I prefer the outdoors, and running around in the fresh air instead of being inside playing pinball. But both are fun.
I first started playing pinball when I was a child. It was just a silly, fun game they had in arcades and pizza places, something I usually played to pass the time. It was never all that exciting, not when compared with other games, and I really only played it when I had nothing else to do. My brother Alex was always the one who was more obsessed with the game, anyway. He could spend hours playing it in the pizza place while I waited impatiently, stomach grumbling and desperate for a slice, all the while all he cared about was the game.
Despite how boring the game could get, I still liked hanging out with Alex. It was some nice bonding time, a great way to spend time with each other. Maybe that was why I hung around the pizza place so much. I knew Alex would always be there, with his hands slamming at the buttons, eyes narrowed in concertation, tongue sticking out of his mouth. I could always rely on Alex to be playing pinball at the pizza place. It got to the point where if I couldn’t find him, I’d go down there, and of course, he’d be there with a smile on his face.
“You’re way too in love with that game,” I would tell him, shaking my head as he concentrated deeply.
“Meh,” he’d reply with a shrug, not looking too bothered.
As we got older, Alex stayed obsessed with the game. When we got our first computer one of the games already on it was pinball, and of course, Alex couldn’t resist playing it. Now he was able to stay up all hours of the night, hitting those little keys, his eyes tired as he forced himself to keep on playing. He was weirdly into the game, maybe a little too much, and when midnight would come our mother would have to drag him off the computer chair pretty much and shove him back into bed.
I never played the computer game much, I just couldn’t get into it, but Alex kept on playing it well into high school. During our last few years of school, Alex was still very much into pinball, to the point where we thought he’d never leave the house when school ended. My mother and I joked how he’d just live in the living room for the rest of his life, his eyes glued to the screen and his finger tapping away loudly on the keyboard.
“That boy’s eyes are going to be so bad,” my mother would say as she shook her head.
“He’ll need glasses soon,” I’d joke as well.
College came, and Alex and I went our separate ways. He moved to a different state to study while I stayed in mine, and I was able to forget all about pinball. The sounds from the computer game finally left my head, and I had almost forgotten about the game altogether until Alex came to visit me one day.
“Hey, can I use your computer? I need to do something,” asked Alex, sitting down at my computer chair already.
I assumed he needed to check his e-mails or something, so I just shrugged, sitting on my bed with my back against my dorm wall.
“Yeah, whatever.” I was busy trying to do some reading, anyway, and I didn’t have time to monitor what Alex was doing. I had just started a new paragraph when a sound I hadn’t heard in a long time came out of nowhere. There was some loud, almost obnoxious dinging in the air, followed by the sound of my keyboard being hit loudly, which was equally obnoxious.
Looking up with a frown, I saw that pinball screen I had almost forgotten about completely. “Seriously? You come all the way out here to see me, and you play that game?”
“I can’t help it, man,” said Alex, not even turning around to look at me.
I laughed a little at his actions, shaking my head at my pinball addicted brother. He hadn’t changed, not even a little bit. I stared at him as he concentrated on the screen, looking like he was an eight year old again with his tongue sticking out of his mouth, trying desperately hard to concentrate.
“You know, since you’re back home, maybe we could go check out the pizza place? We haven’t been there in years, and I wonder if they still have that old pinball machine,” I wondered.
Alex suddenly turned around, eyes snapping open as he stared at me. “I didn’t even think of that. Let’s go!”
Before I could say anything, Alex grabbed my arm, yanking me up and off the bed as he directed me outside. The pizza place actually wasn’t a huge distance from my college, so we took a quick stroll there, Alex taking in some old surroundings he hadn’t seen in a while. It was nice to be with him again, to do something we hadn’t done in what felt like a decade.
“This is fun,” I said. “Just hanging out and stuff.”
“Yeah, I missed you. I kinda wish I hadn’t chosen a school so far away,” said Alex with a pout. “It’s not the same as home, not as nice…”
“They’ve got no pinball there or something?” I said with a laugh, giving Alex a little shove.
“Shut up,” he chuckled before he suddenly stopped in his tracks. “Oh, there it is! The old pizza place. Let’s go!” he cheered.
I had never seen Alex run so quick in his life. He was so fast to enter the pizza place, with me a few feet behind him, his eyes wide and a bright smile on his face as he took in the sight of the pinball machine.
“Oh, man, there it is,” he said softly, walking over to it, giving it a soft pat on the side. “I missed you.”
“It can’t hear.”
Alex rolled his eyes at me. “You don’t know that. Now stand back and watch a master at work.”
With a chuckle I crossed my arms, watching as Alex dug into his jacket pockets, pulling out a whole pile of coins and lying them on a nearby table. He came prepared. He got into the game quickly, hitting at the buttons with ease, his mind totally focused on the game before him. I ended up grabbing a drink and slice of pizza, the same kind I always got, chicken and cheese, before settling down next to Alex at a nearby table.
As I chewed and drank, I couldn’t help but smile. I had been so busy with college, worrying about essays and exams and what the future would hold, that I hadn’t even bothered to give Alex a call. He was my brother, and even though he was weirdly into pinball, he was still a fun guy to be around.
“Whoo, yeah!” Alex cheered suddenly. “It’s like I never left.” Alex shoved a few more coins into the machine, looking determined to spend all his spare change here. His addiction would never die, it seemed.
I had missed Alex. As I chewed on the delicious pizza, I thought about all the missed opportunities that had come up. I could have met up with Alex so many times, or better yet, bring him back home so we could sit and relax and eat and play pinball. It was like old times like our childhood had come right back to us, and for some strange reason, it was pinball that created our bond. It was pinball that had brought us back to the place where he had spent many days of our childhood, gobbling down pizza and slurping down soda, our mother getting angry later that we had filled our stomachs up with junk food.
Eyeing the pinball curiously, I got up and stood beside it, watching Alex as he worked his magic. He wasn’t wrong about this talent. Alex was probably the best guy at pinball in our city, maybe even in our state. It was hard to deny that he had skills and talent and could beat a long list of people at the game.
“You having fun there?” I asked Alex.
“Are you having fun watching me?” asked Alex with a smirk. “You look jealous, bro. I can always teach you how to play if you want to be like me… Of course, you could never be as good…” teased Alex.
I crossed my arms and laughed at my brother and his confidence. “Trust me, I know I could never be as good as you.”
“I’m glad you realize that, but I gotta say, I wouldn’t want anyone else except you standing by me. As much as you seemed to hate me playing this thing back in the day, you still always hung around,” said Alex, giving me a quick look, a small smile on his face before he went back to his game.
It was only a small smile, but it meant a lot.