It looked like he’d been camped out upstairs in the children’s section of the library for at least an hour, spending his Saturday afternoon playing Fortnite.
Of course, it was Fortnite, such a goofy and wildly popular battle-royal multiplayer-third-person-shooter — but we would have played it ever and found nothing strange about it when I was his age. The Alienware laptop was plugged into an electrical outlet and he was protected by headphones and didn’t quite seem old enough to be there entirely on his own.
But I lost my clear sense of ages between seven and twenty-seven when all of those junior high prodigies boarded the train wearing Princeton sweatshirts and overnight bags.
I stood a few feet behind him, just close enough to read the small white counter that starts at 100 and was now below 40, as he was constructing a fort to shoot from and hide in. The second floor of the library wasn’t quite protected enough.
I wanted to ask him, “Have you watched John Green play as a pacifist?”
After I sat down at a round table and had unpacked my laptop and hard drive, a library staff person asked me if I was with a child. No? Well, then I’d need to go back downstairs. It was eighteen and under up there. I felt chided at first, not like I’d intentionally broken any rules, but as I walked back down the stairwell I was the sign I’d missed on the way up. But no, he was right. I had probably been watching that screen longer than I should have.
So I’d have to go back downstairs and sit underneath the stacks of an endless childhood1, hiding as a pacifist against the process of aging.
- Graphic Novels