“Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M get the money. Dollar, dollar bill, y’all,” the haunting, yet jazzy, sounds of Wu-Tang Clan fills the dim-lit arcade,The Factory, as it blares through the speakers. Its snares and baselines dictates my steps. I feel like everything around me is moving in slow motion. Seconds feel like minutes as I first look to my left, and I gaze upon a girl wearing a mini-skirt accompanied by a denim jacket and shell-toed Adidas. She is holding the pool cue; she glances at me and greets me with a smile as if she’s welcoming me. This is my first time here, but she’s seen me before at other arcades. She knows this my home, my arena. Her jock boyfriend wearing a Castle Park High School Trojans sports jersey interrupts our moment by kissing her on the cheek as if to say, “This is mine. You can’t have her.” I look back with a cocky smirk as if I’m saying, “This is my Football field. Tonight, your girl is my cheerleader.” I can still feel her inviting smile as I look to my right at all the arcade cabinets. The Wu-Tang Clan nearly overpower the sounds of Mario getting hit by Donkey Kong’s barrel, Lisa and Bart running and screaming during a demo play of The Simpsons, and A Ninja Turtle saying, “Cowabunga,” as someone inserts a quarter into the slot of a Ninja Turtle Arcade cabinet.
At the end of the arcade is a single file line formed behind Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. At the front of the line are two players; the one on the right side is a skinny kid wearing bottle caps and the one on the left is another Castle Park jock, only much bigger than the one I saw coming in. I analyze how this buffoon plays the game; his movements are stiff. He’s slamming the joystick as if he’s trying to break it off the cabinet and he’s pounding on the buttons like a hammer to nails. He’s sloppy, yet focused. He is demolishing the skinny kid, who’s character never left his corner. The jock uses Ryu’s cheap combination of Hadokens and Shryukens, simple movements that can be easily countered by a seasoned player, like myself. As the overgrown jock delivers the final blow, he stares at the skinny kid with a smile that would make the Cheshire Cat jealous. “Ryu wins...PERFECT,” is heard through the cabinet stereo speakers. The jock throws his fists in the air shouting in glee, reminiscent to Goro from Mortal Kombat, movie. It’s intimidating, yet goofy. The goofy muppet directs his attention towards the line and shouts, with a voice that can only be described as KRS-One doing a bad impression of Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget, “Who’s next? Huh? Who wants a piece of Deebo?” The line diminishes as arcade patrons begin tucking their gold chains inside their shirts and walking outside, leaving only the jocks, their girlfriends, and me, a slighty-chubby sixteen year old wearing Army surplus cargo pants, a faded black hoodie, and worn out Nike Cortez shoes.
I pull my hood down, like Luke from Return of the Jedi. I slowly look up at the towering goofball and smirk, “I guess I’m next.” The rest of the jocks stop what they’re doing and approach me in an attempt to intimidate me. Real time sets back in and the music stops. The jocks begin to laugh hysterically. One of them gives me a nudge from behind, moving me closer to my would be executioner. Deebo looks at me with starving eyes and a salivating mouth. He’s waiting for his next meal, me. “I reckon it’s feeding time,” I smirk. I look at the Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo cabinet. Time to pay a visit to the chopping block. I insert my quarter into the cabinet slot. “Here comes a new challenger,” blasts through the cabinet speakers. Deebo stares at me and grunts, “You pick Ryu, I’ll beat your ass punk.” I glance at him through the corner of my eye, “Let’s make this interesting.” I pull a wrinkled twenty dollar bill from my pocket and place it between our joysticks. Deebo replies, “Ha, ha, ha. I like interesting; I’ll raise you double. We can use the extra beer money.” He slams two crisp twenty dollar bills on top of my wrinkled twenty. I begin to sweat as I look around; all the jocks are surrounding the arcade cabinet and giving me dirty looks. Behind them is the girl who greeted me; her smile grows as she looks down, slowly shaking her head. She reads my poker-face. She knows what’s about to go down. I reach into my pocket and place another wrinkled twenty dollar bill on top of the others. An eighty dollar pot for one game of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo? Easy money. I look back at the other jocks who all nod in satisfaction. Let the game begin.
I choose Cammy, one of the four new fighters in the game, one that not everyone knows how to use; therefore, she is underestimated. “ROUND ONE. FIGHT!” shouts the digitized announcer. Deebo slams the joystick down and right, but Cammy is already in the air before he can hit the fierce button to complete his Hadoken combination. She hits Ryu with a couple of well-placed short kicks before slamming him into the ground. Ryu gets up with stars spinning around his head. Then, Cammy slams him into the corner. As Ryu gets to his feet, he’s greeted with a medium thrust kick, which knocks him back to the ground. Ryu gets up again, but this time he’s greeted with a roundhouse thrust kick. “CAMMY WINS. PERFECT!”
I hear a girl’s voice shout, “That was off the hook,” followed by man shouting, “Shut up Brenda!” My eyes take a second to glance at Deebo, who’s staring at the cabinet screen in disbelief. He grinds his teeth as if he wants them to break out of his mouth. I think he’s pissed off.
“ROUND 2. FIGHT!” Ryu and Cammy rush each other and Ryu throws a Shryuken, knocking Cammy down. Deebo chuckles, thinking he has the upper hand. Ryu approaches Cammy, getting ready to land the final blow, but suddenly Cammy delivers a thrust kick while standing up. I can hear sighs of disbelief coming from those watching the game. Cammy’s countless thrust kicks repeatedly knocked down Ryu until her final one knocks him out. “CAMMY WINS!” Without warning Deebo punches the cabinet screen, breaking it. As the jocks rush to calm down their defeated team mate, I grab my winnings and make my way towards the entrance.
At the entrance door, I see the girl who greeted me earlier. I remember back during the game when one of the jocks calls her Brenda. I ask, “You’re Brenda right?” She replies, “Who’s asking?” My eyes light up, for it’s not every day I talk to a girl like her. As she anticipates my reply, I begin to notice her bright blue eyes, her saccharine smell, her dirty blonde hair with highlights, and her juicy lips shaded with just the right amount of lipstick. She’s perfect. “I’m Mike.” I smile back hoping that my common name doesn’t turn her off. Brenda gently pulls my hand towards her. Her skin is soft and comforting. She locks eyes with me and smiles, as she performs a writing gesture with her free hand. Her body language is intoxicating. I quickly shake my head to free myself of her spell and reach into my pocket, pulling out a sharpie. She gently takes the marker from my hand and writes (619) 555-4321 on my palm. Brenda locks eyes with me again “Page me sometime, alright?” I nod my head because I’m so hypnotized, I can’t even speak. Our eyes lock for a moment before she walks away from me to help her boyfriend who’s still trying to calm down Deebo. As I make my exit, I can hear those jazzy sounds of Wu-Tang Clan “Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dollar, dollar bill. Y’aaaaaaal. Yea!”