well, this was it, there was no turning back, i was outside the front entrance to the YMCA with my sworn eternal enemy, the bully, the tormentor, the roadblock, Vulpe, Ganon, waiting for me in the boxing ring around the way. i was a boy of 7 but the ugly real world had grown me up too quickly, i had to become a man. i had to defend myself for the first time in my life without my mommy, stand on my own two cute little feet and finally stand for something. i looked at myself in the glassy side of a decorative boulder, i was wearing cute jean overalls, i was a little boy. i rubbed some nearby moss and grass on those overalls to toughen me up, man me up, dirty me up, for the battle ahead.
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but i had an ace up my sleeve, something i didn't tell anyone about, not even my mommy. i knew i was to say no to drugs, but this was an emergency. i took the Max controller out of the dimebag. the Max controller was new on the scene, it had a small tiny grey button on it that wasn't on the other controller with the red buttons, push the grey one and you could turbo your opponent with kicks and punches. pushing the red button quickly produced 3 punches in a span of 3 seconds, push the grey button continuously in those 3 seconds and get 6 punches! i was weary and wary of pushing buttons ever since the vending machine, but i had to push through. i'm sure Doc was done lying on the floor for a long time and would awake from his sleep soon.
i reached the place as if i had a warp there and flew right into the center of the ring like video-game magic. Vulpe was my opponent, dressed to the nines in boxing gear, shiny red gloves and a sweaty headband adorned with some symbol of his people. his muscles rippled in the bright overhead lights of the ring, which was impressive for an eighth grader. this obviously wasn't a fair fight: i had magic on my side.
we touched gloves and Vulpe took this opportunity to give himself the last rites.
Vulpe: one thing i hope you get out of this fight, kid, is that you must always remember one thing as you sidescroll through life: life isn't a video game, it's not a fantasy, it's reality, it's as real as real gets, it's a reality which must be faced.
was this guy actually my friend? his bully socks to my stomach would say otherwise. but maybe he was some sort of hard teacher.
after slugging me in the chest, Vulpe continued his impromptu planned lesson.
Vulpe: that's one for the money. you think you're better than me, huh? better than us? just cos you're white and i'm brown...
wow. i had never thought of that once. i wasn't a racist, i didn't know what a racist was, i didn't know what races were. i mean, Doc in the Mike Tyson video game is black, but the Doc i imagined him to be in real life manning the real YMCA front counter, the one on the ground now, was white. i didn't make any sort of limiting, separating distinctions like that, people were people, i only knew kind people and bullies. besides, i was probably more brown than Vulpe, i was just light-skinned.
Vulpe charged in with an uppercut to my glass jaw, star above his head, the whole deal.
Vulpe: that's two for the show. you know another problem with living in a video-game fantasy? you are at the whim of the video-game developer. you have to live in his world instead of living in yours. why not carve out your own piece of existence in reality through your own independent actions instead of finding meaning in another's creative world?
though seven, i understood creativity and the burning need for it inside my belly. while others crayoned pics of the sun, their house, and a tree for their parents to staple to their refrigerators, i was already invested in creating the Third Quest of the Zelda game, since i had missed out on experiencing the Second Quest. i imagined all of the characters, landscapes, jewels, costumes, monsters, and mazes of this Third Quest all on my own, the world Link would inhabit, i mean, i would inhabit. looking back, i wish i had crayoned some of that stuff down for posterity.
Vulpe was clearly winning this fight. i hadn't struck once, but i had a huge bulge coming out of my right side's pants. Vulpe stared at my bulge, mesmerized. body shot to my body from the bully.
