There’s a pureness to us sitting around playing Mario Kart that transports me to a specific place. I’m back in the old branch of Blockbuster. My memory conjured the smell vividly. I don’t know if it was the unused display cases turning stale or the library of videos and computer games tightly packed behind the counter, but the Blockbuster had a specific smell to it. One that even now I remember.
My teens are divided into before and after meeting you. Blockbuster was the constant throughout it all. We joined when it was still a Ritz and for years I carried the Ritz card in my mother’s name everywhere. For years I have carried you in my thoughts wondering why we never made it.
Before you, I remember the five night video game rentals. Cramming to complete games without late fees instead of cramming for exams. The oversized boxes of the ex-rental videos that were a pain to arrange with the normal sized boxes. The cheapest way to shop for movies with my part-time pay. The time spent watching the latest movies on the hideously snowy TV set nestled into the foundation of the ceiling. All the time before I met you. Well, even the time I met you. You, fishing money out your pocket for your latest rental. Me, idly standing watching some Sam Jackson flick with my mate who worked there. Oblivious to one another, you crashed into my orbit. It was never something I was in the habit of doing, but I somehow managed to talk to you and we kept it up outside. Classic meet-cute turned to whirlwind.
Here I lie in decades later. No sequel. No race to the airport in the driving rain. Your face no longer fully formed in my mind. The features appear separately. Float apart like some disparate attempt at modern art. Drifting to become distant stars. The cadence of your voice lost to time. Now a generic soundscape that could belong to anybody. Questionable if I would even know it to hear it. Might end up like when you see someone from a podcast speaking on screen and you can’t marry the voice and face together.
It’s not that you died or anything. I just can’t find you on social. No idea of your married name. No way for me to look and judge the life you have. Can’t see if you found somebody who would put me to shame. Can’t stare in jealousy at his anniversary posts where he wonders how you put up with his shit. I want to compare our realities based on the fictive quality of cute kid photos.
All I have is an olfactory sensation and fading memories. Of you. Of the games and movies I rented. We rented. Of the time spent being a kid. Of young love.
One more deep breath and it hits me again. The layout of the store. The paying extra for the same snacks we could get at the supermarket next door. And you. Fully formed with box in hand. Huge grin, eyebrows raised awaiting my confirmation of your pick. The creases your smile makes around your mouth. The green of your eyes and the perfect shape and curve of your nose. The title on the case you’re holding changing every few seconds. Big Daddy, Austin Powers, Billy Madison, Rush Hour, The Waterboy, Never Been Kissed, Happy Gilmore, American Pie, The Wedding Singer.
Your picks were never what I really wanted, yet I always had the best time. Have I got you confused for the fun I had watching those movies or the other way around? I feel doomed to chase something that can no longer be found.