Long Game

…Short Game

Kent Mitchell
8 min readDec 23, 2022


In Berkeley at a restaurant bar having a Manhattan, attempting to write. Shifting from awareness of the uncompromisingly yet unassumingly beautiful hostess to an attractive brown-haired woman with a suitcase talking to an older friend at the bar with a “sweetie” who shows up and disappears again. It’s a short game thinking I’ll get something immediate out of the desire I feel towards them. Why? I feel longing towards them both but deny it even while entertaining it: I say to myself “Ooh, what’s next?” but I don’t move. I don’t speak to either one, just look, gaining nothing. If one of them turns my way I avert my gaze.

In my soul I don’t know what I want. Or maybe I don’t access the depth of my soul. Is there a difference?

I see the short game as desire with no action. Failing to engage when another initiates. Having an intent to do something without knowing or awareness of deep feeling. The short game is bitter as desire is followed by failure to act. Stillborn and failed desire lacks a connection to heartfelt truth. Longing cannot become a long game unless it’s transformed by action. And how can it be transformed by action with no heartfelt connection to the soul’s desire? And again, what if I have no soul’s desire?

I look to the hostess again after several things happen, Uber just minutes away, bright sunlight blazing into my eyes.

An older man walks slowly in, pauses near my table. I tell him he can have it soon and he continues on without comment. Before that, the people who’ve reserved two tables by the window show up wearing masks. As the first one comes through the door our eyes meet until she waves. She knows me, before she waves, before we look at each other, before she walks in. Before I arrive.


An unknown woman and I meet eyes until she waves. Because we know each other. Because she knows me, from before our eyes meet above her mask. And does the hostess know me? She’s seen me before, but no, I wouldn’t say she knows me. Yet the other woman does, and the hostess later tells me her name. Or earlier. Or a different hostess. Not sure except one of the hostesses told me her name, which I’ve forgotten.

Another day (or a previous day) I’m here again listening to a guy down the bar talking loudly about hurricanes, swearing with each sentence while his group, including an attractive woman who seems strong by her posture but hardly gets a word in, who keeps ordering drinks while she eats her pizza, sits passively. The hostess is here, this time covered head to foot in hoodie and sweats, only her huge eyes showing, magnified through black, thick-rimmed glasses.

Not the same one

As I’m leaving she tells me her name. Why? I’d talked with her a moment before, mentioned how big her eyes were behind her glasses. I was drinking and talking with everyone at the bar, could it be my energy made her want to introduce herself — or was it the complement? I’m shy and look at the server standing next to her instead of directly at her when she says that, and I don’t give her my name, though the whole point of my drinking was to be more open and social.

Not the first hostess, nor the same who asks me on different day if I’m the father of a soccer player she knows…


The background buzz continues that time at the restaurant bar. Train horns, children, strollers, Uber a minute away. I’d planned to talk with my wife before a party where I’d held off contacting people beforehand because of a question of how we’d present ourselves. How do I present myself? How did I present myself to the hostess who tells me her name?

The other hostess coming up to me asking was I someone’s dad reminds me of something else: these hostesses all seem around nineteen or twenty. So her telling me her name is a nineteen-year-old talking with a fifty-seven-year-old, not two nineteen-year-olds sharing nineteen-year-old thoughts.

Short game: complementing a nineteen-year-old and forgetting how old I am while in the moment wanting more. Perhaps the moment has less longing and more action if I don’t over-focus on expectations. Actions such as complementing her by saying her eyes are huge behind her glasses. Now thinking back I was glad to complement her on her eyes and she seemed glad to receive the gift in that moment.

Can we always live in a moment of kindly-shared truths?

And the long game? Can it be that so much more happens around the short game than I know? Clouds swirling over an unenlightened path, long road back to the beginning. I’m only aware and am en route, am en route and already back at the start. The short game is fraught, unsatisfying, sailing into a storm without a life vest. What if the long game is accepting the short game?


True to self I move within a single moment. And the movement is within a dimension in some way separate from the flow of time in that it’s only one moment. Meeting someone, we engage in a conversation and share truths and then it’s no longer a short game but a lifelong game lived in awareness of another, even if we never see each other again. Lifelong, just from sharing a truth! Sharing truths is the key to human forever, key to the moment which is the true human forever. How can I live always aware of those around me, notice them more? Did others learn this as kids while I learned to dive within myself, not becoming very good at connecting?So easy to just pick up another novel…


How does sharing truths create a longer game? Communicating a fact of my personal life brings me into another’s awareness. Being aware of someone else initiates a long game. Just like that. Awareness brings the long road full circle back to here where we’re always wanting to be seen by someone else...

Waking, or fading toward sleep. Stepping back from time, again. I plead to remember, and that the competing forces in me be reconciled.


Moments in conversation, a piano key pressed in a song, reminding me of an indrawn breath. A person smiling as our eyes meet? A loop of awareness circling back to a moment of appreciation. Fears dropping away with my attention here in the moment.


Questions for philosophers, engaging in the moment, consistently present, drifting off to sleep or waking. In different than usual states, such as drifting to sleep, I can be stripped down, perhaps something which usually runs in my consciousness hasn’t loaded yet, or is shut down by approaching sleep. I don’t have all the usual baggage of preconceptions and demands to perform a certain way, even assumptions that my feelings don’t matter, only my actions. What in my ordinary consciousness prevents me being more fully aware of where I actually am?

Do I have to be almost asleep, or just waking, to be free?

The bars

Sadly, until I face those things I do not face I can’t be free…unless I temporarily shut down the parts of my brain carrying dissonance, and in these altered moments find a moment’s freedom. I can talk with enthusiasm to people I don’t know when I’ve been drinking. I can laugh and share something about myself, perhaps, ask them questions, or offer a complement. I can escape the prison for a moment while drinking or otherwise enthusiastic and choosing not to worry about things.

If I am only free when shutting down the parts of my mind that form the prison bars, is there a way I can I slip out, turn that part back on while I’m outside, and stay outside, escaping the prison cell? Probably not, but a nice idea. More likely I’d find myself with new friends and the same problems. Or maybe I’d be at least partially free for having tried, the memory of freedom a kind of freedom in itself?

Slipping past the bars… a twist of perception as I enter a new zone. Unwilling to face my imprisonment how can I later write about it? In an altered state I slip through, look around, am quickly drawn back. Various moments point towards freedom: climbing a hill or drinking a glass of wine, recalling a glance where me and another’s eyes meet. In the moment of the glance, and the moment of remembering it, I’m past the bars. If I can only remember…

I slip out, then awaken, back inside, moments later


Sanity and joy as I sit writing. Half an hour till a meeting, I’ve been allowed a table if I promise to leave at 1:45 sharp and make way for the next customer. Sanity and joy. Alone with voices and faces all around. A woman smiles, wooed by the man who faces her at the bar. Another woman glances from her group of three, we glance at each other again, again. But no charge. The glances pass leaving nothing. We don’t know each other, don’t choose to. Walking past her later, she stirs. I’d already forgotten she was there, lost in my own thoughts, and it’s too late — I’m past, and I have no knowledge of why she stirred at the last moment, and there’s no follow-up. Ships passing in the night; the darkness of unknowing consumes our connection.

Dance is all — dance of glance, dance of talk, dance of thought

Short or Long Game, plan or no plan, road to nowhere or back to start, I’m still trying to figure it out, and failing. A painting I did which might have been a moment outside the prison bars, or inside but momentarily unaware. Is there a difference? Are there really bars? The long game is playing the short game well, here in the moment, despite the fears.