It was a gloomy Saturday morning with the sky as a blanket of clouds and the sunlight producing a blissful haze throughout the region.
My brother, Johnny, is posing as Kato from The Green Hornet with the hope that one of his photos would serve as his latest profile pic. He was keen on participating in a pastime well known for many the nerds and geeks worldwide who anticipate such a day within the likes of Johnny and I. Posing in various martial arts stances, after taking two pictures, anguished, he let out a big yell “Augh! My costume has a hole on it!”
This was when the adaptation of “The Green Hornet”, directed by the visual French eccentric Michel Gondry, was released. The once hyped movie of the summer in 2011, ultimately brought down to mediocrity due to a number “imperfections” caused a once beloved series, integral to the rise of stardom for the iconic Bruce Lee, to go down as nothing more than a mere cash grab. Likely to end up in the collection of five dollar DVDs at the local Walmart. Holding high regard towards the Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou, for the portrayal of his hero’s breakthrough role, my brother dressed as said character in respect to the late actor. I took a picture from his back. A large sea of white ripped from the Velcro lining, serving as the first clause of dismay to the Bruce Lee wannabe. It didn’t his news deteriorate my excitement for the day though. In the weeks prior to the event, the largest and most premiere Comic Book, Anime, Sci-fi, and Pop-Culture festival in Central Florida, my brother invited me to go with him to this public event. Joining his friends eager to surround themselves with the life they once enjoyed. Everyone I knew in high school was keen on attending and if I hadn’t conjured up the interest to say yes, I imagined a month long period of remorse; fueled by the giddy conversations of past attendees of explaining the event in vague and clichéd key words such as “epic” and “cool”. With all of these factors playing against my conscience, naturally, I accepted his invitation.
“Megacon it is.” My brother replied.
The year was 2011 and I am driving down John Young Parkway squashed with cars due to the morning rush hour. Inside a dark indigo Nissan 300z, Johnny is riding shotgun while my father sits in the back seat. I had just gotten my permit and my father wanted me to use every available opportunity to get scolded by him for any common mistakes I made when practicing. Whenever a mistake was made, I would end up with an earful of livid sentences screaming out from a man who never got sick from his overwhelming redness. This was not faring to be a good morning.
Driving through John Young Parkway, mired in the morning rush hour, a large HONK from a white Lexus passed on my right. My father yelled:
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ALBERT!? PUT THE CAR IN THE CENTER!”
Apparently, I was jeering out of my lane with the right side barely merging into traffic. Frayed with emotion, I obeyed his orders and brought the car back in its lane as I tried to remain cool and content while my livid father lectured me from the back.
“You see Albert? Keep the car on the center of the lane. If you don’t then you’ll merge into the other lane and cause an accident! Keep the…keep the car in the lane. Okay? The center lane. Keep the car in the center lane.”
Johnny, who had grandfathered my dad’s unpleasant attitude, put his hand in front of the dashboard and gestured it to the left, causing to further bottle up my emotions. I looked to the rosary swinging from the rearview mirror while my restless soul fevered with rage. What had I done to deserve this? I was bound to have a good morning today, and already I was experiencing a moment that tends to ruin my day. I was trapped with these two people for the remainder of the car ride. Normally, when I would become increasingly frustrated, my parents would notice this behavior and demanded me to explain what’s wrong while asking to keep my mouth shut. Needless to say, I picked up on their advice and remained stoic while my brain reduced itself to an anger infused mush.
Yet from behind, my father continued to dwell on my close call with death.
My father sneered “I just don’t get it Albert. I just don’t get it.” He picked up his phone and dialed his brother on the phone. The rest of his family lives in The Philippines. Cebu City to be exact. A city that I would much prefer to live if I didn’t forsake my Visayan tongue to mingle with my passively racist friends. His voice immediately became cheerful and enthusiastic as a conversation consisting of updates from his mother, his sisters, and his brothers were on the topic. While he happily continued conversing with his family, I was whispering to myself. Speaking in tongues into the open air to remain calm. Telling myself “It’s going to be alright. Everything is fine. Just let this pass and you can live the rest of the day without your father breathing down your neck.” My father noticed my bizzare behavior and immediately put his phone on his chest.
What he had failed to realize was, because I was learning to know how to drive, I was in control of the steering wheel. And whoever has control of the steering wheel was in total control of the car. I stepped on the pedal and the Nissan revved in acceleration. The three of us jerked back and the cars in front of us started to slow down, causing me to dodge the red tailights of the commuting traffic. In the back, my father drops the phone and panics in despair. He begins yelling at me in a such a powerful voice; akin to when I insistently hold my ground. Johnny begins to grab the wheel while he punches me in the face. He was always nuts about martial arts, but it’s too bad considering I have an affinity with cars. I focused my attention on the steering wheel; using years of training from playing Gran Truismo and Daytona USA. I was determined to make things go my way. My father always got what he wanted… and today was the day when I finally stood up to him. The serves in traffic begin to become blurred lines and I look to the dashboard. One hundred miles per hour.
I veer off of the lane and dip into the grassy median into oncoming traffic. I lose a bit of speed from the grassy knolls on the median. But when I went on the road, sparsely populated in comparison to the lane I was in, I pick up from where I left off. This time, the honks become more vivid and numerous. I begin dodging through traffic while my enraged and terrified father begins to grab the wheel while my brother holds it in the same position. Trying to pry of my hands by pounding on my finger tips, slapping my cheeks, and pushing the steering wheel with great force. This time, their power overwhelms me and cars begin skidding off the road. From a distance, I see a tow truck. Whatever’s on the back made no difference to me. Considering that it takes quite an effort to turn a big rig to the left or right, especially in a frantic manner, this is where I made my last stand. I gunned it, and the headlights begin to look like stars going through light speed. I see the metal grill of the Peterbilt head and I close my eyes. The screams and efforts of my father and Johnny against me have, for the first time in my life, failed. I was in peace.
