We throat-fired brown liquor as autumn sun bleached bone the windows in Bryce’s dorm room. Day drinking felt necessary because we needed our wits discarded if we wanted to beat Metropolis in Halo 2 on Legendary without abandoning the Warthog.
How little we heeded our classes as we rained fire on our hearts & stomachs with sticky shot glasses & smoke-gulps from a crude gravity bong (that is: a carved-up plastic vodka bottle, tin foil, recycling bin employed for a whirlpool). We pushed on, guns laughing, this covenant against the Covenant. Our ride lurched through pixels with well-placed grenades, reset after reset, fuck up after fuck up, framerates demanded from our wheezing Xbox. Twenty attempts later we mounted the Scarab & cursed the Elites with our rockets. But we could proceed no more: a crossroads trapped our ride, so we slew the last enemies on foot & watched a new level dawn against windows flooded by night.
I carved a spot for my controller in the table debris, stood & bellowed as I stretched & air fled my bones. What we didn’t know was that a great diminishing loomed. First, the Xbox’s encroaching blindness, unable to read the discs we fed it. Then, what bound us—the dorm, a shared flair for the twirl of control sticks—faded as semesters slipped like hollow pledges from our fingers.
I last saw Bryce on graduation day. We shook hands on faded grass. He seemed smaller, his eyes edged by a kind of ice, & were we alone I might have asked what happened to us.
But our parents bent their heads politely, tugged our arms, & that was all. A Great Recession beckoned, a next uncertain stage of our lives, our bodies compelled by a plasma summer wind.
Michael McSweeney is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn with his partner and cat. His stories have appeared in Expat, Peach Mag and Maudlin House, and he lives online at @mpmcsweeney.
This essay is included in our Nostalgic AF Video Game Anthology. Purchase a copy here!