This will be the summer I steal an issue of Nintendo Power magazine from Ian Conroy’s mailbox and learn some cheat codes of my own. This will be the summer I am king of Street Fighter II and everyone at the arcade will know my name. This will be the summer they’ll carry me up the stairs at the end of the night on their shoulders like a folk hero, out into the cool air and the university students coming in and out of the pub two doors down will wonder what the big deal is, and they’ll ask Graeme, who doesn’t like crowds, who’s not part of the cheering mob, what’s going on. This will be the summer Graeme recounts the legend of how I beat Street Fighter II on a single quarter, fending off challengers both live and automated. This will be the summer Graeme tells them how I beat the last three opponents with just one hand on the console, because everyone in the place wanted to shake my hand after seeing how decisively I had beaten Ian Conroy when he challenged me, and how I had finally shown him mercy in the end, which he’d never done, not even to Gina Johnson.
This will be the summer the mob carries me on their shoulders down to the 7-Eleven and we can’t all fit through the double door so they have to put me down, but then we all go in and we fill the whole place up because there are too many of us and everybody helps themselves to chocolate bars and Slurpees because everything is free, just for tonight, because I beat Street Fighter II with just one quarter. This will be the summer I walk out into the streetlamp-lit 7-11 parking lot, with a half Coke/half peach Slurpee, and Gina Johnson is waiting for me out there. This will be the summer Gina Johnson says, “I was wrong about you all along. You are authentic.” This will be the summer Gina Johnson sips my Slurpee and asks, “How do get that perfect balance between Coke and peach?” This will be the summer Gina Johnson slips me a mixtape she’d somehow already made for me and it will be full of Inspiral Carpets and Hoodoo Gurus and Happy Mondays. This will be the summer I ask Gina Johnson, “Do you like Talking Heads?” and she’ll say, “Yes, I love Talking Heads.”
This will be the summer I get busted shoplifting Talking Heads tapes at A&A Music. This will be the summer I get off with a warning. This will be the summer my dad says, “Warning? Hell. We’ll see about that.” This will be the summer I get grounded. This will be the summer I read a hundred books and go back to school in the fall forever changed. This will be the summer Mortal Kombat comes out, but I don’t know about it because I’m stuck at home, painting the fence by day and reading The Count of Monte Cristo at night. This will be the summer my mastery of Street Fighter II becomes irelevant. This will be the summer my dad surprises me with tickets to see Sting. This will be the summer I say, “what about being grounded?” and my dad says, “One night’s clemency.” This will be the summer I know what “clemency” means, from all the books. This will be the summer I call Gina Johnson and ask her if she wants to go to the Sting concert with me. This will be the summer she’ll says she’s already going, but maybe she’ll see me there. This will be the summer I go to the Sting concert with my mom and sit two rows behind Gina Johnson, who never turns around, who never takes her eyes off the stage except to french kiss Ian Conroy when Sting puts on a big, fuzzy purple hat and plays a Jimi Hendrix song. This will be the summer I stop liking Sting.