“Do you want to play trivia tonight?”
The question was simple enough. I was fresh off my sojourn to Costa Rica, and I was ready to get back in the swing of things. I’d had no choice but to spend my summer in Central America, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I came back with stories, a completed work requirement, and a terrible goatee, which my roommate didn’t tell me he disliked until after I shaved it. When he asked me to play trivia, though, I still had it. I got back to Brooklyn a few days before grad school began again, and a night of trivia seemed like a good way to kick off year two.
The pub we went to was at the end of our block, and yet, for the first two years of living in New York, I’m not sure I ever played trivia there. I loved quiz shows, and my roommate had even worked at the pub, but we had never walked down the street and tested our collective knowledge. That particular night, even with their crazy schedules, both of my roommates came along for the fun. One of my roommates invited his coworker and his coworker’s girlfriend, and our ragtag team was formed.
We weren’t sure what to expect, but that first night was magic. It was a competitive game, but I think we won the game with the answer, “Charles Lindbergh.” We celebrated for a bit before heading home. It had been the perfect night, almost too perfect. It seemed like the kind of night, the kind where everything comes together so well that it will never be replicated, and no one will ever show up again. I’m pretty sure one of my roommates never played again, but the other returned regularly, and thus, our Wednesday night trivia tradition began. We would get together, have dinner, and get way too into answer questions and listening to the musical clues.
Our team grew as my roommate’s coworker and girlfriend brought along their friends. We got to know more people, and soon we started hanging out on the weekends. It cannot be overstated how beneficial it is for a group of friends to have a reason to get together, a standing invite, a place to be. We’d talk about our lives in between questions and rounds, and sometimes we’d go out for a drink afterwards, just to relax, just to take the edge off after a stressful evening, hopefully after a hard-fought victory.
We developed a rivalry with another team, although it’s a little embarrassing to think about now. I’m not entirely sure they were ever aware of the rivalry, but even so, the imagined competition pushed us. They were the team to beat. They were always in the running. We also got to know the other teams we played against, the teams that were almost always there. The host had energy, and the questions were difficult. Sometimes our group would argue, or sometimes, someone would come up with a confident-sounding answer, and no one would dispute it. Sometimes these answers were right, but every now and again, even an answer uttered with incredible conviction could be wrong. I’m not sure our team was a welcoming environment for newcomers.
Questions got me through a lot, especially when I didn’t have any answers.
My second year of grad school was amazing. It was also the first year that I felt I really belonged in New York. I was seeing someone, and school was starting to make more sense. I didn’t know what would happen when grad school ended, but for that one year, I let myself just enjoy everything, and trivia was the best night of my week. We had fun with each other. We’d trade jabs with each other. Sometimes, too many people would show up to play, and two teams would have to be formed. One time, it was just me and one other person, and out of a crowded field, we came in fifth. In the process, I got to know someone much better than I did before the evening began.
When grad school ended, that trivia night on Wednesdays kept me on an even keel. The relationship was over, as was school, but for a two- to three-hour block each week, I felt a little less lost. I was in the company of friends, participating in an activity that I knew well, and I was able to vent frustrations if I wanted to, although maybe I kept them to myself. I spent so much of my weeks frustrated, that maybe it was just nice to be amongst friends, shooting the breeze, pretending we were all experts on any given topic, and hoping that we would beat every other team.
Trivia is a stupid little game, but it wasn’t stupid to us. The knowledge that I possess, most of it is not in any way useful. On those Wednesday nights, however, I had something to contribute, and those nights were truly golden. We poured our entire selves into those trivia nights. Games and gift cards were won, celebrities were sighted, and friendships were forged. When I think about it, there’s a reason why I haven’t played trivia regularly in Boston. I don’t have a cohesive group the way that I used to, but I’ve also never found a trivia that’s up to par. Maybe that’s okay. We peaked, and if the memories that I have left are the prize, then I’m okay with that.
I sit here and write and get nostalgic. I’ll miss those nights for the rest of my life. Two of my teammates even got engaged at that trivia night, and it was really amazing to know that Wednesday nights meant as much to them as they did to the rest of us. Sadly, those trivia nights came to an end, at least for me they did. I moved home to Massachusetts, the host has moved on, and a lot of my friends have as well. That’s life. We had a special period of a few years, and that’s something to remember and to toast. I will always cherish the time spent, and if you asked me if some of the my best nights in New York were spent answering questions, I’d answer unequivocally, “Yes.” Thanks for reading.