I first met RJD2 while at the Sunshine Laundromat on Manhattan Avenue. I was waiting for my clothes to spin dry and trying to beat the highest score on the Disney Tron Legacy pinball machine.
You're close, he said, pointing at the machine.
Getting there, I said. I felt him hovering at my shoulder while I flapped the paddles. I needed all my concentration on the game. The two percent of my concentration that was now distracted by being watched by RJD2 was enough to throw me off. The balls kept falling down the holes. The bells not ringing with the right rhythm. My angles off. The last ball went down. I was a million off the top score. My brain shattered like a china plate struck by a meteorite.
Too bad, said RJD2.
Really, I thought. Really? I turned to him. I wanted to say, Too bad? Too bad?! If you hadn’t been stood there, I could have got that million easy. What the fuck is your problem? Do you watch car crashes just to say 'too bad' afterwards? Go to stand up shows and watch comedians bomb and shout 'too bad' from the back? Do you go around watching babies being delivered in the hope they make a mistake so you can say ‘too bad’ when the mother needs a cesarean section because the baby being born felt your eyes on him and squirmed in discomfort and got stuck sideways? Do you say ‘too bad’ when an oil tanker hits rocks just off the Galapagos islands and drenches the whole place in a layer of crude oil that destroys millions of species of animal found nowhere else on the planet? In the world? In the universe? Were you there the day Martin Luther King Jr. got shot saying ‘too bad’? Were in you in Armenia the day Turkey decided they didn’t want any Armenians on the planet anymore, running around the place singing out ‘too bad’ as swords sliced and hacked at an entire nation? Were you screaming ‘too bad’ from the Enola Gay over Nagasaki and Hiroshima? ‘Too bad’ as the Amazon rain forest turned into the world’s biggest barbecue? ‘Too bad’ while every extremist across the great US of A bought their completely firearm before going people hunting in Walmart, their school or a farmer’s market? Too bad? Too fucking bad? How about I tap dance the words ‘too bad’ all over your reclaimed hardwood flooring with a pair of stiletto heels? And how about I tap dance on you afterwards shouting ‘too bad’ from the highest rooftop? How about I scream ‘too bad’ while I take off my shoe and force you to eat it with your throat? Snap your shin bone to pierce the thin flesh of your leg? How about I punch a hole in your chest, pull out your ribs and attempt brain surgery with the splintered ends stuffed in your ears? Too bad? Too fucking bad? I’ll give you too bad, and I’ll give it to you twice, thrice, a million times, playing it on repeat through your walls and floor until you go insane and carve ‘too bad’ into your own forehead with a toothpick and pierce your own eyeballs so you never have to look at ‘too bad’ ever again, but you’ll know it’s there, you’ll know, because you can feel it, feel ‘too bad’ burning away in your heart, in your liver, in your lungs as the ‘too bad’ cancer riddles your body and you die in a heap of necrotised flesh and pus and piss and shit and I’ll scrape up your body whistling too bad and dump you in a shallow too bad grave and carve ‘too bad’ on a too bad rock and place it over the too bad mound where you’ll be forgotten for being too bad forever.
What I actually said was, Yeah, too bad. At least my washing is dry. While wondering, where is the nearest place to buy a gun? Or, a hammer?
You look upset, said RJD2. I get it. How about I play you a song?
I’ve got this washing to fold so, whatever. You do you, I said. Thinking, he's not so big, I could stuff him in one of these tumble dryers. His corpse would desiccate. He'd be a dried-out husk before anyone found him. He'd look like a vampire got him. No one would suspect me.
RJD2 pulled an MPC from his back pocket, plugged it into the laundromat’s sound system and played 1976 from his album Since We Last Spoke(2004) while I folded my washing. By the time he had finished, my mood had changed. The barely suppressed rage and thoughts of murder were gone. I realised that the pinball game would always be there for next time, that a high score is no big deal, and if I was really going to beat the score, I would have done, with or without RJD2 looking over my shoulder. I had directed my frustration at him when really, I was frustrated at myself. I felt calmer, more relaxed, and even felt a bit silly for getting so worked up.
That was a nice tune, I said to RJD2.
Thanks, he said. You want to hang out some? I only live around the corner and I’m going to be listening to these new records and drinking margaritas. You are more than welcome to join me.
I’d like that, I said.
As we left the laundromat, RJD2 put his arm around me, pulled me a little closer and said, You know, for a second there, I thought you were going to beat my score.
I looked at him, a sliver of my negative feelings cutting through my new good mood, and I saw his smile. I knew straight away that he had meant the comment as a compliment, and we’ve been friends ever since.
This episode of MWMM is dedicated to my younger brother, who has always been better than me at computer games.