Saturday, October 5, 2013

After the Game Over

(image credit here)

He throws down the controller in disgust. She giggles softly, her eyes still glued to the screen.They were parked in their usual places in front of the television set, passing their regular weekend afternoon playing the new game he had bought. She was kicking his ass in it, as usual.

"Why are you better at this game? I've been playing this for three days, and you got out of that level in thirty minutes," he says exasperatedly, crossing his arms over his chest and pouting.

"Because I had more sleep? Honestly, your eyebags have eyebags," she points out, her fingers a flurry of movement as she expertly moves through the game. He watches with begrudging respect at how she seemed to advance so easily. She was good at doing a lot of things.

Like making him fall for her. She was so good at it, she didn't even know she was doing it.

"It's summer vacation. I'm allowed," he says defensively. She reaches out to pat him on the head and ruffle his hair before singlehandedly gunning a zombie down.

"This really doesn't suit the image you usually show," he muses, hugging a pillow to himself. Imagining how she would fit in the circle of his arms--

Stop it, he scolds himself. You're just friends. Playing games. That's it.

"You're so in love with the idea of being seen as normal," she says, the amusement evident in her voice.

"You know that's not what I meant..." he says.

"I know, I'm just leading you to the point where you really say what you mean," she says.

He sighs and rubs the back of his neck, a sign that he was feeling shy.

"I'm glad there's a face you have that only I get to see," he says simply.

"It's easier being un-normal with you," she says thoughtfully, pressing out combinations of moves to kill a horde of zombies that suddenly appeared on screen.

"Thanks for indirectly implying that I'm weird," he mutters jokingly. To his surprise, she paused the game and turned to him with wide eyes.

"That's not what I meant!" she insists, as if it was really important that he understands this.

"...What did you mean then?" he asks, at a loss in the way things are turning out.

"I..." she starts, but instead looks down at the controller. She was at a loss too. As the silence stretched from okay to awkward, he retrieves the controller from her hands and resumed the game. The room was once again filled with the sounds of gunshots and groaning zombies as they meet death, and that sound of silence that was pushing the both of them to say something.

"You have to go into that building to find that last hidden item, not past it..." she says quietly, extending her hand towards him for the controller. "Here, let me try..."

"Fine, you try," he says, pitching the controller at her direction. She picks it up silently and started off from where he paused the game. He watched the screen for a while before realizing he was staring at her profile, illuminated by the glowing screen.

"You aren't weird... I'm just better at fictional worlds than in real life," she suddenly says. He focuses on the way the light shifted across her features and getting his suddenly dry mouth to reply.

"...But I'm real... and I'm here," he replies.

"I know...

that's what makes this world okay. After the game over, there's still this to come back to."

She was making it really hard for him to string words together to form a coherent reply.

"So... me over killing zombies?"

He sounds stupid, he knows, but he had to check.

She smiles.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Smells Like School Spirit

(image credit here)

Sweat. Blood. Tears. Rain. Worn-out shoes. New shoes.

Pushing yourself against so many walls. Crashing against so many barriers.

Endless bottles of energy drinks. Perspiration, smelling like undoing baths and friendship and locker room secrets. In your minds it is sweet; it all smells like the best scent in the world (your fans won't tell you otherwise anyway).

There are a lot of moments. Moments a lot of people don't get to see. All the laps you run just to get closer for just one second faster. All the rings you miss shooting to get in that buzzer beater just on time. The moments when you walk away when a bold enough schoolmate approaches you and asks to take a picture with you. The you outside the court. The you just being you.

And water. A lot of it. There was bottled water, poured over tired heads and poured into parched waiting throats before standing up and going back to the grind. There was the water from the showers, blocking out expectations and fame and everything public and leaving you with your thoughts and your own expectations the very core of who you are and why you're doing all of this in the first place.

For the school? For the game?

For you?

For everyone?

And then there were the tears.

The happy kind. The sad kind. The "we probably look stupid but oh who cares" kind. The bittersweet kind. The victorious kind.

And amidst a sea of yellow, over the chaos of beating drums and screaming people, you gathered into a circle and raised your fists to the air. Index finger extended, you moved it in a circle around your head in one move of adrenaline-pumped oneness. The crowds cheered your names, your university.

You were one.

You were one more step away.

You shout along with the crowd, to the rhythm of the drums, to the cheers you hear every game, the cheers you know by heart.

You can never get enough of them. And you'll never get tired of hearing them.

Hours later when the ringing fades away from your eardrums, the crowds have thinned, and you're sitting in your university bus on the way back you remember.

You remember the crowds, the screaming, the cheering. The sound of the ball as it goes from the ball to your hand. Back and forth. Back, and it leaves your hand again as you shoot towards another game well fought, another game well played.

You remember why you are here in the first place.

It was worth it after all.