UnBooks:A Tale of Two Fanboys
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“So, I guess I’ll see you in a couple weeks then?”
Lisa was leaning up against the doorway of my dorm room as I did some last minute packing. Damn, I almost forgot my wireless controller. Good thing I noticed that.
“Yeah. I figure I owe it to my parents to spend a few days back with them during summer vacation. And after that Statistics final I’m kinda looking forward to getting off of this campus for a little while and just relax.”
It was summer and Lisa’s short denim shorts had made their first appearance of the season. This is a good thing.
“Don’t worry about me.” said Lisa. “I’ll just make a new boyfriend while you’re gone!”
She laughed good and hard in the way she always does when she’s teasing me. I carefully tackled her, bringing her down on my bed and pretending to pummel her while she squealed and laughed until she ran out of breath.
There was a quiet moment. She looked away as I lay hunched over her.
“So. Are you going to hang out with Hones when you get back?”
There. She said it. It was the question on both of our minds. Hones. I don’t know if we can ever make things like there were between us. Things just haven’t been the same since he made “the purchase”.
I know there’s no way we can avoid conflict over the topic any longer. Eventually, we will run square up against the irreconcilable gap between us.
I’ve been home three days and have done nothing but watch TV and play Fallout 3. My mom asked me this morning if I’d talked to Hones yet, and she seemed a bit surprised when I said I hadn’t.
“Well, that’s odd! Usually when you’re home like this we barely even have a chance to talk because you’re either on the phone with him or playing games at his place.”
“Well, I figure he’s probably busy with work still … and I’d just … give him a little time to…” I start to walk out of the kitchen so I can conveniently trail off. But my mom wouldn’t drop it.
“Remember when I used to take you two to school and it was so hard to get you both off the Nintendo in the morning?”
Those were the days. I remember how we would challenge ourselves to see how far we could get on Super Contra before we had to leave for school.
Those were simpler days when the Super Nintendo was god, and both of us swore by it. The kids at school that had Sega Genesis were the object of our deepest scorn, and we scoffed at them at every chance we had, sarcastically asking them how they liked their inferior color palette and ambiguous “blast processing”.
The two of us grew up together with the SNES. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent with Street Fighter II Turbo when that came out. And that console still remains a legend in my mind.
But all legends must come to an end, and the when the Playstation hit the store shelves, Hones and me were on it like zombies on a boxful of brains. Final Fantasy VII. Metal Gear Solid. The system took up the gauntlet from Super Nintendo in an epic way, and both Hones and I pledged our unwavering allegiance to the Sony Corporation. When the PS2 came out, our devoutness only grew. Devil May Cry etched itself into our hearts as one of the best games ever, and we played it to the point we could beat the hardest difficulty level with true Dante style.
The Xbox? When we heard that Microsoft was coming out with a game console in some feeble attempt to challenge the PS2’s worldwide dominance, Hones and I clutched our sides and collapsed from laughter. In the end, the Halo craze never hit us, and as history has shown, the Xbox was far from reaching the PS2’s popularity at the time the next gen consoles were announced.
As news of the new PS3 started to roll out, Hones and I talked on the phone almost every day about the news updates. A new Metal Gear. Blu-ray capability. It was going to be the greatest thing ever. We saved up money more than a year in advance and both of us were ready to pay just about anything for it. Or so I thought.
“Where are you going, Patrick?” asked my mom.
“GameStop. I’ll be back in time for dinner.”
I really just needed to get out of my house for a while. Somehow GameStop seemed like a good place to kill some time, even though I already own every currently released game that I intend to buy. There was some kind of noisy display for an upcoming game in the Xbox360 section, but it didn’t interest me. In the PS3 section a new NHL game was up for free play. I haven’t played a hockey game to any serious extent since Blades of Steel on the NES, but thought “What the hell” and tried to get the Red Wings back into the game somebody left abandoned.
Just then, someone came to the second controller and picked it up.
“You? Playing a sports game?”
I recognized the voice immediately but didn’t look over. “What’re you talking about? Are you forgetting who once beat you 11 straight in Madden?” I finally turned to him nonchalantly, forcing a nervous smile.
“What’s up, man? Just get back?” Hones was wearing the same Padres cap he did the last time we hung out I don’t know how long ago.
“Like three days ago.” Although my intuition told me I should bullshit and say I just got in last night, some kind of paranoia over being caught on a lie urged me to tell the truth.
“Oh.” Hones glanced down at the floor. “Since I haven’t heard from you I guess you must have been busy back in town then.”
“Yeah, pretty much.” This time I lied. I hadn’t been doing shit.
“So, are you up for the old usual?” said Hones, mercilessly scoring a goal on me while I had my hands off of the controller.
The “usual” referred to going out to see a movie and then talking over a late dinner at a crappy restaurant. The conversation invariably gravitated toward video games and what we had been playing lately. This was a moment I now wished to avoid like genital herpes. However, there was no way I could turn him down here in front of his face. I had no alibi, and was too dumbstruck to come up with one.
