. Then I continue with: I don't believe in marriage, apparently. "Everybody says that. You'll never know until you find the right person." I mean, it's just paperwork. "You have the right to your opinion." And kids, I point out. I'm not fond of kids. He laughs again, says nothing.

You look out the window in the night and you see the moon. It's shaped like a coin cut in the middle. The other half must be lost elsewhere in outer space. The moon isn't really a chunk of rock rotating around this pumpkin planet. It's actually a large coin of silver with elves on the surface, adding and removing bits of it each day. Literature, science, the internet, Discovery Channel, everybody else led you to believe it's a satellite influencing the tides of the sea.

He affixes SLEDGE across the E of WEB, L scores double-letter, 9 points. "It's fun skiing with the kids once in a while." I've never seen snow before, I say. I only see them from my freezer. He ROTFLs then types, "You should see my son. Pretty boy with blue eyes." I laugh out loud and ask his son's name and age. "Roland. 21. Skinhead and races a horse." Interesting. "His current girlfriend is a black racehorse named Pauline." He wonders what I look like and asks for a photo to email it to him. I fabricate an exotic babe in his head: chocolate skin, long hair, brown eyes, slender. I say I have a birthmark on my shoulder the shape of a goat. He finds this amusing.

Another fictional character creeps in. Roland, six letters. Standing upright, one head, a torso, two arms, two feet. He has ten fingers and ten toes. But then again, Roland is just a name that exists in this text.

I tile GEY on double-word, and make WEEP an adjective, 27 points. Is your son around? I ask. He tells me Ronald's out, but he'll be home before 9. It's 30 minutes past 7 at Worcestershire, 7 hours behind Manila. Then his email address appears on my screen. "My son would like to see what you look like," he says vaguely. Your son, I say, mistyping LMAO. What makes you so sure I'll like him, or he'll like me? "Just a hunch. You sound like a nice lady to bring over here." Scenes of white Christmas, windmills, verdant meadows, and a legion of cows pop up in my head. Then I see myself thirty years later, in rubber boots wading through cow shit and yanking cow nipples into filthy buckets of milk. I laugh, typing, I don't even have a passport. I have never stepped out of the country.

Chad adds S to make STOOL, and double-words STAG vertically, T a blank tile, 13 points. Then he asks, "Aren't you sleepy? What time do you work?" Freelance, I say. I freelance foot work. I post ads on bulletin boards and restroom cubicles, then people call me. "Why reflexology?" The kicks, I say. I get lots of tips using lip service. All these things, I make it all up.

Me, Chad, Roland, Capili, Zafra, and the moon, we are characters represented two worlds apart from the realm of Forms and Ideas. In this world of words, we are mere inkblots structured in such a way to convey meaning. In the realm of Reality, we are materialized in the minds of other people, in documents that support our existence. To be is to be perceived. Or so deluded philosophers say. I would also like to believe I am deep and intellectual.

I take out a J and score 18 points beside an O from STOOL. You know your energy field, I type. I can sense your chakra's at the abdomen level. "Which means?" he says. I pause and say, Which means you have a lot of sexual energy. He LOLROTFLLMAOs and grins two times. "My wife and I," he says, "We're active individuals." I'm happy for you, I say. Not all people get to that point.

That a stool isn't really a piece of excrement or furniture; it only produces a shape and texture in our heads. That a stool isn't really brown; it only produces a color of brownness in our eyes.

He spells DRIFTS up the S of SLEDGE, triple-letter double-word. That makes 24. My mom and dad, I say, they have zero sexual energy. They have lots of mental energy though, their chakra. He doesn't comment on this. All this chakra talk gets boring, so I ask him, Do you sell milk then? "We sell most of them. We leave something for ourselves. To make cream, yogurt, and ice cream." Cool, I say. What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? "Cantaloupe."

That ice cream isn't really cold and sweet; it only produces a sensation of coldness and sweetness in our tongue. That milk isn't really white; it only produces a color of whiteness in our eyes.

All my tiles at the base point of 1, I write a double-word RUIN from DRIFTS. A sucky 8 points. I almost forget what cantaloupe looks like. "But it's out of season. So we always have vanilla instead." I like vanilla, although I like chocolate better. Generic flavors, I think to myself. I grew up on dirty ice cream. I ask, Do you know the flavor ube? He doesn't. I tell him ube's a purple yam unique to the Philippines. I'm not sure about it, but I tell him that anyway. I say it tastes like gabi or kamote. "What are those?" I laugh, saying, I forget their English variations. I'm not good at naming vegetables and plants.

That this sentence only exists when you are looking at it, and when you're not there to see it, it disappears. That ideas only exists when you're thinking of them, and when you're not, they die out.

He puts SHIRT at the end of ELOQUENT, same 8 points. "We tried garlic ice cream once," he begins. "Then ginger ice cream, for their nutritive value." Ginger and garlic, I type. GROSS. How was it? "Awkward-tasting but is okay." Speaking of garlic, I remember my paper about vampires from Popular Literature class. "You go to school?" Oh shit. I mean, back in college, I say, gathering my composure. The vampires, the concept originated from England. Bram Stoker's Dracula, you remember?