Vulpe: three for the money. life is not like video games. in life, when you do a certain action, there isn't necessarily the same attendant reaction. in video games, if you push left, left, right, A button, B button, and start button, you become invincible. if you attack a boss at the end of the level with the same strategy of hiding under the bridge and punching his weak point, his back, you will defeat him eventually. there is no other option, the boss won't spring up on you and surprise you with new hidden abilities. not so in life, people are fickle and won't react the way you want them to.
this was confusing. first of all, he got the Konami code all wrong. second, Vulpe was making the argument for video games now. that's why me and all the other nerds escaped to video games in the first place, because video-game worlds were clean and obeyed laws, you knew if you figured out the maze by going left instead of right, you would find the maze exit. you were the god in the video game, you controlled the action of the protagonist hero, you could conquer evil and get the princess kiss, the stuff of dreams became reality. there was no conquering of evil in the real world, evil had already won here. the only woman i loved, would ever love, was my mommy.
it was as if Vulpe was desperate to have the video-game world go off its axis and behave in strange patterns like the real world did to prove his point.
Vulpe closed his eyes this time for his next punch. i was bloody and getting bloodier. was it time to unsheath the bulge? Vulpe was curious about it but seemed lost in his own thoughts. he wasn't concentrating by closing his eyes, he was hiding his tears.
Vulpe's last punch was a half-hearted one that whiffed.
Vulpe: and four to go. you know why i don't smile? it's that i can't. but it's not that i can't, it's that i won't. never had anything to smile about. never had an occasion to smile. i'm dead inside, the world made me this way. i'm so alone, we all are in reality. i tried video games but i suck at them. don't have the hand-eye coordination like you do. guess i won't be a good driver, either. you need to have a template, a control-group to be able to laugh. you laugh at something because it's funny against the backdrop of something you've seen which is tragic. but it's all been tragic with me. actually, it's all just been dead from the start. what i woudn't give to laugh. what i wouldn't give to see a tree growing, sprouting life from its roots to its leaves.
i whipped it out, the Max controller. Vulpe was aghast at the revelation.
Vulpe: kid, that's power you can't handle at your ripe age. you don't know what you're doing with that thing!
i closed my eyes and pushed the grey turbo button. i immediately felt the sensation enter my arms, my swing became a Popeye swing after spinach, i landed my first blow square on Vulpe's face, then again, and again, and again, faster, faster, more and more punches, the area of his face and my fist became a cloud, nobody could see anything, and before it was over, it was over, and after it was over, i had just enough time to see Vulpe on the mat the way Doc lied on the floor. just as the people in white wheeled Doc away, people were wheeling Vulpe away, and me away. i hurt. Vulpe hurt his whole life.
and here i am now, in a video game, it's where i've been telling you this story, it's where i live now, where i'll live for eternity. my wish was granted. i don't have the freedoms you might think here, i'm at the whim of the creator of this game. i tend to stay on the sidelines and watch. the one time i entered the action, the creator pushed a button and i flew into a lava pit and lost my life. i have 2 more lives left. it's also the wrong game, it's Super Mario Bros.
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Vulpe joins me in the stands. he has a perma-smile and always extends his hand out to me.
Vulpe: hello, friend, will you be my friend?
when i shake his hand, Vulpe has been programmed by the creator to smile bigger. when you refuse and wait for 3 seconds, Vulpe frowns and cries grey 8-bit tears. on that one occasion with me, i drew him a picture of a tree which i later crayoned and gave it to his shaking hand. that made him smile again.
although i think adult thoughts, i am trapped in the creator's primitive programming. i can only outwardly say one line. i say it to every character i encounter in the game, but since i am permanently sidelined, i end up saying it only to Vulpe:
me: i want my mommy. are you my mommy? mommy, it's you!
and then i hug Vulpe. Vulpe's 8-bit smile gets bigger.
although we are forever trapped in our avatars, and our avatars are simple robots, Vulpe and i can still communicate with our normal human adult brains, we read each others' thoughts in heaven, for we are all one in here.
Vulpe: do you know why you idealized those swimmers long ago at the YMCA? it's because they were meant to be idealized, they were large humans and you were a small boy, they had conquered adulthood and the waves of the sea of the YMCA swimming pool, you could only watch from below and pray to these gods as you marveled at their skills. i wish i knew how to swim, but i could never get it. i never was a kid, wanted to be one so badly. it's amazing the simple things adults do which children find magical.
honestly, that was so long ago, maybe 1000 years ago, i had forgotten most of those terms: YMCA, swimming, god.
Vulpe: will you be my friend?
me: are you my mommy?