Right now I’m trying to figure out how to begin my latest project. My first attempt got the ball rolling but didn’t achieve what I wanted. This next stab has hopefully brought me closer. I’m trying to lay down the bones of the story, establish a sense of direction and give it an arc. I want the book to be a journey people can relate to, gamer or not, instead of the list of interviews it is at the moment.
Premise of book: a creative nonfiction piece about my moving across the country to live with an online gaming friend.
My family was a mix of terrified and puzzled when I told them I was going to move across the country to live with a friend of mine from World of Warcraft, a 2,460-mile leap from Enfield, CT to Safford, AZ. I’d never met my friend in person; just spend hundreds of hours online with him, chatting away through our computers and getting to know each other over the years.
“I think you’re nuts,” my mom told me in a calm voice. She wasn’t angry; just one of the puzzled family members, and she knew the decision was one of those difficult times where a parent must let a child take responsibility for their own actions, succeed or fail. She expressed her thoughts on the situation, I listened, we talked, and in the end she stepped aside to let me at least try. I was shipping only the bare necessities across the country, leaving my car and over 20 liquor store boxes full of my belongs behind. The goal was to test how compatible Simon and I were at living together. If things didn’t work out, then he’d help me get back home. If things turned out alright, my mom and one of her brother’s would drive a box-filled Prius 36 hours one way, reimbursing them for gas and plane tickets as a thank you for the huge help.
My dad wasn’t so calm about the decision. “How do you know what kind of person he is if you’ve never met him in person?”
“I’ve known him for years, Dad.” Simon didn’t give me any bad vibes and he’d always been consistent with his humor-filled personality. All the liars had been exposed sooner or later over the 8 years I’d played.
“People can pretend to be anyone on the internet.” That’s the closest I can recall to what he said verbatim. I better remember the strain in his voice, the strain of someone trying to contain outrage. He was a father feeling protective of his only daughter.
“People can do that face-to-face.”
“Have you seen his Facebook page?”
“Yeah,” I said, recalling the teal ’59 Chevy Apache Simon had been tinkering with for years.
“How well do you know this guy?”
I defended my stance, insisting that Simon was a very caring and trustworthy person. At some point our conversation, which was trying very hard on both ends to not turn into an argument, the root of the worry came out: my dad was worried he was going to get his daughter back in a body bag. Simon had a picture of himself walking down a dirt road, hunting gun in hand. I wasn’t a gun person but Simon was, and even my dad went hunting now and then.
“What kind of person puts a picture of himself with a gun on Facebook?”
I don’t remember what I said, but I know I shrugged, even though my dad couldn’t see the gesture. I wasn’t concerned. I’d heard more about fishing than hunting trips over the years, and fear of Simon and his guns hadn’t crossed my mind. I went on to explain what I knew about Simon, how long we’d known each other, and that we’d deliberated on the move for months. It wasn’t an impulsive decision.
Dad gradually calmed down, explaining that he wished I’d told him more sooner, instead of me announcing the move via Facebook like it was no big deal. Once he felt much more at ease, he hoped the move would help me clear my head, give me a sense of direction, and bring me happiness. He’d been watching me struggle and claw my way through my twenties, a tough decade that challenges one’s sense of self and purpose. He doesn’t miss his twenties and I can’t say I will either. I’m thankful for all I’ve learned but I hope I never have to go through such an identity crisis ever again.
Dad and I talked about Arizona, assuring me I’d like it there, since both of us wouldn’t miss snow if we never saw another flake ever again, and we love warmth. He’d lived at the base of Mt. Lemon, outside of Tucson, for part of his childhood; he still remembers the rugged beauty, the occasional dust storm, and the one time it actually snowed there. He and his siblings had played in the scant couple inches of snow, just to have a neighbor yell, “Get off my snow!”
Maybe a couple weeks before I and one of my cats were to fly to Arizona, I visited my paternal grandparents for lunch. They weren’t keen on my decision but hopefully the lunch would ease their fears.