Tom Hodgkinson's How to be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Michael Crichton's Next, Wendell Capili's Mabuhay To Beauty, Jessica Zafra's Twisted Series, and this article I am writing, these things are in one way or another, an advertisement. All writing is a form of advertisement. What do you think am I selling?

I lay AGREE at the triple-word score at the bottom left of the board, extra word OE, 23 points. He says he's seen the 2002 film version. "What about vampires?" We have the manananggal or half-segmenter. A vulture-woman who tears her upper body from the waist and flies off at night to suck fetuses from pregnant women. He LOLs at this and comments, "I heard of a half-segmenter breaking into two," then adds, "breaking vertically." Gross. If that were a guy, I tell him, where will his penis go? Chad tiles a synonym of pimple, ZIT at RUIN. Double-word score, 24. He laughs out loud. "I don't know. Probably be sliced down the middle." We laugh and ROTFL and LMAO.

Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. But fiction is a lie, nevertheless. Together they cancel out each other. One minus one? Zero? What makes you so sure zero exists?
I add S to ZIT, and place SAC across a double-word, 23. Do you play everyday? I ask him. "Yes. Two hours average." You have buddies around here? "Just a few. About three or four. Most people don't want to chat while playing."

Suddenly, my four-year-old niece bangs at my door in the middle of the night, and enters my room in her pajamas. In a raspy voice she says, "Tita." Eyes droopy, hair tousled, she continues, "I need to poo." I tell Chad to wait for two minutes. Nature calls, and he says "Ok." Kaira, my niece, she takes more than two minutes to give birth to her long dark brown turd. "Keliit-liit mong tao, kelaki-laki ng tae mo," I kid her. We laugh in the bathroom. I help wash her and when that's done, she runs into my room. I find her punching the keys and "fdftthgjgffllk';;l" appears on the chat screen. Sorry about that, I tell Chad. My cat just walked over my laptop. I shove Kaira out my room.

Whether this game happened or not, how can you be so certain? I am creating this fictional world in this arbitrary text where I pretend to be a character of my own making. A fictional character in a fictional text in a fictional world in a fictional idea. A lie within a lie within a lie within a lie.

He spells a variation of idiot down the L of SLEDGE. LOUT, U on a double-letter grid, 5 points. "You have a cat?" His name is Tubby. I picked him off the street as a kitten. "Cute," he says. "How old?" One year. Apparently I left my door open. He's sprawled on my bed now. Do you have pets? "We have some sort of lizard at the kitchen counter," he says. "He lives in an aquarium and changes color depending on the curtain." Coolness. What do you call him? "Lizzy." Very creative. We LOL at the same time. GRUNT double-word across from GEY, I score 14. "My wife," he says. "She needs to lose weight." Then continues, "Can you lose weight using reflexology?" I laugh and say, Yes. But if you press or squeeze it the wrong way, she'll inflate and soar to outer space. Grin smiley. He ROTFLs. "Seriously." Never done it before. Has she tried apple cider vinegar? "What about it?" You mix two spoonfuls with half a cup of water then drink it before meals. "Does it work?" Yeah, I lost 25 pounds in two months.

I am a compulsive liar. What makes that previous statement true?

He triple scores the word BOOT, 18 points. Apple cider also has other magical properties, I tell him. "Magical?" It cures some superficial illnesses. Headaches, menstrual cramps, constipation, and stuff. "I'll google that later." Erectile dysfunction. He laughs. How fat is she? "Not cow-fat or obese-fat," he replies. "She just doesn't look what she used to be." LOL. She must be hot back then. He tells me he met her in the church. Sings in the choir, beautiful voice. Until now? "Oh, she still sings," he says. "But she only sings for me." That's so sweet, I write. My heart melts, somewhat. I spell MIRE from AMEN, double-word with a bonus double-word IN, 16 points. Christian? "Anglican." Active? "Very." He pauses for a while then asks, "Do you believe in God?" I am a radical atheist but I type, Yes. We are a Christian country.

Our world greatly relies on words alone. That without words, there wouldn't be history, no culture, no society, no Patricia, no Scrabulous, no Roland, no Chad. The Bible is a necessary fiction.

He tiles WIRE up from WEEPY, W on triple-letter, 11. "Christian country in Asia," he says. Philippines, East Timor, and some parts of Indonesia, I say, Christian countries. "East Timor," he types. "Where is that?" It's beside Mexico. "What?" he says. I'm kidding; I have no idea where that is. Poor sense of geography. He grins. Do you travel? I ask him. He says he hardly leaves England. He's scared of riding airplanes. Why, I say. His parents, he tells me, they died in a plane crash back in the '80s. I say I'm sorry with a sad face. "It's ok."

