January 10, 2008
By Daniela Calvo, Miami, FL

“You have to get out of those malignant video games and start studying! Your grades have taken a violent U-turn since your father bought you that worthless machine! All your teachers are concerned due to your performance last month. It’s ridiculous! You are becoming hostile, insensitive to everything that you cared about; everything that you used to love and enjoy is being dissolved into those silly buttons that drive you wherever you want to go. It is totally unhealthy for you!” exclaimed Nick’s mother, Martha May Gonzalez, over breakfast. She was a thin, blond woman with blue eyes and a slim figure, one whose face you would expect to see on the cover of a Runway magazine or anything of that sort. Definitely not someone you’d expect to be handling numbers at a car dealership.
Nick just stared down at his cereal bowl and ate. He had heard this lecture million-one times, and it was certainly something that one eventually got used to. At first, it had a lasting effect that made the 12 year-old choke on his food while he ate, now, it just made him feel a bit uncomfortable, nothing hard-to-deal with. It’s not like it affected him in any grave way, he was now a disobedient, wayward child, who ignored his mothers wishes 100%. In the beginning he took his mother’s threats and comments seriously. He cared for what his mother thought, but, that was the case back then, not now. He had tried to convince his mother of his knowledge, of what he felt for the games. That however, was no longer the case. He was smart enough to know that they would never reach an alliance. He knew this for a fact. The only way that he would succeed in this…was in a race, a motocross race. Just like in his video games. Nick knew, however, that , this could never be the case with his self-absorbed mom. Whom, he believed only cared about work and nothing else. So Nick as he mumbled the lecture mockingly under his breath, just looked the other way in hopes that she would, soon, shut up.
However, he couldn’t argue with his mother, the games had taken over his life. He didn’t, however, consider them evil in any way. Nick thought of them more as a refuge, into which he could rest from the school bullies and common Jr. High boy’s worries. This was his definition of safety, sitting in his locked room playing his violent video games.
He found, that it was in the virtual world that he felt most comfortable. It was a place where he felt somewhat more spirited and energetic, and he couldn’t lose that feeling. A place where it was not necessary to bring about and procure everything that you want to do. Everything that you want to do, that you wish to do, every step, every leap, was effortless, at the touch of a button, and he adored that sensation.
Nick finally snapped out of his thoughts. As he fished for the last few grains in the milk bowl, he began picking everything up and getting ready for the worst part of his day. No, it was not the school that bothered him; it was the heat, the sun. The bear sun made his skin itch in discomfort, it was not a sensation he was used to in his room with the curtains closed, and absolutely nothing standing between him and his games. The sun and the heat made him wince in annoyance. Yes, his incomprehensible obsession had gotten to the point that he rejected everything that was not his to accept.
He stepped out, trying to make it seem as what he felt what perfectly normal. He thought himself rather good at it, considering the fact that his mother said nothing more about the matter that, for some reason, seemed to reach its boiling point. Although the tolerance did, after all, require a great deal of concentration since he seemed to be envying the rat that, now scurried away to wherever rats go when they’re free.
He began his daily walk up Elm Street towards Edison Elementary School. He felt completely void and empty. It was one of the most common, terrible feelings he felt, at least, when he was away from his machine.
The walk wasn’t very long. Just about 15 minutes if you’re early, 10 if you’re late. He did it daily. Ever since he was in fourth grade Nick Gonzalez had been walking up Elm Street alone and unprotected.
He looked around the alleyways and streets as if they were entryways in which anyone could be hiding. He sped past the intersections in hopes of not getting caught by the criminals. Hurrying, running, speeding, and as he felt totally nautious due to the exhausting run he saw it. There it was, school, the end of this level and the beginning to a new. Mission complete.
The school bell rang at 8:15, just as the child stepped into the long, narrow passageway surrounded by lockers. The girl’s lockers to the left, the boy’s to the right, and the exchange student’s to the back. Absolutely all chaos was avoided at Edison. There was never any confusion. Everything was neat and organized, absolutely nothing to be confused about; including the classrooms. There was a map on every bulletin, and the doors were clearly marked. “Yes, nothing like my games.” thought Nick. “There is nothing dangerously inflammable to dodge. Nothing. Nothing at all.”
He stepped into 1st period English, as though there were the possibility of armed men waiting to ambush him the second he was slightly visible, slowly, cautiously. He avoided the stairs of his classmates and kept his mind in the game. Nick skidded to his seat as soon as he saw that the coast was clear, but remained on guard. You never know what could happen.
When dismissed, he glided to second period geometry, and quickly found his seat. Mr. Bedford called him to the front of the classroom to work out a problem on the blackboard. Nick, though reluctant, stood from his seat and walked towards the board, while the professor held a piece of white chalk out to him. He began to scribble numbers on the board with surprising speed. “Who says my grades are slipping, mom? Here, I am the envy of the class! Working this problem out just as it was 1+1, easy.” He thought as he turned to show Mr. Bedford and the class his answer.
Mr. Bedford looked bewildered. “I’m sorry, that is wrong. Forgive me, but take your seat. You where moving so quickly I didn’t even find sense to your movements!” exclaimed the professor.
“I guess there wasn’t any” murmured a boy in the third row. The entire class giggled.
Nick’s face went red. He felt dumb, a buffoon, who thought he could do what he clearly couldn’t. All his moment’s hopes had been fruitless. Unknowingly, Mr. Bedford had mortified and embarrassed Nick rather deeply. He, however, was not going to let this dishearten him. Nick had a mission, to get through the school day and safely home to his world; and most importantly, his games. He sat on the edge of his seat, for the rest of the class.
Afterward, 3rd period Gym, 4th period Study Hall, and 5th period Lab made it rather easy to get by. In Gym, he just pulled his muscles forgetting to stretch. Study Hall was, well, Study Hall, and Miss Ivette, was unavailable, so her class was canceled, as I had said, nothing.
After Lunch, Nick moved on to 6th period geography with Mrs. Hurtado, and that was where he got entertained. Mrs. Hurtado held an envelope in her hands and placed it on Nick’s desk. She asked him to take it to Mr. Fernandez as soon as possible, 5 minutes at the most. Nick, rather proud of being picked for this assignment, rose and exited the room.