The light turns green and Johnny reminds lightly hits me on the arm. I look up and I go before the annoyed commuters start honking at me.
We decided to park on a driveway near the convention center. I stepped outside and immediately walked to the stairwell while my father was profusely apologizing for his behavior. I couldn’t bear to look at him in setting the tone for the day, but deep within of my heart, he was my father. And I couldn’t stand to think of a person with malice so I forgave him. Taking a picture of my father posing with the car, I walked up to the catwalks. At this time, the sun was up and provided the convention center with light that brought the thirty year old center a modern look. From the pearly white walls of the mezannine and its outdated architecture common, I was ready.
After some walking, we finally end up near the front entrance as noted by the increasing volume of attendees. All around, I see the fine-looking animals. Bodies shaped from their countless years of devoted fitness routines and their dedicated nutrition habits. The majority of them who were playing dress up to look like their favorite characters from role playing games such as Lightning from Final Fantasy 13 or well-loved T.V. shows such as The Walking Dead. (I only took photos of the characters that I recognized.) These beauties were walking side by side with the nocturnal beasts of the night; rocking their shirts of their virtual idols. These are the people whose lives are lived within the confines of their bedroom. Their imagination, computer keyboards, computer monitors, and their game systems providing everything needed to be satisfied in life. For three days, they have come out of the dark; briefly exposed to the outside world and its glamour of which they can only see from afar. To mingle with their friends; to live out their virtual fantasies; where an extensive knowledge of trivia and useless knowledge was not only a sign of dedication but as a sign of integrity. It was one the few instances of their life where their hobbies had led them to become accepted. Where they could walk around without any of the protruding Pharisees, ranging from the athletic jocks to their own parents, commenting how much of their life has been wasted keeping up with such trivial interests.
We end up meeting Johnny’s friends near the doors, and from there we all played the waiting game. I don’t know how I ended up hanging out with my brother’s friends as I have never considered them to be a part of my own circle. They had just graduated high school and had embarked on their first year in college while I was still in junior year figuring it all out as I went along. The music they loved was the “catchy-yet-soon-to-be-forgotten” Top 40 hits while I desperately wanted to become a musical “hipster” (a term which was gaining traction around that time) by listening to EDM and alternative music through the means of YouTube and Pandora. It was during these years when I had discovered Deadmau5 (loathing that I had discovered him when he had already achieved fame), Skrillex (months before he blew up with “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”), and Empire of the Sun (discovered them as part of the lineup for Ultra Music Festival 2011). With these group of upperclassmen, they simply preferred to talk to each other since they had formed a clique conversing on topics of which they would only know between themselves. But it was through the actions of my brother, who was trying to live up to his “older sibling” intuitions, that I would find myself spending some time together within the company of his closest friends. All to provide me with some sort of entertainment and break from the monotony of YouTube videos that I filled my evening 99% of the time. Although I was clearly the outcast, Johnny’s circle welcomed me with open arms. This morning, however, it seems as if I stepped on their tail or something.
Johnny’s closest friends, who go by the name of Wilbur and Sam, tend to be a bit hyper when it comes to their love of pop-culture. While discussing about these certain topics, their passion had soon come caught up to them as the two started to shove each other around while laughing with their bellies. Soon, hormones took over and their aggressive horseplay caused a nearby group of girls nearby to be shoved along with them. Their faces already expressed discomfort as if a Florida man walked up to the pair and asked the two for sex in exchange for a hotdog. A few shoves in and their father soon comes to the rescue by asking them to stop. It wasn’t in the case of the father asking them politely with a gentle tone yet reassuring tone,
“Look, I know we’re in Megacon and you’re excited to be here. But could you…behave until it actually starts?”
Instead, the father demanded that Sam and Wilbur to behave themselves. The two repeatedly apologized to the father for being stupid teenagers. In response, the father showed them no form of remorse,
“This is the only time that I’ll say this.”
The mood went quiet and things died down, only for them to come up again. Yvonne, Johnny’s girlfriend, is known for being extremely ticklish with a yelp indicating that she is being tickled against her will. Wilbur was the suspect as he touched the inner crevices of her body, causing a number of their friends to cackle at her. The sight was amusing and the only reason why someone would continually tickle someone was to see their reaction. I wanted to join in on the fun, and when opportunity had risen, I tickled her. This time, the frown was gone and Yvonne looked straight in my face,
“Stop!!” she demanded.
“Yeah seriously…stop man” Her friends would echo from behind.
Confused, I kept my mouth shut and took a step back. I wasn’t too happy with how things were turning out. I took pictures of a few more of the costumed attendees and waited a bit, seething a bit in my own humiliation which had turned into anger. I know now that people have their limits, but it was quite hard for me to fix my attitude. I already had a bossy father to seal the expectation that anyone who raises their voices far beyond the likes of an inside voice was already on my shit list. I didn’t dare to say anything back at them though. What would that make of me? A hyprocrite most likely.
I couldn’t deal with the pressure arising from my body. So I simply stayed silent while I waited. Then from afar, I hear people cheering, laughing, screaming with delight. There was a small light in the corridor. The crowd of people were starting to move forward and my brother informs me to hold up my wrist band to get in. This was the moment that I had wanted to experience for years. And in a few seconds, I would finally have that opportunity.
In other words, the doors were open.