“Uh, yeah, but let’s make it Friday.”
I needed a couple days to ready myself for an evening with Hones. To think how much I used to enjoy just shooting the breeze with him. It was great back then. It really was. Until the day Hones became a traitor.
When I got back home, my mom was in the kitchen and it smelled like butterscotch cookies.
“Did you get anything at Gamespot?” said my mom, crouched over and fishing for something in the refrigerator.
“GameStop. Gamespot is a website. I didn’t get anything, but actually I ran into Hones.”
My mom’s face lit up. “Oh, and what did Jones – I mean, Hones, have to say?”
Fredrick Jones is his real name. I called him “Hones” because his mother is Mexican and speaks Spanish. He used to live a five minute bike ride from my house in my old neighborhood, and our mothers are friends, too. Even at a young age, there was a spiritual bond between Hones and I that was just as strong as any you’ll find in your typical adult couple. And I’m not talking about anything homosexual. There was a mutual love. A mutual love for the SNES, and then the Sony Playstation.
However, that all changed on the night before the U.S. release date of the PS3. I had the tent set up in front of Circuit City and was all situated, but as 11:00 PM rolled around Hones was still a no-show. When I called him from my cell, he seemed really hung up on something, and he was mumbling and not making much sense. And that’s when he said the words that reverberate in my head to this day.
“You know, it just seems like a lot of money to spend on a console.”
At that moment my heart froze. We had planned on doing this for months, buying a PS3 together on release day, and at the last minute he turned his back on me. Eventually I would spend the cold, rainy night alone in my tent with $800 in my pocket. Just me and eight Benjamins; none of whom were capable of involved conversation about stealth kills and headshots. Buying my PS3 the next day would be a bittersweet experience. Sweet because in just moments I’d be home playing Resistance: Fall of Man on a brand-freaking-new Sixaxis controller. Bitter because I wouldn’t have Hones to call later so we could rave about it.
“So, are you two going to hang out?” said my mom, breaking up my reverie.
“Uh, yeah. So don’t make dinner for me on Friday.”
I went back to my room and collapsed on my bed. You see, Hones not buying the PS3 with me wasn’t the end of it. I would find out the very next day that he had made a little purchase just 10 days ago. That purchase was the Xbox360.
In my car on the way to the movie theater to meet Hones, I kept repeating to myself that there was still hope. There are plenty of used games stores that would pay cash for his used Xbox360, and there are less expensive versions of the PS3 available now. All he needed to do was just listen to reason.
I met Hones at the theater and gave him a half-hearted buddy handshake. As usual, he bought two small orders of popcorn instead of just getting a large, so he can “double-fist” them as he watched the movie. I used to find this amusing. Now it just disgusts me.
I tried to get into the story of the movie, but I just want to get out of here. Then we can have our little dinner, talk about whatever, and hopefully I wouldn’t have to do this again for a long time. What I did watch of the movie, sucked.
We decided on Chile’s for dinner and I got the cheeseburger. It was just the first thing that I saw on the menu, and I figured that should fury begin to show on my face I could hide it by bringing the burger up to my face and taking a spiteful bite.
“So, pretty shitty movie, eh?” said Hones as he snatched the straw out of his Coke and took an ear-gratingly long slurp straight from the cup.
“Yeah, pretty shitty.” I said blandly, trying to set the tone for a not very chatty dinner between two men.
“So, I was downloading this game the other day,” Hones began.
And that’s where I felt this stabbing pain in my stomach. This guy has all the tact of a water buffalo. He should know damn well that gaming has been a sensitive topic between us, but he just doesn’t. He never has ever since that fateful day. I don’t think he even considers it a big deal that he so thoroughly betrayed me, and betrayed Sony. I didn’t even listen to what game he was talking about. He didn’t say it out loud, but it was most evident that it was something on Xbox Live, as he does not play games on his PC. Does he think I really want to hear his Xbox Live downloading anecdotes? The buffoon blabbed on.
“Oh, and you know what’s sweet about the revamped Xbox Live update?”
There it is. He actually said “the X word” now.
“You can download your games onto your hard drive. That’s cool not just because it speeds loading times, but also because it reduces the wear on your lens that you get when you play straight from the disc.”
That’s it. I forcedly try to change the subject. “Hey, remember that zombie in the movie? Didn’t that look like Mr. Wagner back in high school math when they had that close-up of its face?”
Yes, I totally interrupted him and it was totally off the topic. I regretted my stupidity and an awkward silence ensued. Hones finally broke the ice.
“But, uhh, speaking of zombies, I’ve been playing the shit out of Left 4 Dead with this one guy I became a Friend with a few weeks ago. That game is so intense. I know that’s a really generic term to use, but seriously, it’s intense. And it’s so much more fun to play with a friend.”
The fact we were talking about an Xbox360 game in first place was bad enough, but something else irked me more. “Wait, so who’s this friend you met now?”
