Don said, “I don’t drink, remember?”
“Shit, forgot. Habit. Anyway, you only got two days before you head back to campus, right? Tell you what: we finish the fight and play some Tekken. You can have the couch.”
The thought of playing Tekken into the early morning with his uncle brought on a wave of nostalgia.
As a child, Don had always loved spending time with Jared. Most of the time, they played games together. Don had watched the then-nineteen-year-old Jared practice combos. Jared had been Don’s idol. One day, when Don had been seven, Jared had checked for their parents, swapped discs, and said, “You gotta see this, right? It’ll blow your mind.”
He had thrown in Resident Evil. Before long, Jared offered the controller. When Don played, Jared acted like his favorite boxer was winning a match. He’d sit only to jump back to his feet, yelling half-sentences between whoops and cheers. With each boss battle or difficulty spike, Jared would lean forward, hands on knees, and speak as if intoning a mantra: “You got this. Don’t overthink it. There we go!”
That shared euphoria made some of Don’s favourite memories. A cheerful “you got this” still motivated him.
The scene hadn’t changed much. Jared had cultivated a beer belly, married twice, and landed in jail once, but he didn’t change. He’d been in the same factory gig for over a decade. Each of his apartments looked the same: small and cluttered with punk posters, game consoles, and 90s action figures. The TV always stood as the centrepiece, the one thing he cleaned with regularity. Even Jared’s girlfriends looked the same, no matter how many came and went. Jared’s life moved around him.
The thought of this monotony terrified Don. The calendar passed with metronomic regularity. Work was punctuated by weekend drinking sprees and all-night gaming binges. Life could be measured by game titles and the current heavyweight champion. Seasons could be substituted with the name of the newest girlfriend.
Jared weathered it all. He was an immovable object, impervious to the passage of time and the demands of life. At least for now. Don could not imagine this for himself. He craved new experiences and new stimuli. The idea of life on a circular treadmill made him feel sick. Yet, Jared anchored him. In a big and terrifying world, at least Jared was consistent. Whenever Don hadn’t been sure if he could take the stress of workload of his studies, Jared had always responded the same way: “You got this. Don’t overthink it.”