My grandparents love me to pieces and they’ve spent many a year baby-sitting me while both my parents worked. I learned how to cook, bake, clean, make a bed with nurse corners, fold clothes, fish for bass and perch, make a good cup of English tea, tie a couple sailor’s knots, and more from them.
I believe they found out through Dad about my impending move, so they reacted with similar protective worry. A cousin of mine who has a Law degree ran a background check on Simon but the lack of criminal record didn’t ease Grandma’s fears in the least.
“Why does he want you to move there?” Grandma asked exasperated.
“He wants to give me a chance collect myself and get my feet on the ground,” I said calmly. I wasn’t upset; just surprised. I struggled to comprehend the vehement dislike towards my decision. I thought people would be happy and hopeful, which most were. Grandma repeatedly told me she thought I was making a huge mistake. The fact that Simon had a Mexican surname didn’t sit well with her either.
“He just wants you to move there so he can marry you and stay in the country!”
Oh. My. God. She did not just say that. “What? He’s American.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’ve spoken with him many times over Vent and Skype (voice chat programs where basically use your computer like a phone). He doesn’t have an accent and he doesn’t even speak fluent Spanish.” Heck, I knew more Spanish than Simon. However, since he has a Mexican complexion, co-workers at one construction job or another would walk up to him and start speaking rapid Spanish. He’d cut in, saying, “Dude, speak English.”
I tried my darnedest to ease my grandparents’ worries, but the best I could get out of Grandma was a worry-laced, “I hope everything turns out alright.” They even hugged me goodbye that day, and I returned home, mortified, and confessed the whole episode to Simon. I expected him to get angry but he halted my rant with heavy laughter. He even joked that one day we should show up at my grandmother’s house with him wearing a sombrero and sitting astride a donkey.
As it turns out, Simon’s family has been in America longer than my Dad’s side of the family. My grandmother has an English accent and got to live through WWII as a child in England. Simon’s family has been her since the days of Geronimo and even has Native American blood in them. Oh, the irony…
Man oh man, June 9th couldn’t come fast enough.
Still, I felt a little crazy myself. I was willingly leaving life as I knew it behind to live with someone I knew better as a Warlock named Razgrit. What sane person does this kind of thing? However, I knew it in my gut I couldn’t just stay where I was. There was nothing for me in New England. Heck, I’d helped my childhood best friend drive his car from Connecticut to San Antonio, the closest place he could find a Nursing job. No one wanted to hire recent grads back home.
Struggle for employment aside, I needed to get out of my rut. I was steadily losing my battle with depression, hating myself, and hating the rest of the world more and more with each passing day. I was aware of my wallowing in self pity but I had no clue how to get out. A friend offering to put a roof over my head was the only lifeline I saw, so I took it, hoping I could repay his immense kindness one day. I’m the kind of person that’s had to work for everything I’ve wanted or needed; handouts didn’t exist. I cringed at Simon’s offer of free room and board, not understanding how anyone would willingly be so generous. Did he have an ulterior motive? He assured me he very well understood what it’s like to have nothing, to be unable to afford to throw away anything, because his family never knew when an empty tin can or spare screws would come in handy one way or another.
Simon made good money working construction and FEMA jobs all over the country, and his latest job in the Morenci copper mine was just as well-paying. Over the course of our deliberation, he reminded me several times, “If I don’t spend it on you, I’ll just spend it on stupid shit.” He and his buddies would spend over a hundred bucks a night at one bar or another. Him having the responsibility of taking care of me would quell that.
Well, if he was willing to help me over a local bar, then why not? I still didn’t like the idea of free room and board, but I didn’t see the point in living just to work. Together, we booked a flight for me and one cat for June 9th, 2014.
Yep, definitely crazy. Never foresaw how my love of video games would lead to me living with a gaming buddy one day.