Hones dipped a french fry into his ketchup. “Oh, he’s this dude with the user name excelsaga667, and he’s way better than me at FPS’. He’s teaching me a lot. I bet we logged about 15 hours on Left 4 Dead just last weekend.”
I began plucking out napkins from the dispenser; more than the two of us could ever use. “I see. This excelsaga667 seems like quite a guy.”
“Yeah, he’s pretty cool.” said Hones as he dutifully grabbed one of the napkins and wiped off his greasy fingers, as if I had taken them out for him.
And then the motherfucker said it.
“But yeah, man, you should get Left 4 Dead, too.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This fucking retard, who knows very well I am a PS3 owner, just recommended me Left 4 Dead. Now, I could understand if we were talking about a dual-platform release like Assassin’s Creed or Grand Theft Auto 4. But no. This was a fucking Fuckbox360 exclusive, and he just suggested I take a little trip to the game store, put down my money and buy myself a copy. I tried to contain my rage.
“Um, Hones. Left 4 Dead is not out for PS3. Nor is it scheduled to be.”
Hone’s eyes widened a bit and he stopped chewing his battered fish. “Oh. I’m sorry man. I thought it was out for both, honestly.”
I could see genuine remorse on his face, but I was livid. “Yes, you thought. You thought it was, but no, it is not. Has it ever once in your life crossed your mind that maybe you should think about what you say before you fucking say it?” I stood up. “Listen, it’s been a great night talking with you and all, but I gotta get home.” I put down eleven dollars on the table and hastened for the exit.
That night I could hardly sleep. I was harsh on Hones, but he deserved it. I said what needed to be said.
For a moment I reached that half-asleep, half-awake state, and could see myself in front of my PS3 in a room I’ve never been in before. I was picking up Metal Gear Solid 4 to put the disc in, but the cover to the game was wrong, and I don’t even think it said Metal Gear on the cover. It looked like Japanese, maybe.
As soon as I put in the disc and the Konami logo came up, I see a gray life bar pop up in midair above my PS3. I know what it is immediately. It is the life bar of the PS3 unit’s disc reader lens, and it is already at about 83%. As I watch this dreamland version of myself playing Metal Gear 4, the life bar is gradually draining as my game progresses. Then things begin to move in fast forward, and the life bar is draining at a visually perceivable rate. Finally, the life bar gets down to about 25% and I woke up screaming.
Awakened, I realize I am clutching an old stuffed rhinoceros I used to love as a kid in my sweaty left hand. I look at my clock and it was 3:50 AM. With my blurry vision it looked almost like a 360, and I chucked Rhiny the Rhinoceros as hard as I could against the wall, striking it with a pathetic thump.
Two weeks had passed, and I was at the end of my stay at home. I packed my things and got ready for the trip back to college the next day. I hadn’t heard from Hones since, and I was starting to regret my actions. Just as I was winding up the AC adapter wire to my PS3 I hear the muffled voice of my mom talking cheerfully on the cordless phone, and approaching the door to my room. I know the phone’s for me.
“It’s Hones, Patrick. He was just telling me how his little sister won the state spelling bee! Did he tell you that yet? I can’t believe how fast time goes! Oh, sorry, here you go.” My mom handed me the phone, which was slightly wet and soapy from her dishwashing hands.
“Hey.” I said.
“Hey.” said Hones. “Yeah. I just wanted to let you know, I totally understand why you’re pissed at me, and I’m sorry if I’ve been insensitive.”
“Nah, it’s alright, man. And I’m sorry, too.” I was genuinely sorry to have treated my long-time bud that way.
“So, I just wanted to say, have a safe trip back, and maybe I’ll see you next time, then.” Hones’ voice wasn’t its usual gregarious tone.
“Yeah, hope so.” I replied, at least half meaning it. “But, oh yeah, Hones: I’ve been meaning to tell you; I checked the buy-back prices at GameStop, and they’re giving a pretty good rate for Xbox360s. I mean, it was like way better than I expected. But I figure, if you sell the system back and all of your games, I bet you’d have almost enough, no, more than enough, to buy one of the lower end PS3s. Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? Did you know that a new God of War is going to come out on PS3 soon? Yeah, remember how much you liked God of War? Remember how you could rip out the enemies’—“ Tears were streaming down my face. I was babbling like a ninny, and Hones was just quiet.
“Listen, Patrick.” Hones took a deep audible breath. “I just don’t think we can do this anymore.”
And he was right. We can’t. It just can’t go on. He told me about his sister, I told him about my girlfriend’s pet ferret, and then we said our final farewells. On the phone, just like that.
After a long-awaited session of mid-afternoon sex with Lisa back in my college dorm room, I told her about Hones. She finger sling-shot my underwear at me, hitting me in the face.
“So, I guess that’s it between you two.” Lisa is so pretty when she looks concerned.
“Yeah, but it’s okay; he’s got excelsaga667. And I’ve got you.”
Lisa smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
“Now let’s play some Little Big Planet.”