Everyone has an emotional response attached to specific memories that are so strong that even the thought of it triggers that response. I imagine for most people, it’s warm and fuzzies from remembering loved ones, or sadness from recounting love lost. For me, it’s embarrassment from Tidus and Yuna scream-laughing off the steps of Luca. Never in my life have I been sicker to my stomach from ruthless and unprompted psychological assault.
Let me set some context here. Not a soul in the world knew I was playing Final Fantasy X locked away in my corner bedroom that used to be a closet. I didn’t tell my parents about it, because I was embarrassed to be playing the game at all. I sure as shit didn’t tell my too-cool-for-turn-based-battle-systems friends.
When Tidus laughed, even my total secrecy couldn’t bury my sheer ignominy. I wasn’t sure I could show my face to the world again for fear that I would become the embodiment of that scene in some bizarre, media infusion that scientists would later speculate had a lot to do with puberty forming a nasty stew with which to stir in the beefy mix of shame and secrecy.
This is one of the two scenes I’ve never fully recovered from. The other is the raptor in the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park, which fills me with immediate and wholesale terror. I tried overcoming that terror by owning a pair of Bearded Dragons. I’m still healing.
For the HAHAHAHAHA scene, though, there wasn’t a clear path to recovery. Should I go stand on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and shout-laugh at the food carts? That had a very high likelihood of failure and further psychological damage.
I didn’t find my path to recovery until the Long Island Retro Video Game expo, which every human being on earth should be required to go to at least once.
An independent artist was selling a print of Tidus, his eyes rolling wildly, and “HA HA HA HA” covering the entire rest of the poster not already occupied by Tidus’s bonce. This poster is the band-aid over my shame. It also completely took my humiliation of that scene and turned it into a joke. Which made it easier for me to bear the weight of. I’m great at mocking myself. I do it every day. I just never thought to do it at the time because I cringed myself into a conscious coma of indignity that I ignored and pushed away like a dull ache in the side that turns out to be appendicitis. Seeing others mock the scene though? That changed it. Something clicked. Laugh away, Tidus, you half-shirted jackass.
Josh Sippie: I’m the Director of Publishing Guidance at Gotham Writers. My work has appeared in McSweeney’s, I have an ongoing Fiction series (about Yoda!) at Hobart and a forthcoming humor column at Points in Case.