I heard once that Colin Powell was feeling a little isolated in Washington, D.C., and it made me think that if things were different, I'd invite him over to my apartment, fix him a drink, and then sit down and play Scrabble with him. He'd sit opposite me in his ribbons and medals, take off his glasses and spend a long time wondering what to do with all those Es he'd chosen. I would give him a couple of Ps so he could lay down "preemptive."

Then after I beat him at Scrabble, we'd do a facial and he'd tell me about his day and then, during a video, maybe he'd tell me he wanted to quit his job, and I'd say, "Sweetie, you're too good for them. Follow your bliss."

At the end of the night, he'd get his coat, his driver, and his gun, put on his little army hat by the door and say good night. We'd shake hands and we'd both know that he wouldn't quit his job, but that for one night he'd gotten to relax, play Scrabble, drink Jameson's, and have a facial while watching You've Got Mail with a cute girl on a red suede couch.

From that night on, ours would be a rare friendship, neither of us wanting anything from the other except company. I wouldn't need to be photographed with him at swank restaurants and, anyway, I wouldn't know how to act if he bought me one of those roses from that guy who comes around to your table with a basket of flowers he's just rescued from the florist down the street right before they were to be tossed into a dumpster. All I'd be able to offer would be another board game, another glass of whiskey, another facial with a soothing rosemary-mint rinse.

Eventually he and I would have to part company. Companionable silence is scarier than any geopolitical crisis; eventually I'd send him that final e-mail. Subject: "Dear Colin (sigh)."

I expect that I would miss him, or some things about him. The wire-rimmed glasses he'd always lose on top of his head, that shiny black holster he'd loop over the back of my dining-room chair. The way the light would gleam on those medals of his. And if I saw his stern face at a televised press conference, I'd think of the times he'd sacrifice an opportunity to lay down a word like "quay" for a quadruple-word score to open the board from a cramped corner instead.

Delia Coleman is a freelance writer currently trapped in the fifth chapter of her stalled novella. She lives in Chicago.

Text copyright © 2003 Delia Coleman. All rights reserved.