Clicking Away at Healing Potions

By Tom Chick

"I was even thinking about proposing," I mutter.

"Bullshit," Trevor says, "You were only thinking about proposing after she told you she was leaving. One of those last ditch efforts where you'll say anything because you know whatever you say won't work anyway."

How did he know?

"Fuck her," I say. I'm not quite ready to deal with Trevor's preternatural insight.

"That's not why we're not having Shoot Club, is it?" he asks, "Dude, it is, isn't it? Come on, there's no better time for Shoot Club. We should have an ad hoc Shoot Club tonight. Fucking right now. What are you thinking? We don't have to arrange the schedule with Lisa or anything. You should be fragging our asses this very minute."

"I don't know, Trevor. It's kind of the last thing on my mind."

"Don't be stupid. This should be the first thing on your mind. Anesthetic, baby. Much better than that gin in the freezer. No hangover and no pinecone aftertaste. You know what the other guys' wives say, that they'd rather their husbands play computer games rather than going out drinking? And we all know how much we can get away with using that angle: 'Baby, would you rather me going out to bars?' But we also know how much they don't know, how computer games are far more powerful than simple drinking, far more involved. Drinking is a distraction. Computer games are an obsession. Jesus, if I was married to some dude --" He pauses for a moment and then lets this drop, figuring I'll know what he means "-- I sure as hell would rather he suck down a six pack at a bowling alley every now and then rather than trying to finish Baldur's Gate 2 or making Half Life mods."

It's Trevor's version of a pep talk, I think. I'm not sure if it's working, veering all over the place as it is, but bless him for giving it a shot.

"Jesus, dude, you need to get back up on the horse and fucking move on. You need to play No One Lives Forever again, get to the end level in Twisted Metal: Black, work on that Rhino rush bullshit you always do in Red Alert 2. The hours will fly by like that." Trevor can't snap his fingers. He says it's a genetic thing, like not being able to curl your tongue. But he makes a snapping gesture anyway when he says 'the hours will fly by like that'. Without the noise, it looks like he's fly fishing with an invisible rod.

"You remember in college when that chick broke up with you? That redhead? What was her name?"

"Yeah, I remember."

"You remember what you did?"

"Yeah, I remember. Wait, no. What did I do?" It was kind of a blur. It was a long time ago.

"I can't believe you don't remember. We went out and got a Sega Genesis. Remember? We put it on your very first credit card. We played that fucker for almost two weeks straight. We finished King's Bounty by starting one afternoon and playing for over twenty-four hours straight. Remember that? Golden Axe. Phantasy Star. Streets of Rage. You just holed up, skipped all your classes, and played that fucker like there was no tomorrow. And then, two weeks later, you emerged, stronger for it after having become the most ass kickingest Herzog Zwei player this side of the Caspian Sea."

Caspian Sea?

"Then there was the time you and that other chick broke up. Remember that?"

"I think."

"Yeah, that's when you finished Zelda. Finished it, dude. How many RPGs do people ever actually finish? How far did you get in Planescape Torment?"

"I dunno. About half way, I think."

"Jesus, dude, what better time to get to the end? This is a godsend, my friend. Christ, you know what I just thought of?"

"What?"

"Diablo II. The expansion just came out. Dude, you could be the druid and I'll be the assassin. I'm talking time flying, baby. There's no better way to piss away a week or so. Before you know it, you'll have forgotten about Lisa and you'll have a thirtieth level character. I'm telling you, man, computer games are God's apology to man for the whole woman thing. It's like He said, 'I know what I did didn't really work out like it should have, but here, have this to take your mind off it'. You know how Charlie says when he's not getting along with his wife, they have this agreement that he's allowed to just lock himself in the basement and play games for a while to blow off steam? It's like that."

This can't be right. How sad. My guts kicked out and pooled on the floor and I'm parked in front of a computer waiting for it to dry up and blow away? How pathetic, me clicking away at healing potions and Sand Leapers when I could be...well, I could be writing pleading letters to Lisa or driving by her house or making all those long distance calls to old girlfriends or making a tape mix with angry Nine Inch Nails on one side and sad Leonard Cohen on the other. Jesus, maybe Trevor's right. Of course, I could just buck up and take it like a man, but that comes later. I have to power through this first, this Whatever It Is hole, scraped out and seemingly interminable.

"Oh, dude, you know what else I just thought of?" he asks.

"What?"

"TRIBES fucking 2. On your new GeForce cards."

"No one wants to play. They can't figure out the jetpacks."

"I'm not talking about just Shoot Club. I'm talking about online. How come you've never joined a clan? Isn't it about time?"

"I don't know Trevor, I'm really not that--"

"What, you think it's easier if you're just moping around here thinking about stuff?" He goes over to the main computer, the PIII/850 with a 21" monitor and a new GeForce 3 that I shouldn't have bought but did anyway, and he lays his hand on it. "Not even warm. And look. The controllers for the Dreamcast are all unplugged and wrapped up. What's the matter with you? Why aren't you playing Jet Grind Radio? And hey, remember this?"

He pulls Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time from the shelf, where the cart is all but entombed in its gold box. "You barely got into the time travel part. You're always telling me how we're going to sit down and finish it, you and me, just like old times, just like King's Bounty."

I'm slumped in the couch and Trevor's standing before me, holding the gold Zelda box like a grail and gesturing down at the consoles shoved into their alcove beside the TV. I now have a decision to make. I am at a crossroads. This is an important choice and Trevor knows it and I know it. And I am about to make it. I sit up straight, take a deep breath, and consider my options.

Diablo II or Zelda 64?

I make my choice and rise from the couch.

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