Monday, February 27, 2006
The author Joan Didion, courtesy Identity Theory.
I thought playing laser tag with renowned author Joan Didion would be a lot of fun but, boy, was I ever wrong. With all the lasers and the tagging, it’s pretty hard to ruin laser tag. But Joan found a way. What a sad sack.
Joan was a drag from the get-go. She complained about her equipment, saying it was too large and cumbersome for her little body. She was real passive-aggressive about it, too. “No, no, it’s O.K. I’ll live,” she said. “We all will die eventually, but for now I can live with this big, unwieldy phaser.”
She also took exception with the choice of music being played in the arena. “Techno is overrated,” she muttered. “Just like the grieving process.”
Once play began Joan quickly proved to be our unit’s Achilles’ heal. She moped around the Battlemaze and got hit four times in the first three minutes. Clearly, her heart wasn’t into it. Whenever one of her target sensors blared she’d say, “It doesn’t matter, I have no one to live for anyway. They’re all gone.”
As you can imagine this put quite a downer on the game. Members of our squad kept pulling me aside, complaining that Joan was a huge distraction. “She’s already asked me, like, five times if heart disease runs in my family,” my friend Roy told me. “I don’t think it does, but she’s got me thinking, and now I’m not so sure. I don’t want to die, bro.”
Eventually our opponents stopped bothering to shoot Joan altogether. She got one of them so upset he quit. “I must go home and hug my children,” he whimpered.
When the fog machines started, Joan tapped me on the shoulder and told me the fog reminded her of early mornings at her aunt’s summer home in Nantucket. “She’s dead, too, of course,” she said. “Ovarian cancer.”
“Stop it, Joan!” I said, fed up with her sullen attitude. “We’re trying to have some fun here.”
“Oh, right,” she replied. Tears welled up in her little eyes and her little lips began to quiver. “How rude of me …”
I felt bad about snapping at her, but she was spoiling a perfectly fine game of laser tag.
“Why don’t you go get some nachos from the snack bar or something,” I suggested.
With that, Joan somberly waddled off. She looked like one of those sad penguins in that penguin movie, except dressed in ill-fitting laser tag gear.
The rest of the skirmish went pretty well. I scored 1,117 points and my hit ratio was a solid 52%. We won, but the outcome was filed under protest by the other team, citing Joan Didion’s “emotional tactics” as “unfair, subversive, and really, really depressing.”
Afterwards, I found Joan at the snack bar staring pensively at her nachos and holding a wad of bloodied gauze to her lips.
“What happened?” I asked.
“A nacho cut my lip open,” she said.
“Ouch. That looks like it hurts.”
“I should have never have ordered my Laser-a-rita with salt,” she said. “The sting is overwhelming.”
We spent the next few moments together in silence. I didn’t know what else to say to her. Perhaps there was nothing left to say. Plus her lip was grossing me out.
“You sit down for nachos and life as you know it ends,” she sighed. “But I will do my best to persevere.”