Jared said, “You’re gonna— I’ve got—”
Don countered, “No, you don’t! Here we go!”
Eye and hand worked together. The self-taught fighters tried and performed every combo they knew. Decisions came and went by the millisecond. For a while, the two were alone in an uncomplicated world. Nothing mattered except the game. Don stopped worrying.
Jared leaned forward as he locked Don into a combo. “Take it! Yes! Yes! No!”
“Don’t get cocky.” Don turned the game, breaking a hold and unleashing a devastating counter.
Jared dropped his controller and bolted to his feet. “Oh, holy— I had you! I had you right there! How’d I lose that?”
“Maybe I’m just better than you,” Don said as he glowered in victory.
“No,” Jared waved away the idea. “Can’t be that.”
His mock seriousness fell away in a sheepish laugh.
Meanwhile, Don chose a new stage. “Seriously, though, I should get going soon-ish. Just a few more rounds.”
“What’s the rush?” Jared said. His tone caught Don by surprise. The monotone bombast slipped away. Something quieter slipped in. The smile vanished as Jared scratched his head, his sign that there was something he didn’t want to say. His words would’ve sounded normal from most, but from Jared, it felt sombre and vulnerable. He didn’t even add gestures. “We’re not gonna be able to play much once you head back, right? You’re gonna have your hands full. May not even have time for games. May as well enjoy it while we can.”
Don didn’t respond at first. This blunt sincerity threw him off. “We’ll…” he tried to speak. “We’ll play.”
Jared looked sideways and smiled. Don had never seen that expression on his uncle. It looked like a smirk, but something belied it. Don knew it meant don’t pretend, we both know better. At the same time, there seemed to be something just under the surface.
Jared said, “Just try not to forget you’re gaming buddy, alright?”
Don forced out a chuckle. The sound came out mangled and nervous. “We’ll keep playing.” As they chose new characters, with eyes on the screen rather than his uncle, Don repeated it, “We’ll keep playing.” He nodded and rolled his shoulder muscles like a fighter psyching himself up for the next round. “We’ll definitely keep playing.”