Let me paint you a picture.

It's a boy, maybe nine or ten, sitting on the worn rug of his bedroom. His hands are tightly held over his ears, but his eyes are open, as a single tear drips from one. In front of him, a chess board. He holds a black queen in his mouth as the other pieces are in order on the board.

He studies it, always preparing to make his move.

He's played entire games against himself, all in his head. He never takes his hands from his ears for fear of what he might hear below.

It's a boy, twelve now, watching from the shadows as his father limps out the door. He holds a hand to his face where a slight bruise is blossoming, a parting gift.

He smiles timidly at his mother, who smiles plastically back.

The doorbell rang not two hours later, and he watches, once more from the shadows, as his mother grabbed this stranger by his shirt and kissed him hungrily.

He sits now on the floor of his bedroom, holding his hands over his ears as not to hear what goes on in the room next door. His eyes are open, as he angrily blinks back his tears. He holds the black queen in his mouth and studies the board.

Still, he plays in his mind, making no move physically, but planning every move, game after game.

It's a boy, fifteen now, playing for the first time with a partner. He wins the first game, and plays another. And another. And another.

He's never lost one.

He wins a competition, and as he accepts the trophy, he smiles for the first time in a while, feeling something welling up in him he has never felt.

Maybe the winning could make his mother proud of him. Maybe the winning could earn him her love somehow.

But she doesn't care. She slaps him and asks why he's late, and smashes the trophy.

He retreats upstairs, and kneels once more on that worn floor, dashing all his chess pieces from their spaces and tearing the board. He stares at what he's done and his shaking hands, and picks up the black queen from where it sits at his feet, holding it to his chest as the tears threaten his eyes.

It's a man, though still with that boy's heart. He sits over a chess board, trying to concentrate on the game as he feels his life spiral out of control.

After all this time, he's won and won, but now he feels himself losing his grip.

He hasn't won one game.

He dashes the pieces from the board and turns and walks away before anyone can see the tears spilling from his eyes.

It wasn't a petty display of bad sportsmanship, though he'd let them believe what they'd like. It was him watching his whole life go to waste.