Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: I'm No Rosa Parks

Russ Pitts | 7 Jul 2008 21:00
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He obviously wanted a reaction - so I gave him one. I whirled around and shoved him. Bobby took two steps back and hesitated. I saw fear in his eyes and couldn't believe it. He hadn't expected this and didn't know what to do. And then he saw the rest of the kids on the bus looking at him, also shocked, and he knew he had to do something so they wouldn't see what I saw: his wide-eyed panic mingled with fear.

I didn't see the fist (I never do) but I felt it. It was a tap on the face, barely hard enough to bruise, but hard enough to send my gigantic, church window glasses flying to the back of the bus. Bobby didn't draw blood, but he felled me as easily as if he'd used a gun.

If you've never worn glasses, or didn't as a kid, let me fill you in: Few things evoke such terror as the thought of them breaking. Especially if you really, honestly can't see without them, as I couldn't. My glasses went flying and my tough guy pretensions went right along with them. Without a thought, I chased my glasses across the bus, clambering over dropped backpacks, leaping and stretching out my arms to cushion their fall. I practically screeched as I saw - in slow motion - my glasses impacting with the floor of the bus, where they broke into two distinct pieces, each performing an elegant pirouette as it skittered under the seats.

Time resumed its normal pace and I heard laughter. I turned and saw Bobby taking a blurry bow and knew he hadn't won so much as I'd lost.

***

Sitting in the restaurant this weekend, eating brunch with my wife, our conversation turned, naturally, to the games we'd been playing. As I described my sojourns in Oblivion, I kept glancing over my shoulder at the people around us. Were they listening? Could they tell we were talking about games? Would they think we were nerds?

I know it doesn't matter. I know, even if they could overhear, they wouldn't care. Or if they did, it'd more than likely be because they'd played it, too. Or even if it wasn't that, that they, for some reason, had it in for people who played games, even that wouldn't matter. Not really. But still, I couldn't bring myself to not care what they were thinking. I've spent so much of my life avoiding being pigeonholed as a gamer, avoiding suspicion, I no longer know how to act like one. This must be how vampires feel.

I realized then that my encounter with Bobby Kramer had been a catalyst, a defining moment, the ripples of which still echo along my personal timeline. After the bus incident I changed everything about myself; my hair, my clothes, inserted contact lenses. I even took up acting, thinking that by putting myself on stage, I could at least control how I'd be perceived. If people were going to laugh at me, I wanted to have some control over what they were laughing about.

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