“So he’s in Australia, on the beach, which is dope as hell” he says in-between puffs of his cigarette, “and he’s just on his surfboard just chilling on the waves and shit” This is how he always starts off telling the story of how I got bit by a shark. It is a pretty interesting story, definitely the most interesting thing to happen to me. But he’s so much better at telling it than I am. He really seems to bring out the suspense and horror of it all, and he wasn’t even there when it happened. He’s great at telling stories, and just talking in general. He’s got this bravado or some kind of confidence that would make something cheesy like “So wheres that accent from sweetie?” sound so natural and cool. He has a way with words that can steer the conversation into anyway he wants, like a captain steering a ship. I’ve always found talking, especially flirting, to be like Russian Roulette. Every word that comes out of your mouth is random and can kill you at any second. But for him it’s like chess, a strategic game that he maneuvers in his favor. Every sentence a chess piece, and my shark story was his queen.
He continues telling the story as the smoke floats away from his mouth, like how Europeans smoke cigarettes. He passes it to the girl next to him and then she passes it to the girl next to her. There’s four of us sitting around in a circle on his furry carpet. I stroke the peacock feathers of the carpet and stare at this wooden sculpture in the middle of the room, wondering where he got it from. Ever since I’ve known him he’s nicknamed himself “The Indiana Jones of Vintage Brooklyn”. He’s at the part where he’s about to end the story and I get nervous, I haven’t said a word in about 5 minutes. I’ve been too busy looking around his apartment trying to convince myself I’m not as drunk as I am. Eventually his tale comes to an end and the girls start asking their usual questions. “How old were you when it happened?” one of them would say. “Thirteen” I responded shyly. “Wow” said the blonde girl, “Yeah” said the brunette. “Were you scared?” they’d ask which I would say “Just a little, I guess, I don’t remember it that well”. “Yeah” said the blonde, “Wow” said the brunette.
They were nice girls, most of them are. Some of them aren’t, but they all have something in common: they were all pretty. That’s what mattered to him. He always has a game for him and I to play whenever we’re at a club or bar. He sets up rules like “Only talk to them about Disney movies” or “Dance with them without using your hands”. It was always a game for us, something new and fun to do to spice up our nights out. The games would usually end the same way, with us heading back to his apartment, with some pretty girl around his arm.
After the shark story his next move was to suggest playing a drinking game. Before we knew it he was whipping out a Twister map and board on the floor. It was a simple game, you spin the wheel and put the corresponding body part on the right color. If you can’t, you take a shot. He span first and put his left foot on red. The blonde went next and put her right hand on yellow. I went and put my right hand on green. And than the brunette went and put her right leg on blue. And as the game went on the more shots we took, and the more shots we took the more we would fall on top of each laughing loud enough for the whole block to hear us. He was terrible at it, or at least pretended to be bad at it. I on the other hand was killing it, shifting and turning in ways that I wouldn’t sober. I was a pro and by the end of the game I was the only left standing while the rest of them laid on the floor too drunk to function. Afterwards I put him to bed, called a cab for the other two girls, and then took the subway back home.
He was my best friend for all of high school, and he was always the same, always calm, cool, and collected. He had this swagger to him and would fill up the atmosphere. He knew he made me feel cool and trendy and I knew I made him feel stable and mature. It was a weird dynamic, but it worked for us. We loved making up games just as much as we loved playing them. Life had always been a game for us, something with rules to follow, something with a prize in the end, and it was always fun. I knew he was jealous of what I had, but I don’t know if he knew that I was jealous of what he had. The fact that the games came off being so easy for him, like he had this natural flow of coolness and freedom that I never understood how a person could have such a thing. It doesn’t bother me anymore anyway. I mean we all can’t be good at every game. He was good at talking and making people like him, while I was good at drunk twister. And eventually we all end up getting to a point where we have to stop playing games.