After unlocking a glass case, the store associate reaches inside then hands the most sought-after video game to my dad.
“I’ll be at the counter if there’s anything else you need.” The associate says. He locks the case as another customer approaches him for help.
Dad is quiet. He raises a suspicious-looking eyebrow, staring at the game’s cover art.
I look around us. Stupid Tom Myers from class keeps poking his head down our aisle. His desperation is potent. There’s blood in the air. He wants this game too, and only this store sells it.
God… Hurry Dad!
“Honeybun, what’s this black box mean in the corner, this M-A?” Dad asks. “Does that mean ma? Do you need to discuss this game with mom?”
“No. It—It’s a difficulty level for the game. It just means it’s a hard game to play.”
“Hmm. This store is crazy to charge this much, and it doesn’t seem like kids can play it—especially not girls. You’re thirteen…” He uses his eyeglasses like a magnifying glass to see the cover better. “Why is there blood splatter everywhere? And where’s this woman’s clothes? She’s almost buck-naked sitting on… what’s that, an octopus?”
Great. Same old dad overthinking everything.
He’s bumming me out so much, it’s making my belly hurt…
“I think you need to keep up with your babysitting.” He continues. “Save, save, save! If you do, you’ll have lots of money when you grow up. Then you can buy hundreds of these video games.” He sighs. “Except, by then, you’ll likely be waist deep in the game of life and no longer interested in them. And let me tell you something, you think these little video games are hard? Life is the hardest game. But you can win, even when tasting defeat. Remember that.”
He sets the game on a shelf beside other unrelated items.
Tom pops out of nowhere. “Heyoo!” he yells and runs off with it.
Son of a bitch! There’s one game left!
“Great!” My hands fly in the air.
I look around. Someone needs to open this case to get the last game, but the associates are busy helping other people.
“I don’t wanna grow up.” I huff. “I just wanna buy this. Can you help me or something? I’m twenty dollars short. I’ll pay you back after I babysit on Saturday.”
“Twenty dollars short? What’d you spend your money on?”
“Choices.” He gives me the ‘you should know better than that,’ smirk. “You’ll have to wait until your payday.”
Ugh! I walk away.
I’m so mad I can’t look at him anymore. My belly is in knots…
I look myself over.
Why do I feel wet?
“Hey, wait! There’s red on you!” Dad’s big mouth yells across the store like there’s an emergency.
A million quiet eyes are on me. Lips move, whispering. Everyone in the store must know.
“Honey, it’s on your shorts!”
I power walk through the store, trying my best to ignore the mini blood pool that soaked through my white shorts.
“Do you need to talk to mom!?” Dad yells trying to keep up behind me.
I pick up speed as the automatic doors separate, then run for my life back to our car.
Life is the hardest game.