Mission: Hand Mr. Fernandez the unlabeled envelope
in 5 minutes time. Report back to Mrs. Hurtado’s
classroom (6th period geography) for level up.

He made his way, perfectly aware of his surroundings; hurrying to gain time; picking up trash from the floor to earn bonus points, just like in his video games.
He saw the 9th period Geology door at the end of the hall, and accidentally trampled over a bucket of water the janitor had left momentarily. After all, all the kids were supposed to be in class. Leaving the floor now sodden, he had created himself an obstacle difficult to cross; just like in his video games. He, therefore, lost time slipping over the water he didn’t bother to help clean up. Nick ran, rather wet, toward the classroom that, by now, was just steps away, and launched himself toward the door. Not only disrupting the class, by making himself the main point of a freak show, but also doing so while Principal Millers was present. There was no doubt about it; he had inflicted on himself quite a load.
There is no need to say how the rest of the day went by, since one does not often spend a good time in detention. However, what was to become of him did not bother him. In fact, this matter did not even cross his mind. It bothered him more to have to go out to the sun, to what was not his to accept, and make it seem as if he were home. That was what he was worried about. Not, that his divorced mother would nearly drown him with lectures once he got home. He made his way outside.

Mission: Make it home avoiding any obstacles that get
in your way. You have approximately 10 minutes to
make it down Elm street and home. Do not stop and
gain time. Pick up items to gain bonus points…

He hurried down the busy streets, and occasionally jumped into traffic to pick up loose garbage. Anyone who saw this boy in the busy streets would have sworn he was a lunatic! It was not an orthodox thing to launch yourself into the busy streets to retrieve loose items, and Nick, did it as a habit.
He arrived home with :52 seconds on the clock. Mission completed. His mom had been watching the entire scene as she was gardening, and, as you may believe, she wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a suicidal son. Something, anything, had to be done about this deranged obsession. Without a word, Martha May ran up to Nick’s bedroom and unplugged all the games, all the electrical appliances gone. Nick could do nothing. This was the controversial action he had secretly feared.

Complete Shutdown.
Game Over.

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