It’s nearly quarter to 1AM and the boys are arguing in the other room about what late night game to play: Call of Duty or the Zombie game within Call of Duty. A four-player limit finds me the fifth wheel, and I bow out to play some Starcraft. Kevin is sleeping behind me, having passed out hours earlier. Every half-hour he mumbles incoherent curses in his sleep, a sign my roommate’s sleeping peaceful (the boy is never happy unless he’s not), rousing himself as Ryan begins his recital in the other room. I do not know what prompts it, perhaps the excitement for digital battle, the click of electronic triggers, the tinkling of bullets on 3-D landscapes. His voice begins low, gradually crescendo-ing into a rebel shout, a call to arms for humans against the inhuman, a love-letter to the battle-borne and bullet-ridden:
“Good evening,” he begins. ” In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation.”
His voice gets all gravelly here like a busted skateboard on asphalt.
“We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!””
He really shouts this next bit . . . I swear the neighbors can hear him. From the comfort of his armchair, Jesse, our neighbor, hoots encouragingly.
“We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
The scene is recited precisely, without flaw or error. The audience, already half-way through a case of Miller Light — college seniors will drink alcohol-flavored bilge in a pinch; Miller is a new low, but Sean forgot his wallet — they cheer loudly, while Ryan bows and blows the digital brains from some immolated undead civilian. These shouts of course wake Kevin . . .
“RYAN! SHUT UP! I can hear you from here! JEEZ . . . Go to bed or SHUT UP!” And just like that my brother Kevin has degenerated into the landlord, the old man who sleeps in the flat below yours, reminding you with a broom-handle on the floorboards when the party’s outstayed its welcome. Not that my brothers or Jesse cared. If they heard, their clamor only increased a decibel or two.
Ryan (now no longer sober) began his second resuscitation, from Mel Gibson’s Patriot:
“Their names and ranks?” he blubbers, doing his best pseudo-Nixon.
“They refuse to give me their names, but the ranks are nine lieutenants, five captains, three majors, and one very fat colonel who called me a… “cheeky fellow.””
A few minutes pass. Kevin begins to snore again. My zerglingss enter into Terran territory and suddenly the silence is . . .
“DAMN that man! Damn him, I say!”
. . . which I am fairly certain is also from The Patriot. Silence lingers again until . . .
“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you are entitled to.”
I was at a party several years back. Dasad had succumbed to the lure of the couch and TV as the supply of Cheeze-it’s depleted, when we stumbled upon the last few seconds of The Princess Bride. In the span of a few minutes all conversation ceased, slowly fading as THAT scene neared. You know the one.
Anyway, it was like church, a moment of silence followed by a communal prayer. All at once we began to recite together, one by one:
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Over and over, we repeated the line, gradually growing faster and faster until the climatic ‘I want my father back you son-of-a-bitch!’
I’m not sure how religious of a man, I’ve become in the past few years. Most of my church-going has become something of a habit borne of repetition rather than a conscious act, like brushing your teeth or buckling your seatbelt. But in that moment I felt a shared connection to . . . Inigo Montoya? God? Humanity? The spirit of awesome kickass stories? Who knows?
“Did you order the Code Red?” Ryan screams, breaking the silence again.
“You’re DAMN right I did!” the boys shout back in chorus. Kevin feels nothing but irritation at this last interruption. He storms from the bedroom, rage flashing in his eyes. I twist a nob on my keyboard, drowning out the cacophony of murder and bloodshed with the slurping hiss of digital alien insects.