On these Monday nights of yore, my history class on the second story would get out earlier than the Anarchist’s, so I would sit and wait on the concrete outside Professor Subversion’s room. Sometimes he walk outside after clicking “play” on a YouTube video or DVD to run to his office or something, see me sitting there, and invite me to go inside and watch it.
One night, I left history, turned on my family’s “emergency” cell phone, and stuck it in my sweatshirt pocket as I descended the stairs. I was starting across the LA building’s quad when I saw the Tragic Gamer Kid standing outside the closed door of Professor Subversion’s classroom. As much as I’ve waxed about lecture hall logistics and inconvenient truths, this story is really centered on the Tragic Gamer Kid (and the cell phone).
Sorry if you feel misled.
Being the Anarchist’s senior by not much, and my junior by a little more than not much, the Tragic Gamer Kid wasn’t a kid per se. But he did play a lot of video games, and shouted his life’s narratives as if they were as tragic, important, and ignored as the ones Professor Subversion would speak of with increasing volume.
The Tragic Gamer Kid… actually, we’ll call him Horatio, because “Tragic Gamer Kid” is cumbersome …was supposed to be in his Farsi class in the next building over, but, no. Horatio was here, the light from the door’s tiny window illuminating his face, and his fingers that twinkled and pointed to places he wasn’t supposed to be.
I knew exactly what Horatio was doing. He did the same to me last week.
“Horatio!” Although I wanted to get his attention, I also didn’t want to disrupt any classes, and he was all the way across the quad. My voice came out mangled and croaking, a confused stage whisper. I broke into a run, which prompted the family “emergency” phone – which I frequently carried because, to my small, self-serving mind, aimless texting with the Anarchist and the Fundamentalist Atheist were equivalent enough to emergencies – to bounce out of my pocket. Its major parts cleanly cracked away from each other when it hit the pavement.
I paused, torn. It’s not like the quad was teeming with collegiates like it was during the daytime, but there was still something uneasy about the notion of leaving cell phone innards on the ground in the dark. As I stooped to pick up the closest piece I could locate, I realized that rescuing the cell phone and stopping Horatio weren’t possible.
If it weren’t for that phone, I swear, I could have stopped him. Because in the modicum of time I spent in conflict over the splattered device, Horatio made his move. When I looked up again, his hand was on the doorknob, and me and my mangled croaks of, “HORATIO! HORATIO!” weren’t even close to half-way across the quad. He disappeared into the room.
From what I’ve been told, it transpired like this:
When Horatio initially entered, Professor Subversion offered, “Would you like to take a seat? We’re about to watch a video…”
Horatio stopped the professor, saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Subversion,” then pointed at my best friend when he addressed him: “Anarchist.”
“What do you want, Horatio?” It’s hard to tell if the Anarchist couldn’t help but to laugh at the absurdity at the time of the event, or it was just him laughing as he recounted to me later.
“We need to talk after class,” Horatio said, still pointing at the Anarchist.
“This couldn’t wait until later, Horatio?”
“No. See you then,” Horatio said, and left.
Although the Tragic Gamer Kid had never been a student of his, Professor Subversion knew Horatio well enough have an acceptance that, That’s Horatio. He’ll do what he wants… and resume where he left off.
Horatio was exiting the classroom when I finally caught up to him. “Horatio!”
“You’re helping me find the pieces of my cell phone!”
I’ll give Horatio this much – he didn’t bail on me while I groped around on the cement. After he returned to Farsi class, with the image of him exceeding the threshold replaying in my mind, it struck me how extraordinarily human Horatio was: a parable, an extreme illustration of what I either actually look like, or of what I am afraid I’ll look like when I ask for help.
Horatio needed a lot of help, to levels at which he would be obnoxious in seeking it. It was a battle to maintain boundaries while in his company. Once any desire to leave was expressed, Horatio would do his best to manipulate his guests into staying longer. Suckers like me (or the Anarchist, although he wasn’t a sucker for as long as I was) would get stuck in phone “conversations” that would last upwards to four or five hours, with nary a word in edgewise. The average call would begin with Horatio complaining about girl problems, which would turn into confident and searing statements that all girls in California were c-nts and whores, or how everyone and their mother were bottom-feeding “betas.” Then it might end with some long verbal dissertation of how Mexico has an “inefficient culture,” why the Germans should have won the war, or how all of Horatio's problems could be attributed to Ayn Rand.
Horatio the Tragic Gamer Kid, makes me not want to ask for help, because I don’t want be obnoxious and overstep my boundaries, blinded by a personal audacity I can’t even tell is there, and misjudging exactly how urgent my First World problems are not. I don’t want to do that if I can help it. I’m not saying all of Horatio’s problems were First World or trivial – I’m just saying that if I need to ask for help, I don’t want to be more of a bother than I can avoid.
At the same time, I have to admit that I also admire Horatio’s boldness in asking for help. At some point, life’s going to rip me a new one (or at least it’ll feel that way) in ways where I can’t deal it by myself, and I’m going to need to go to someone and say, “I need help.” You know, situations like...
Where did the “emergency” cell phone charger go?
What the hell is wrong with my car defroster?
All these people showed up at my house! Would you happen to have any bread I could feed them with?
My space ship crash-landed and got stuck in the mud!
My girlfriend just left me, and she was the only one who knew how to make the baby's diarrhea go away!
I have two broken arms / a bad case of vertigo / suicide ideation / a burst appendix, may I impose on you to give me a ride to the hospital?
I told my friend, who’s in the hospital because she broke both her arms / got a bad case of vertigo / told everyone she’d eat three bottles of sleeping pills and was serious / her appendix burst, that I’d bring her clean socks and underwear, but her parents aren’t home like we thought they’d be. Do you have a key to her house?
I guess it comes down to some things that are obvious, and simple enough: knowing what’s truly worth making a spectacle out of yourself and interrupting Professor Subversion’s lecture, realizing you may very well annoy someone when you ask for help but that shouldn’t be the reason why you decide against it, and empathizing when someone goes to very stupid lengths to get you to help dislodge their space ship from the mud.
What does it come down to for you? Do you know of any special trick to make diarrhea go away? What do you think of Ayn Rand? Would you ask Ayn Rand to help you fix your space ship? How about my ex-girlfriend?