We sat on the same couch like we used to, palms sweating around the controllers and eyes glued to the screen. Rainbow Road required concentration and we were giving it. This was the last race, the last in the series of Grand Prixes, and when it was over, I had said, I needed to go home.
“OK,” she said, and looked down at the controller for a second before pressing start.
I had left my shoes in her bedroom. I smelled like her sheets.
Turn one is where we used to fall off. But that was before. That was when I had first bought her the GameCube for Christmas, back when it was more up to date. Now, in tandem, we drift left, drift right, center for the jump. I dropped a banana. She shot a green shell. We didn’t talk, didn’t breathe. Just kept driving.
She had called at midnight. It was noon. I had brought a bottle of wine that we didn’t drink. I thought about grabbing it on the way out. It wasn’t expensive. I had stopped at the gas station on the way over.
“You know,” she said, pausing long enough to get into the warp tube towards the end of the first lap, “I liked seeing you again.”
“Yeah,” I said, half a second behind. We used to do the time trials. A minute and 8 seconds is how long it took us to complete one lap. Three minutes and twenty four seconds. We could measure our lives in Mario Kart courses.
“You don’t have to go,” she said, hitting the track again and keeping a finger on the gas.
“You know I do.”
Lap 2. Two minutes and sixteen seconds left.
“Remember when,” she started, but stopped, catching the edge of turn two, faltering before just getting back on the track. I pulled ahead.
She adjusted how she sat so that her knee touched mine. I didn’t move.
I pulled into first with her right behind me. She had a red shell. I had a banana. It was a game of chicken and timing. Then the blue shell hit and we were both lost without items, falling into fourth and fifth, her laughing and hitting me in the arm with the back of her hand.
“I guess that’s a metaphor for life,” she said.
“How so? That the people in back get better stuff?”
“No. Even when everything is going perfectly, you can still get utterly destroyed out of nowhere. Seems to happen to us like that.”
Lap 3. A minute and eight seconds.
We sat there with eyes glued to the screen in silence.
Normally, when behind like that, we could speed ahead. Snake the whole way, catching mini boosts, grabbing item boxes and blasting our way back into first place. But before turn one, we both split to the sides, avoiding all of the items, damning ourselves to the inevitable shellings and bumps from Super Star’d 8th placers. And we fell. We slid off the track after the jump onto the spiral. We were falling so far behind.
“Want to see who can go slowest without stopping?” she said, taking her eyes off the course and looking at me. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t not, either.
And I want to say No. Want to say I have to go home. Want to say This isn’t going to change anything. But I just let up on the gas, tapping A, going slower and slower until we puttered towards the finish line next to each other, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting.