But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.
Jim’s office was in disarray when I walked in. It was summer cleaning, a student assistant picked through and organized graphics adapters and RAM DIMMs on the desk in the corner. Every surface, including the floor, was covered with hardware and equipment, computers, servers, tablets, uninterruptible power supplies, network switches, cables of every sort. When I walked into his office in the corner, he acknowledged me without looking as usual.
“Hey, come over here, I’ve got it powered up,” he said walking past me into a long room next door that served as a computer lab with two parallel rows of brand new iMacs all the way to the end of the room, which stood in sharp contrast to a massive beige IBM server tower laid on its side on a red hand cart with an even more massive green monochrome cathode ray tube monitor sitting atop it.
A UNIX shell prompt was open and had just finished dumping all the file systems into a tarball.
“What a monster, but looks like we finally have it backed up huh?” I said.
“Yup, I had to put it into a private network and dump the files onto an NFS share, here ya go,” Jim said handing me a flash drive.
“Great, Ben just wants to make sure every storage device is removed before storing this stuff.”
“Well, he’s the boss, you know how these lawyers are about making sure we cover our asses.”
To shut the sucker off you had to actually run a shutdown program to halt the system before hitting the hard power switch. It took us a few moments of poking around on the chassis to pull it open and remove a massive host controller hooked to an even more massive 100 MB hard drive.
Jim and I pushed the laden cart across campus in the summer heat. It was surprisingly crowded that day, milling crowds of incoming freshmen being led about on tours in preparation of the swiftly coming first day of school. I didn’t realize that I’d signed up for plenty of heavy lifting and moving while doing this audit, but short on student labor during the summer, it has fallen to Jim and I to do most of it. We carted the beast to the college of math and lugged it high onto a shelf in the back corner of a storage closet, and handed Ben’s assistants the hard and flash drives. I was sweating by the end of it despite having loosened my tie and rolled up my sleeves.
“Jason, your package came in as well,” Ben’s assistant told me as I was leaving, she handed me a small brown parcel.
It was welcome, I knew this meant I had an excuse to head by the data center on the way back and cool off in the air conditioning. I’m still appalled at the lack of security at the campus data center, this would never fly back at my office. You can just walk in, sign a sheet and be lead past several locked doors into the actual data center and have them unlock any caged rack, no checking of ID’s or verifying of identity. The man on duty certainly didn’t know me from Adam, but I told him my name and that I need to get to the Office of Research’s rack. The blowers kept the center of the room a chill 60 degrees, while the venting from the server racks kept the edges twenty degrees warmer easily. Luckily, my business was with the front of the storage area network, I took my time.
I’m beginning to wonder if this crazy schedule is worth it. By the time I leave the deserted campus at 7 pm, waiving goodbye to the lone custodian in the hall, I’d been working for practically twelve straight hours. My father is home from the hospital, so I told him I’d come see him for dinner after work. He needed some help with his computer of course, but that gave me a chance to get out of the room and exchange some messages with Her before and after dinner.
I realize I’m pretty grumpy now by the time I get home. My sister and brother-in-law are generally pretty jovial, and I try not to let their pedantic loud discussions of Star Trek lore get to me. Neither of them have worked in practically two months, living off of the generosity of their family landlord rent free, what I pay them in rent, and their disability checks. Makes me feel like a bit of a sucker for working like this, but I do have myself and family to support. Well, the extra job is only until December, hopefully, and I can always quit it if it gets to be too much, the extra income will certainly be nice.
My sister was good though to finally give the bathroom a good cleaning, I’d been paying her extra to do my chores for me, even though she owed me for the vet bill for her poor dog who had a few too many table scraps that didn’t agree with her. I took my shower, but the cleaning didn’t change the fact that water still pooled in the bottom of the shower and that the pressure dropped right about when you’d get to the perfect temperature, so you had to either turn it up a bit too high, or down a bit too low. So, as typical I’d turn it up and feeling my skin burn while my feet were cold standing in a pool of cold water. All the same, I still felt much better after a shower, shave, and comb.
It was 10:30 pm by the time I finally shut my bedroom door and sat down for a few moments of leisure to wind down at the end of the day. I was too exhausted to think, much less read, or the like. Times like these that I find myself gravitating towards a familiar activity, something that is so ingrained in my muscle memory that it doesn’t require any serious thought but still manages to be mildly stimulating and calming. So, I pull out the Super Nintendo and play some old cartridges from my childhood. I popped in Super Mario World, it had been a while, after all, since I’d played this old standby. I was surprised by the wave of emotion I felt after pressing Start on the title screen. The first save game was the ongoing game my wife and I had been playing. But, now I’d lost my player two. I wouldn’t delete it, but I couldn’t play on it either, so I just started a new save. I keep cursing myself for how nostalgic I’ve been. It seems I keep coming across things that make me think of my soon-to-be-ex wife. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, but she really was my best friend for so long, even despite our many issues, and I miss her terribly.
I could play this game in my sleep, jumping, hopping, flying through every level with impunity, nothing touching me. It was a soothing, zen-like way to wind down my brain, like somehow it tapped into something primitive and natural, allowing me to escape all care and thought and operate on pure instinct. In some ways, I felt like that ancient IBM relic we laid to rest today, I needed a shutdown program at the end of the day. Super Mario World was the game of my childhood. Donkey Kong Country was the game from my wife’s. Funny to think that while I was sitting in my room playing my Super Nintendo on a Sunday afternoon all those years ago, my future wife was doing the same thing in her room. Building those reflexes, every button press like a dance. Remembering ever power-up and the location of every secret and ever extra life. We’d each play each other’s games. She carried me with her DK skills, and I carried her with my SM skills. I remember having to transfer lives to her in our SM games, I always had an abundance, and she was always running out. And, really, vice versa for DK. It was silly, but it was nice having that mutual respect for one another, we could complete one another in that regard. It was a shame we couldn’t operate in our marriage, particularly in our sex life, as we did playing video games because you couldn’t find two more compatible game players than us. But, I have to get by without my Player Two from now on.