The Moment I Quit Playing Dungeons & Dragons

This essay was originally published in SMITH Magazine.

In the fifth grade, my friends and I laid extensive Dungeons and Dragons dungeon blueprints on a table in the back of the classroom and rolled our twelve-sided dice during recess. Sometimes our role-playing games spilled over into regular classtime, and, much to the amusement of the other students, occasionally the teacher would let us continue playing. We learned an important lesson: popular kids don’t play Dungeons and Dragons, because they’re too busy making fun of the nerds who do. We didn’t let the haters stop us, though, because we were usually having too much fun.

One day during recess, two of the most popular girls in our school, Haley and Jodi, approached me while I was alone in the classroom sketching out a new dungeon map. (I had recently been promoted to my first stint as Dungeon Master by my circle of friends.)

“We have a question,” Jodi said, smiling. “Haley wants to know if you’ll go out with her.”

A wave of emotion flooded my senses, a physical sensation preventing me from speaking. This was the moment that I had rehearsed in my head a thousand million billion trillion times, the moment that was never supposed to happen. Popularity was Haley’s default setting, her genetic birthright; I was part of the vast, unpopular masses, invisible under everyday circumstances to her highness. Yes, Haley! Yes, I will go out with you! Let us hold hands in the hallways and form our own royal court where your friends will mingle with mine! We will join forces, the most popular girl and the most unpopular of boys, and the fifth grade will never be the same! “Yes,” I said in a meek voice.

The girls looked at each other, their lips curling into smirks. “I’m just kidding!” Jodi said. My heart plummeted in my chest like an elevator whose cable has snapped. Haley and her friend walked off and went about their lives, unaware of the severe psychological damage they had inflicted upon me. I never played Dungeons and Dragons again.