Characters: Kramer the Game Master

by D. C. Haddock


Late on a Monday afternoon, most college kids around here will tell you that the Cafeteria is not the place to be. But having just left the gym, and having gone almost five hours without a meal, I was not about to drive the several blocks to Chipotle, as I probably would have totaled the car speeding down Route 2 in my haste to satiate my hunger. The Cafeteria was a safe walk (sprint?) from the gym, and thus, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to kill anyone. If I’m hungry, I’m probably raging, too.

Per usual, I sit down at the corner of a big table next to a window, facing inwards to survey the rest of the room. There are a few loners like me, scattered here and there along the outskirts, scarfing down their food in the same barbaric manner as I; the joy of late classes is felt throughout the room, and all sympathetically smile at one another whenever eyes meet, as if to say, “I feel you, bro.” The lucky kids, however, are those sitting in the center of the room; groups of about four or more boys sit at each table, all completely shunning the outside world, their entire beings rapt in their cards. The only sounds in the whole Student Union are the chewing of the Loners, and the whisperings and occasional victorious or anguished outbursts of the Gamers. It’s like an invisible Comic-con, a convention I have always wanted to go to, or an anonymous tournament of sorts, except without the costumes. Well, some of them may have been in costume. I’m not sure.

As I sit alone, digesting my food, I watch what seems like a strange, tribal ritual; what are apparently Magic cards are fanned out in front of faces, hiding nothing but the eyes, eyes which are always watching, scanning the table, the piles of cards laid in front of them. I have no idea what’s going on, but damn, they sure do. One among them stands out, a hard feat to accomplish in this group, and seems to preside over the others. He’s the elder, the alpha male, the overseer, the “man” the underlings are fond of “sticking it to”. He’s wearing a crisp, clean, white collared shirt, sporting a fluffy, curly hairstyle that’s freakishly similar to Kramer’s, a tiny mustache that might have been modeled after Kip, and is casually leaning back in his seat with his arms folded across his stocky chest. His jovial, rosy cheeks are contrasted sharply with the little smirk playing around his mouth as he contemplates the cards on the table in front of him, and you can see in his pale face that today is a good day. Somehow, I get the feeling he’s not this same kind of person when he’s, say, in class, at the bus stop, at home, at the mall; this is his expertise, and he’s damn good at it. He now studies his cards, pulls one surreptitiously out of his hand, and presents it like Vanna White to his cohorts with a knowing smile. One of them immediately drops his head to the table with an audible thud. I hope they weren’t playing for keeps.

As I sit there, the nerd inside of me begins to freak a bit. I remember creating a virtual world for myself once, where I was successful and happy. That world sucked up most of middle and high school for me, and though some might think I suffered or missed out on “important life experiences”, it didn’t, and nor will it ever, feel that way at all. He and his companions are joyous in the confines of their imaginations, and so am I. Kramer and I have so much in common, and he’ll never know. This is about the point where I want to stand up and scream something like “I’M ONE OF YOU!” or “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!”; but of course, nothing like that happens. Instead, I sit and watch and smile, silently sharing in their revelry, sort of wishing I knew how to play (I didn’t see any ladies at any of the tables; surely they might want one?). Instead, I clean up my trash, glance one last time at Kramer as he begins to laugh like a child at his birthday party, and regretfully walk away.