After another wonderful afternoon matinee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I decided to blow some hard earned web designer wage at the arcade located on a lower level of the Loews multiplex around Times Square. Walking around, I was not at all impressed with the up and coming shooters, fighters, and full body maneuvering games (there's this one game where you shake your ass for points on this body feedback system thing, I shit you not) intended to indulge NYC's finest uber gamers.

As I twisted myself around the other meat shells looking for that 45 second digital boom boom fix, I found my niche. Towards the far end of a wide corner, were the lo tech golden age games of my nintendo cartridge youth.

Addams family pinball!

Terminator II pinball!

Time Crisis!

That stupid Aerosmith shooter where you fling compact discs from your 'music' rifle!

And there it was, to the left of a dusty Spy Hunter II and next to a worn out Commando.

Street Fighter II.

The original granddaddy of 80's quarter-whoring arcade monsters.

It was about a full thirty seconds until I closed my mouth and apologized to the area attendant for drooling where I stood. My eyes were dilated and my breath was an uneven stoccato as I punched down into my pockets and proceeded to line up quarter after fucking quarter along the top plastic ridge of the gaming structure. I didn't care if it was an ass thing to do, but I was calling dibs on this bastard until the money ran out. It was everything I had to do to not make little Chihuahua pleasure yelps for finding such an icon of my childhood. As I removed my very adult Liz Claiborne tweed combed original piece grey long coat and tucked my work laptop between my feet, I closed my eyes to bask for a few luscious moments in the fond memories of Guile jackknives and Ryu dragon punches.

For the next hour, the plan was to fade away from adulthood. Forget about the internet web templates due tomorrow morning. Forget about the cold fusion databases, the dress shoes, and downtown commutes for VC meetings and IT presentations.

Just for a little while, I was going to be the fifteen year old fat-ass geek who woke up at 9 AM on Sundays just to be the first one at the Street Fighter II machine at the Spanish deli closest to his house. It was a good, wonderful time in my life. I didn't know what a cubicle was yet. I didn't wear ties. I hadn't seen boobies on a real, naked girl yet.

Just quarters and joysticks and my lucky Wolverine X-large t-shirt. Life was that freaking simple.

I took another breath. I rubbed my anxious, sweating palms along my slacks and inserted two quarters into this digital blessing from my childhood days. All the combatants were there to welcome me back for one last hurrah. Ryu. Zangief. E.Honda. As I scrolled lovingly from warrior to warrior, I chose my personal favorite, Guile, as my fighter. Guile was the anti-hero of the game. He was such an arrogant little bastard, but he returned to a peaceful, family life when you beat the game. Gotta respect that. I took off my watch and placed it along the glass monitor view screen. I wonder if I can still beat this thing under forty-six minutes?

And that was about the same time Quiet Assassin stepped up next to me and bought his way into my first fight. Quiet Assassin also happened to bring his girlfriend, Screeches like Monkey, along with him.

Dressed in complete black garments, engulfed within his black trench coat, wearing samurai-boy sunglasses, Quiet Assassin neither asked for permission to jump in or made any acknowledgement of my long, LONG, row of 'dibs' quarters lined atop the arcade machine.

As I gave him a long stare of "Who the hell are you and why are you disrupting my rare digression into childhood," the girlfriend, Screeches like Monkey, began to harp and screech confusing gasps of noise designed to pump up her man and irritate all of NYC at the same time. She was the 'overly compensating affectionate' kind of girlfriend. You know, the clingy hoochie type of relationship partner.

How cute.

Quiet Assassin chose Ryu as his electronic gladiator.

I looked back to the video screen. We fought for twenty minutes. Along the coasts of the bayou. At airbases. Throughout a Chinese food market. In front of a Russian workers' union.

I won them all. The jack knife to sonic boom to quick lo kick combo was golden as a child, and it was still golden twenty years later against this punk. As his irritation grew and his timing grew imperfect, I managed a perfect victory on his sorry gaming ass twice. Oh, was I smiling in his vague direction after every crushing defeat? GOSH, how wickedly un-sportsmanlike! Maybe I can kill that screeching vocal irritant of a female clasped indefinitely to the left side of your body for you? Would me doing that service for you be apology enough for my rudeness? It's the least I can do.

I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't enjoy every waking moment of figuratively presenting my ass for that bitch to kiss. As an incentive, Screeches like Monkey had also been silenced. She crouched there, frightened and cold, at her master's feet. Terror had hijacked her eyes, and willy nilly she threw a confused glare at the situation unfolding.

It was around our 10th match when he started doing 'it'.

Quite obviously, he began to look at my joystick and react to my finger depressions and directional stick taps.

It was then that Quiet Assassin's true skill became apparent. He had thrown the first few matches. Built up my ego. And now, as I watched him watch my hands as I fought, I knew I had been reintroduced to one of my lesser fond memories of the ever fanciful Street Fighter II experience.

I was fighting a 'joystick watcher'. These weird creatures of agility, timing, and superhuman counter-attack abilities were initially funded as test tube babies designed by shadow military groups to be the next era of unstoppable soldier. They saw through time, walked on air, complete over the top shit like that. Somehow, for whatever reason, most (if not all of those super-babies) grew up to play and migrate themselves en masse to the neighborhood arcades and delis of Flushing, Queens. It was there that they would act elite and always hoard the player two position at Street Fighter II consoles. They all listened to Korean-pop music too. I never understood why.

Their strange ability to win while only observing their opponents' hand movements was perfect and unfair and unsettling all at the same time. I had known of these machines back in the day. I hated them. They never taught their secrets and they never contributed to the friendly gaming atmosphere I had grown fond of at arcades and bodegas.

And here was one in my midst, slowly thinning down my once proud row of 'dibsy' quarters. Quiet Assassin didn't speak one fucking word during his onslaught of counter-joystick attacks and observational spying. It was fireball beating my lo kick, tornado kick to my throwing attempts. He was flawless in timing and joystick proficiency. He didn't look at the screen once.

Screeches like Monkey had also caught a second wind. She blew like knives and rusty nails into my ears, her off-time cadence of cooing and fra-la-la-ing noise deafening me as her man cut into my fighting tactics like fire-swords through tissue paper.

After dropping in what seemed like one hundred quarters, I gave up. I was beaten, my day was ruined, and Quiet Assassin was the unmatched winner. Put a fork in me cause I was done. I suppose in all my excitement of those initial victories, I hadn't noticed the keg of whoop-ass with my name on it that Quiet Assassin had been sitting on all throughout.

Without so much of an acknowledgement to the twenty two year old wreck of my meat shell, Quiet Assassin turned around and put his arm around Screeches like Monkey.

"See baby, I told you I'd beat anyone in here for you," and began to walk away, his oversized raver space pants making sloosh sloosh noises as he stepped.

Screeches like Monkey wailed and kissed and threw shit on herself in utter delight of my gaming embarrassment, as an ecstatic psycho zoo monkey will often do. I couldn't believe it. That little fucker had chosen me, out of the hundred gamers in that place, to mock? All for some little ho? That was too much.


Quiet Assassin paid no attention to my inquiry. Nor did he pay any attention to the phrasings of bull fecal matter, his mother, or the genitalia descriptions of his girlfriend and meat grinders either.

Oh, that's right. I said all those IN MY HEAD, only. My mentality at that moment, of course, was just of an embarrassed fifteen year old loser wimp.

I didn't actually start picking Street Fighter II-induced fights till I was sixteen.

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