What do you make of this world if words are removed entirely? No labels on the streets, no libraries, no internet, no signs, no symbols, no texts? We're all just lizards, really. We camouflage; we lie.

Double-word YOUR crossing the word GRUNT, I get 14. We're almost out of tiles, I tell him. You're losing! Our score is 321 against 180. "I quit!" He LOLs and ROTFLs. "You're good." Just my luck, I say. Seconds of boredom pass. Did you know, I tell him, Did you know there are erogenous zones on the foot... that give genital stimulation? "What?" He laughs and says, "You are kidding me." Would I lie to you?

What is real? What is truth? A pregnant woman faces her husband and asks, How do I look? Her husband says, You are beautiful. In his mind he says, You look like a cow.

PIT across from the end of LOUT, I in triple-letter, he scores 7. "I don't know." He laughs. "Your turn." It's what keeps my customers coming, really, I type. He laughs again. It's like being a prostitute, in a way. He ROTFLs, saying, "You're telling me, the foot is connected to the genitals."

Truth is found only after obliterating words and symbols that produce arbitrary meanings. But really, the foot is connected to the genitals. Imagine a foot right there in your genital. That's how it's anatomically connected. Why is the recreation organ situated beside the excrement organ? Babies and feces, they're a membrane separate from each other. If babies had flashlights inside the womb, they'll see translucent fecal matter floating from the wall they're pressed against. Gross but true. Or is it?

Two words FA and AY from the word YOUR, I score 14. The blood flow at your foot, I say, if you want to be scientific about it, it's connected to every organ of the body. "I don't know if I should believe that." He grins. Ever wonder, I type, how most food supplements are geared towards maintaining perfect blood circulation? He laughs, saying, "Just don't know how you do that with the foot."

Would you prefer to see the Emperor naked? Of course you would. You like seeing naked people. We're all animals, really. The only difference is that we're intelligent and we wear clothes. We make everything complicated. When a child sees crap in the toilet, it is soft, brown, disgusting, and stinky. But when we see our crap in the toilet, we see the food that we ate, broken down in our intestines, its nutrients distributed to the cells in the body. We see food converted into energy. We see why we get up in the morning and do the things we do. With this picture of crap, we see that we need to eat to survive. Crap has the same connotation as existence. And once we die, our bodies rot, intermingle with the earth, and become minerals for plants, which would then be eaten by people and animals. The cycle goes on. Crap isn't just a crap. Literally, it makes sense: Life is a piece of shit.

LAWN at the W of WIRE, L triples, he gets 8 points. I laugh and continue, the blood flow, it pumps from the heart, ends at the foot, and goes back to the heart. "Your point being?" I don't really know the science behind it, I tell him. You just have to have faith somehow. "I would like to try that," he says. "Just to prove you wrong." He LOLs and says, "Look, we're running out of tiles. Can I have your email?" I place VIA down the top center triple-word score, 18. Alright, I say. I invent an email address in my head then type, I'll just send you my picture then.

Ideas, Reality, and Words, they are similar and distinct, the same and different. Think of the word "I". In your mind, "I" is the totality of yourself: your repressed childhood memories, your experiences from cradle to grave, your atomic and anatomical structure, your complex emotions, your thoughts and imaginations and dreams and aspirations. It would take a thousand writers to summarize your "I" in a library of books. Your "I" is an entire universe of its own. In reality, you're just an intelligent ape wearing clothes, sometimes spiritual, otherwise apathetic. In words, "I" is just black pixels in the shape of a vertical line. Ideas, Reality, Words: the person you love isn't the same person who loves you isn't the same person represented by the word 'person'. That the sum of the parts does not equate to its whole. The truth is, a triangular sandwich tastes better than a rectangular one.

END down the E of BEAT, he scores 4. The game is almost over. "That would be great." He keys in a grin emoticon. "Do you chat? YM? Webcam? So you can see my son." I add a letter I on the triple-letter grid after the H of SHIRT, 7 points. "It would be nice if I could chat with you again," he continues. "Outside Scrabulous, I mean. Cos I suck at Scrabble." He ROTFLs. I LOL again and say, then add me up, footwork96. Grin. Somehow, deep inside, I feel a pang of guilt.

I am Patricia and I exist only in this text. Somewhere in the future, words are going to be added in this text saying that Chad and I met in England. That he is white, fat, wrinkly, and wears five layers of clothing. You ask yourself, did this really happen? It did. It happened in the pages of this article.

He adds D to HI to make HID, 7. Ha! I say. You are over mister. "Wait," he says. "Before you put the last tiles, when will you be online?" I can't tell. You have my email anyway. I put in a smiley. Any last words? "Uhm, you get some sleep now. Nice meeting you, Patricia." I LOL at the name and say, You too, Chad. I tile AID on triple-word score from HID, I get 12 points. The game automatically logs outs and the final score pops up on my screen. His remaining 4-point tiles are transferred from his score to mine. Final score, 406 against his 213. I win.

// 16 Sep 2008

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