Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Foreplay On The Edge Of Forever
I kept myself busy for the two weeks between fall and spring semester with writing and videotaping Doctor Who episodes off of PBS. To spice things up I stopped by Adrian’s parents’ place for a pick up game of Dungeons and Dragons.
Although lets be honest here folks, you don’t so much have ‘pick up games’ of Dungeons and Dragons as you have relapses.
Imagine my surprise when I found out who else was there.
“Gordon?” I said.
“Hey Al,” he said with a brutal handshake, “how’s college treating you?”
“Great,” I said, “the people there respect me and my ideas.”
The other guys were busy eating lunch, it was Harry, Adrian and Daniel. Daniel looked up from his burger to snort, “Al you’re in a community college. What do you expect?”
Adrian’s parents’ basement was thick with the aroma of fast food, everyone but me had gotten take out from Empire Burger. Knowing what went on behind the scenes there, I decided to opt for a sandwich. Adrian had replaced his Boris Vallejo posters with Playboy centerfolds. When I had seen these my first thought was to wonder what his Mom must think when she came down here to clean up. Then I looked around again and realized that particular ship must have sailed some time ago.
The sight of Gordon had banished such thoughts. “What about basic training?” I asked him, “What about the Marines?”
Gordon’s reply came through a mouthful fries, “They discharged me.”
“The drill sergeant had it in for me,” he explained, “Paris Island was high school all over again. They just didn’t appreciate my skills. Can you believe they wouldn’t let me jump out of a plane until after I finished basic training?”
Adrian gestured to his many shelves of games and pornography, “Could we pick a game please?”
“How about Star Trek?” Harry suggested.
“The FASA rules system sucks,” Daniel said dismissively.
“I haven’t played Call of Cthulhu in forever,” I said. Our last game of Call of Cthulhu had been run by Gordon and he had insisted on rolling random encounters every fifteen minutes or so.
Trust me, if you’re a gamer you haven't lived until you've had a character go mad because he saw a nightgaunt sitting in a restroom stall reading a copy of the Necrnomicon.
“Call of Cthulhu sucks.” Gordon said.
Adrian gave him a confused look, “Then why did you insist on running it last year?”
“To show you guys how bad it sucked.”
“We should just play D&D,” Daniel said, “but we’ll all be immortals like from Highlander.”
Adrian shook his head, “No.”
“But you promised!”
“Not until I perfect my Sean Connery impression.”
Harry got up and pulled a long box from the shelves, “Then how about this?”
“Risk isn’t a role playing game,” Adrian said.
“It’s better than arguing all afternoon about what to play.”
“Risk it is then.”
Someday a study will be released to show that more relationships have been destroyed by family game night than have been by FACEBOOK or drugs. I am certain of this, but I am less certain which game has caused the most resentment and tearful confrontations- Monopoly or Risk.
The game began with the world divided up at random. The more cautious players, like myself and Harry, tried to wait and build up their forces but the more aggressive players went on the attack from the very first turn.
“You’re goin’ down Bruno!” Daniel said as his ten troops advanced on the poorly defended territory of Yakutsk. My measly three troops were doomed, as doomed as my every attempt to pronounce ‘Yakutsk’.
Dice were rolled and little plastic Roman numerals were removed from the board. I had been pushed back to Eastern Australia, Iceland and New Guinea. All the other players had entire continents under their control, mostly because they had been attacking me exclusively and ignoring each other.
“Yes!” Daniel raised his fist in victory, “I control Asia!”
“Good luck holding on to it,” I said petulantly.
Adrian grabbed the dice, “Get ready to lose Australia Al.”
“Just like you lost Lily,” Daniel added.
I recoiled as though I had been slapped, “What the fuck was that about?”
“It’s true isn’t it?” Adrian said, “I heard she and Jessie are engaged.”
The news stung, but it stung a lot less than I expected, “How would I know? And why should I care? I've moved on, there are other girls in my life.”
“That's awesome.” Gordon said, “Doctor Who has had multiple girls, why shouldn't you?”
“Actually there isn't any hanky-panky in the TARDIS. The Doctor is an asexual being.”
Daniel chuckled, “No wonder he's your hero.”
“Jesus!” Harry said in a rare moment of paying attention, “You guys are supposed to be friends.”
“Why don't you just shut your mouth and get ready for when my troops invade South America?”
“I have had other girlfriends,” I wasn't ready to let this go, “there was this beautiful redhead I was going out with.”
“Was?” Adrian asked as he cashed in three Risk cards for a ridiculous number of armies and began massing troops on our border.
“She... she kinda broke up with me.”
“That figures. You probably acted like a total pussy around her.”
Harry threw up his arms in disgust, “What the Hell is wrong with you people?”
I ignored Harry and kept on talking, “I was the perfect boyfriend.”
Daniel asked, “So perfect she broke up with you?”
At that point Harry gave up and turned his attention to the comic books he had brought with him. Then the battle for Eastern Australia began.
For the record the battle for Eastern Australia was brief and pitiful, my fifteen troops were no match for Adrian's forty. He swept through Eastern Australia and crushed my stronghold in New Guinea for good measure. All I had left was Iceland, I was Bjork's last line of defense.
Gordon put a hand on my shoulder, “Look pal, Adrian is probably right. You were probably a big pile of mush with that redhead and she couldn't respect you. Most women don't respect you.”
“How can you say that?” I asked.
“It was a common topic of conversation at high school, that and Daniel's body odor.”
Now it was Daniel's turn to be upset, “I have a medical condition!”
Now it was my turn to be sarcastic, “You're allergic to soap and water?”
A few insults later we returned to the game. While I was exiled to Iceland the other players went to war with each other. The Risk card numbers had escalated to the point where each player could sweep across the board and nearly win only to get pushed back again. I stayed trapped in Iceland, the other players refused to fully defeat me, they just kept me stuck in one place forever. Much like my career in tech support would do someday in the future.
Once the game, and the recriminations, were over I headed home. Even though it was miles out of the way I drove by Tallula's house and wondered if she really had no respect for me. If she really thought of me as mushy. I didn't see how she could, the night we had made love I was anything but mushy in all the right places.
I realized then that I might have lost my virginity but I still had no idea what it was to be a man.