I am trying not to stare at the elf girl. I know for sure she is not a real elf. That’s a given. But she has these very prominent elf ears. So, you can’t help noticing them. You are supposed to notice them, really. But I don’t think you’re supposed to stare. I’m wondering if she had herself surgically altered to have elf ears. Surely not. Surely at some point she leaves the game store in Brooklyn where we’re all about to play Dungeons and Dragons, and she goes home to feed her cat. She takes the elf ears off and leaves them in a dish or something by the bed like you might a retainer. Then she drifts off to sleep and dreams sweet elfin dreams.
My 16-year-old son Avery and I have never played this game before. He is all about video games and U-tube videos of people playing video games and anime. He watches a lot of movie reviews. Sometimes, he talks about movies he’s never seen before, giving you detailed critiques of them. But he’s just repeating what he’s seen in a video. So, you try telling him that the experience of watching a review of a bad movie is nowhere near as fulfilling as watching a movie and deciding for yourself that the movie was bad and knowing and being able to explain why it was so bad. And reviewers can even be wrong about movies. And sometimes you can enjoy watching a bad movie even while knowing it’s bad. Give bad movies a chance, I say. Does that make any sense?
He didn’t want to come. But he came because I insisted. Sometimes I can still on insist on something, and he does it even though he doesn’t want to do it. And even though it’s possibly somewhat beyond the usual list of things a parent has every right to insist on a child doing, he comes. He brought his Nintendo 3DS. But as of right now, he is unplugged. And we are in the moment.
We are at one of seven tables filled with people playing Dungeons and Dragons. Avery is a warrior monk. He draws a very detailed picture of his character on a sheet of paper. And we get to borrow a little cast-iron figure that represents our characters. I’m a cleric with healing abilities. Pretty soon we are “in the shit.” The shit in this case means fighting a creature with a thousand eyes on long stalks. Defeating skeletal zombie creatures. Finding our way through portals with keys. Using a magic spell and some complicated dice rolling, I bring one of our troupe back from a state of undead to the land of the living. Which, I’m pretty sure, is a good thing.
Avery is finding his way in the world. Discovering who he is. Figuring it out slowly, just like I did. He needs to go through many portals, survive a few curses and cast a few spells of his own. It feels like this is the right place for him right now. If not this particular room in Brooklyn, a room just like this somewhere else. A place where a warrior monk can kick butt and take names in extra dimensions.
People are always watching us – just like the creature with a thousand eyes. Trying to make judgements about us. Pigeonhole us. Put us in containers. But we decide where we fit. Who we are. Whether we like wearing elfin ears or our own plain human ones.