A jingling of microchips, that airy smell of dust and rust, and I know I’m in Chuck’s Tech Emporium once again.
Chuck, as always, is surprised to see me and runs up to me in overjoyed jubilation.
I’m starting to wonder if he genuinely believes he is my uncle or something.
“Morgan! What brings you back so soon? You usually don’t drop in so often.”
“Actually, this,” I say. I show him the cartridge to Kimi no Wakaranai Densetsu, the Super Nintendo game he gave me for free just a couple weeks ago.
“Ah-ha, you’re done with it already? You’re seeking trade-in credit? Well, I don’t have a credit system really, but I have lots of stuff you can trade me for. You ever wanted a VR TV set? It’s from 1999 though, so, uh, maybe not the best option. I had some newer models a while back, but they got snapped up by some teens looking to do some mods. I couldn’t really follow what they were saying. Then again, I never can with kids. They’re just so rambunctious!”
“Actually, I wanted to return it,” I tell him. “No money or trading or any of that. I just want to give it back.”
“Here you go.”
He takes it, reluctantly, and adjusts his glasses as if that will help him examine the cartridge more closely. “It’s not broken or anything, right?”
“No, it’s alright. I just couldn’t understand it. It’s too hard to play without knowing Japanese.”
“I see, I see. But it was fun?”
“Not really… I think it’s a story-based game. It frustrated me a lot to play, and it kept reminding me of the fact my best friend isn’t here, and… I just wanted to return it so someone who really wants it can buy it instead.”
“Morgan… I know how you’re feeling right now,” he says. “It’s tough being lonely.”
“Yeah, it is…”
“I moved to Georgia about twenty years ago, just before the war. It was a bright sunny land of opportunity and tech, and I’ll never say I regret it. But I left my friends and family behind, and it’s been tough making new ones since then. Even with a store as famous as mine, a lot of the time I don’t have too many people to talk to when I want. Not since my wife died.”
“You… had a wife?”
Chuck nods. The smile on his face withers, but remains upright. “Hitagi. The light of my life. She was a bit rough around the edges, but always steered me straight. But about ten years ago, cancer got her. Often does with the best of us. I’m still real sad about it. But the nice people around the store have helped a lot. Especially when I do sales. Lots of great people coming by during those.”
“Hey, don’t go feeling bad for me. This is about you. I just wanted you to know that it’s okay to feel sad and lonely. Don’t let people take that away from you. Don’t let you take that away from you. Suppressing your feelings is just gonna make you feel worse in the long run. In fact, I read about a study once that… Oh, but you don’t need to hear it. You just need to relax and pour out your feelings.”
He comes in for the hug. In every instance of this situation I would be stepping back or dashing off or fighting back. But for some reason, I let this sad old man hug this sad young kid.
And I start to cry. “Thanks, Chuck,” I murmur.
“If you ever need a deep discount on any computer accessories, just let me know,” he says, keeping his embrace strong. “I tend to give that to people who cry in my store.”
I shake my head, but for some reason a giggle comes out as well. A sobbing, tear-filled giggle.