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Let me explain
I can’t see very well. At this speed, everything is a blur. I slow down to catch my breath, but only for a second and I’m back up. My legs are about to fall off, my lungs spontaneously combust, but I keep on running. I keep on running despite the stitches in my stomach and the excruciating ache in my thighs from a previous injury. Running, in the crowded streets of New York City away from Mitchell who’s gaining up on me.
Let me explain.
Mitchell and I are classmates. We take Econ 101 together at the Camden College. We hung out today after class to discuss our latest assignment. We had stopped at a local deli to buy some snacks when the lady at the counter nodded her head towards her television set and told me,
‘They are going to announce the lottery numbers now’
‘Okay’ I shrugged.
‘Would you like to buy one?’
I looked up at Mitchell signaling no. So I said yes.
The lady smiled and added a ticket to our purchase. Mitchell and I split the bill. We were halfway through our Doritos when Mitchell asked, ‘Ian, why are we still here?’
‘Didn’t you listen? They are going to announce the lottery numbers any minute now’
‘You’re joking’ he deadpanned.
‘No, they are’ I smirked to tease him. ‘Look, it’s begun’
‘Are you? Whatever’, Mitchell shrugged. But when the show began, Mitchell warmed up and said, ‘We might win’
I shaked my head and watched the show. Meanwhile, Mitchell went on an endless rant about probability and luck and something else about the universe. I’m sure it was all very interesting, except I had my eyes glued to the screen. The numbers lined up on the screen as a woman in a very tight dress read them out. She drawled on each number, teasing. It was only when she had finished that I looked at the ticket resting on the counter behind me and then back up: the same numbers. Jesus, what were the odds? My eyes widened and I clutched the ticket. And then, without thinking anything through, I ran.
Mitchell, despite his optimism had clearly not considered actually winning. It’s probably why it took him a few seconds to register what had just happened. Once he did, he ran after me.
And here we are, 10 minutes later, still running. To be honest, I hadn’t considered winning either. I had lingered in the store as a formality, because, hey, you never know right? It would be the most tragic thing to win but now know that you had. Now all I have to do is lose him and call the number on the ticket. But Mitchell, he isn’t easy to lose. I can make out his reflection inching closer towards me on the window of a car much ahead of me. I try to speed up but it only intensifies the ache in my thighs. I end up pausing against all better judgment to relieve the ache and sure enough I see his hands grab my t-shirt from behind on the window before feeling them. I try to push him off but he’s got a good grip and swivels me around to face him.
We both pant heavily, sweat dripping down our shirts. People around us don’t notice. His grip on me still strong, he demands, ‘Give me the ticket’
‘No’, I reply, resolute.
He uses his free hand to force reaching inside my pockets but I’ve got both hands free and am able to resist. He then tries reaching for the lowest pocket on my cargo pants. Bingo. Without thinking, I kick his chin with my knees.
‘OW!’ he screams in agony. He loses his grip on me and uses his hands to nurse his chin. I stand there, frozen. I could run, I should run, except that I’ve never hit anyone so hard in my life and I don’t know how to react. Out of nowhere, Mitchell punches my face, hard. I stagger back and fall into a newspaper stand. Mitchell pounces on me. I keep kicking him. Everything at this point is an attempt on my part to prevent him from reaching into that pocket. Because god knows if he did, I’d never forgive myself.
Of course there is only so long you can vandalize a shop in the manner of siblings fighting over the last piece of pizza. And we do look that foolish, I can assure you. We are on top each other, flailing our limbs helplessly against the other, too scared to cause any real damage. This is what happens when boys raised on video games and the Internet come to a position where they really have to fight.
‘Go out and play, Ian’, mum would say.
‘No! I’m playing Mario!’ I would shout. And so began my magnificent journey into the world of
video games. Into Minecraft and Halo and Pokémon and Call of Duty and Skyrim and everything, everything beautiful. Today I wonder, maybe I should’ve gone out and play. And they say video games make you violent.
We are a sorry sight, the two of us. The owner of the shop comes screaming at us, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing!!’ Giant of a woman that she is, she singlehandedly lifts Mitchell off of me. The pain in my thighs means that I can’t get up. I’ve broken something, I can tell.
Mitchell, the back of his shirt still in the woman’s hands, spits and tells me,
‘We might win’
‘What?’ I ask, still panting.
‘I said, back at the deli ‘we might win’. We.’
A number of emotions take residence in me and now I can’t look at him anymore. He would’ve shared. I ran. I ran and now I am repulsed by myself. The woman says, ‘I’m calling the police’
‘No! We’ll pay you for the damages’
The woman looks around at the damage we’ve caused: two dented stands and a number of newspapers and magazines no longer saleable. She looks back at us and scoffs, ‘No. I call the police’
‘I can repay you!’ I stammer.
Mitchell turns to the woman and says, ‘He’s got the winning lottery ticket in his pocket’
My muscles contract with strange effort. What is he doing? She moves onto her phone anyway.
‘In his lowest pocket on the right leg’ Mitchell tells her.
I freeze. Would moving make me appear more suspicious? It doesn’t matter because I couldn’t if I tried and now her hands are in my pockets and she removes the ticket.
‘That is theft! That is a felony!’ I shriek
The woman looks at the ticket and jeers, ‘You think I am a fool?’ She then proceeds to tear the ticket into two. The wind carries them away.