Friday, January 10, 2014

42 Blocks to Nirvana

I found this post in my writing attic--my writing past. It is from nearly five years ago and in some ways is still true and in others not as much.


Except for the accents, we could be standing in any one of the brightly lit GameStop/EB Games stores we frequent on a far-too-regular basis in Baltimore.  GameStop/EB Games have developed a brand: a unique blend of computer-geek/technology-nerd paraphernalia capturing the illusion of some sort of Nirvana for gamers of an appropriate age, and beyond it. 
My gamer is thirteen.  We are at the counter of GameStop #1234 in New York City, one of the first spots on My daughter’s mental list of places to go on her birthday trip to NYC.
Her brown eyes sparkled when she saw the familiar GameStop logo in the middle of 7th Ave and Broadway.  We are spending the day doing whatever my teenager wants to do; if that means stumbling around another video game store, it means doing so and pretending I like it.  Searching for new Play Station 3 games and comparing prices for old Nintendo DS games is some sort of ritual she engages in at every GameStop we frequent, but this time it’s different.  This time, there are no little brothers; it’s just her, me and New York City.  There is a comfortable familiarity in this expensive ritual. 
GameStop employees typically look like people who spend too much time playing video games.  My daughter tends to avoid talking directly to them.  Today, she approaches the counter slowly, in that unimposing manner that screams “tourist.”    “Excuse me?”  She asks in patented teenalese: her soft voice lilting when her tone should dip and dipping when it should lilt in that way that suggests everything is negotiable.  “Are we close to Nintendo World?”
The employees stare at her as if they don’t speak Maryland.  They gesture out the door, up the street, waving their hands to imply a journey of some video-gamish feat.  Nervously sucking a long, brown braid, my daughter turns to me to translate their reality into hers.  Yes, I explain, they really are saying Nintendo World, the true gamer Heaven, is on 49th. 
Outside on 7th Avenue, her creamy-caramel colored face brightens.  Surely, she thinks, this is her chance to ride the infamous New York City subways—I assure her it’s not.  Before we can begin to break a sweat, we spot another GameStop.  This visit is brief.  My daughter needs to make sure I haven’t gotten her lost, again.  Assured we are on the right path, we walk on.  We pass, but do not enter, Anne Taylor’s Loft, bypass 34th street and walk through Times Square.  She is not impressed.  Although we are walking 42 blocks straight up Broadway, My daughter points out people she thinks I should ask for directions.
 They are all men. 
The oldest of my three children, she is anxious for me to start dating.  Until now, her experience with divorce has been only as intimate as the writers of the Mary Kate and Ashley series could concoct.  I didn’t have writers for my separation.  I don’t have writers for my divorce.  My story unsettles her.  Her taste unsettles me. 
We walk on.  My daughter’s long legs can keep up with my natural pace, but her feet—the same size as mine—tire somewhere around a bookstore.  She isn’t tired enough to go in.  Strangers bustle about us, their clothes, speech, and gestures providing us blocks of entertainment.  Finally, we take the short cut through Grand Central Station. 
Thanks to my sense of direction, by the time we come out the side door, I am ready to ask for directions.  My daughter scouts the possibilities: “Ask him,” she says loudly while pointing to a man in a delivery uniform.  “Or him,” she suggests of an oddly shaped man in a business suit.   Instead, we ask a young woman working at a Starbucks.  The woman points us to Rockefeller Plaza; funny no one else mentioned it was there.  Her directions are precise and we only get lost once more.  The security guard we ask walks us through the Plaza and past the ice rink.
At last, he points us to the gates of Nintendo World.


For years, my daughter and I have plodded along this path, with bumps and bruises and adjustments to accommodate her eruptions of character, taste, wants and needs.  From thick pony tails to long, thin braids, she has picked up and discarded a number of friends, best friends forever and ex-friends along the way. 
My daughter has become a tall, slimming, giggly creature instantly endowed, according to her with “access to everything, cuz like for most everything you have to be 13 years old.”  Her deep brown, almond-shaped eyes sparkle as she anxiously plots painting over her room’s pale, blue sky and plump, curvy clouds.  She hums a tuneless melody, imagining thick stripes of dark blue and brown (though not imagining anyone actually painting it).  Glancing up, she promises to leave the misshapen pink (a color she has never liked) palace with her name in bold cartoon letters on the wall.  I’ll let her paint over it, I assure her.  We both smile. 
She is growing up.
 I pretend not to notice.

Nintendo World is a glaring-sterile salon for the serious gamer who needs nothing more than a less-than comfortable, plastic chair (curved to limit the length of each visit) and the company of intimate strangers.  There is a wall lined with tall bar stools spaced along glass counters for people to play the newest Pokémon game on Nintendo DS.  Up the circular staircase, there are pod-like personal WII stations obscenely close to one another.  It’s a specific type of cool.  My daughter doesn’t own a WII and she doesn’t like Pokémon. 

She’s not discouraged.  There was a time she would have been.  My little girl is growing up; I’m going to have to notice. 

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