Where’d You Go?
When video games with guitar-shaped controllers were in their infancy, not only did I not want to play them, I scoffed at the very idea that I would enjoy such a thing. Then came the dark days of 2008, when I found myself temporarily unable to enjoy much of anything. It turned out that firing up the PlayStation 3, putting my brain in neutral, and tapping buttons while looking at brightly-colored falling blocks and grinning like an idiot man-child provided a surprising amount of relief.
You play Rock Band 2 online as much as I did, you add some friends to your list. Some of them never become more to you than a user name and an avatar; others become friends in a far more meaningful sense. Though you may never learn some very basic facts about them, you may learn lots of other things. Quite unexpectedly, I stepped into the role of “keeper” for one such friend. Let’s call her Bell. (She knows why.)
Bell was going through an extremely difficult period, as I had not long before, though for very different reasons. After we’d built up a certain amount of rapport, she found it therapeutic to discuss it with me through the imperfect medium of the PlayStation Network (PSN) text message and the somewhat less imperfect medium of the Rock Band 2 in-game chat. She found me a good enough listener to keep this up for several months. She was sometimes compelled to apologize for taking up so much of my time, saying “You’re not my keeper” on one occasion. From that point on, “keeper” was a badge I wore with pride and which I used to needle her from time to time; “Your keeper bids you good night” and so forth. I had to have some
Of course, we kept playing the game, too. Whenever the opportunity arose, I would assemble a group with her in it, and we would enjoy ourselves more than we would have with anyone else. We became each other’s primary means of forgetting our numerous woes, just by being there.
On it went as a matter of routine, until, all of a sudden…poof. No more Bell. Days, weeks, and eventually two months went by without her logging on to PSN. I kept checking like a faithful hound awaiting the return of its master, but to no avail.
First, the mental self-flagellation. Why hadn’t I learned more about her? Why hadn’t I asked for her name? Why hadn’t I made sure we could stay in touch through other means? Why hadn’t I told her how much I valued her friendship? On and on in that vein.
Then, the worrying, and lots of it. Bell didn’t provide me with explicit details and I didn’t ask for them, but based on the multiple trips to the hospital and the courthouse she’d had to make after the words “domestic violence” escaped her lips, it was pretty easy to piece together a couple of horrifying explanations for her disappearance. I drove myself (more) nuts pondering them, and could not shake the feeling that I had failed some vital task which fate had dropped into my lap.
When the pesky little voice of optimism told me that a mere broken PS3 was by far the most likely cause of all this, I told it to shut up. After all, it’s wrong 99% of the time.