I Can See My Breath

Majoras MaskI can see my breath. That's all I can think about as the minutes tick down into seconds until the Target two blocks from my apartment opens. It's 7:55 a.m. on a cold Friday morning, and my wife has left to go get breakfast. I'm about tenth in line, and I'm reasonably sure that the other nine people in front of me are here for the same reason I am. In five minutes, Target will open up, and we will all rush back to the electronics department, for an opportunity to score a new Nintendo 3DS. Specifically, we're all waiting to be one of the few people to score the super-limited Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask edition. I know I don't have much of a chance to get one. From what people have said, each Target is only going to get two to six, and being tenth in line puts me out of the running considerably. I wait, though, because that's what we do, when we want something in nerd culture: we wait, and we hope we've waited longer than everyone else. In this case, I have not. I hear an employee say that the people at the front of the line have been there since 9:00 the previous night. There's a part of me -- the part that still wears a ratty hoodie and listens to Rage Against the Machine -- that has mad respect for their dedication. That younger part of me is the guy that waited in line for all three Star Wars prequels, who ensured that he was near the front of the line, for guaranteed seats, for prestige, for what have you. The older part of me, though -- the guy who listens to Rage Against the Machine, and wonders if they might get their point across better if they didn't shout so much -- that part of me thinks they're nuts. It's a video game console. They're releasing a black and red version the same day, and those two versions will play games exactly the same. Why spend the night in the Target parking lot waiting for a console that is, at best, a cosmetic novelty? The younger version of me hates thoughts like that. It's the younger version of me that has brought me out on this cold Friday morning for a slim chance of scoring this rare edition. Why? Pick a reason...

Maybe it's because Legend of Zelda stuff in general makes me giddy...

Maybe it's because the Legend of Zelda series has remained such an important part of my video game experience...

Maybe it's because such a limited console automatically imbues its owner with ultimate bragging rights among such circles...

Or, maybe, it's because that younger side of me is just scared to grow up, of losing that part of me that loves to wait in line for silly things that matter little to the people outside of this niche.

Of course, the older part of me laughs at the younger part of me, because the older Chris understands that I have grown up, despite what the ratty hoodie says. Over the years, I've shaved off bits and pieces of that younger part of me, until very little of him remains. I no longer stay up all night to play games. At best, I manage an hour a night, and even that depends on how many plates I have spinning at that time. With my work here at Ideal Comics, a collection of essays I'm attempting to finish, a full-time job, and a wife in graduate school, my life is a little crazy right now. To be quite honest, I'm amazed I can squeak out as much video game time as I can. Jump back over a decade to November 2004. I was a senior in college, less than a month from graduation. Halo 2 came out, and my friend Jordan and I stayed up the entire night to play through the cooperative campaign. It was a surreal night, and one that I will always remember. It was also the last time I stayed up all night to play a video game. It was a Tuesday night, and we both had class the next day. I'm not sure if he went, but I definitely didn't. I was 23 and stupid, and I skipped out on important things to play video games. This was the last mistake in a long list of stupid mistakes that led to me barely graduating. Video games weren't the sole cause of my mistakes in college, but they were a convenient excuse, an easy activity that would always seem a little more important than everything else. I don't do that anymore, though. I've grown up. Even this trip to Target comes a half-hour before my shift at my full-time job. Before I got out of the car, my wife and I discussed contingency plans. "If I'm in line until 8:10, I'll just leave, so I can get to work on-time." Not even the allure of a sweet Legend of Zelda 3DS is enough to make me miss work. Quite the difference from a decade and a half ago, when I called in sick to work to play through Majora's Mask in one sitting on the release date. I've written a few times on this site about the journey of growing up, and sometimes I feel like a bit of a broken record. It's just that with each moment of nostalgia and reflection, I can see myself moving further and further away from the things that mattered in my youth. Ten years ago, 22-year-old Chris would have probably waited outside Target all night for a Legend of Zelda-themed console. Heck, 20-year-old Chris DID wait outside Target for most of the night for a Nintendo Gamecube, and he didn't even buy one that day. He was there to hang out with a friend who was buying one. But, now, 32-year-old Chris doesn't. He goes the morning of the release, and only if it doesn't interfere with his work schedule. He walks away empty-handed, but ultimately okay with it, because when he does buy a New 3DS, it will play the same games in the same way. 32-year-old Chris ultimately realizes that there are more important things than flash and substance, and four, or three, or two years, or months, or weeks from now, he won't care that he doesn't have the limited edition. 32-year-old Chris has grown up. But only a little bit. Because 32-year-old Chris still puts off housework sometimes, and work for his comic company more than he'd like to, so he can play old video games he's just now getting around to playing. Oh well. It's a learning process, I guess.
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Christopher David Lawton

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