Bless me, Father Wrenchfarm, for I have sinned. It's been far too long since my last confession, and I accuse myself of the following sins:
Let me briefly explain some background to my confession. I was raised as the second of four children by a newly divorced single mother who busted her back (had three surgeries) working a minimum wage job for fourteen hours a day, six days a week - along with a half day on Sunday so she had time to go to church and pray - for pretty much her entire career. Spare money? Disposable income? Father, money itself was rarity in our household. So with that in mind, it is with deep regret that I must confess to something I still, to this day, feel bad about. Something I did a long time ago. Now, at thirty-six years of age it is something I still cannot look back on without guilt in my heart.
It was summer, '86 or '87, an usually cold day, perhaps early autumn. I was about eight or nine, my dear mum send me out to get the weekly groceries. She handed me a £20 note and guided a resistful me to the front door. "Be back quick.", she said. I shoved the twenty deep into my pocket and grumpily walked off, chin tucked into my chest, through the cold wind wondering why my older brother was not with me this time. You see, Father, we always did the shopping together. However, whenever we did go food shopping together for our mum we'd make a detour – we would stop off at the local kebab house (or taxi place) to check out the newest arcade games they had. Without my brother by my side who would I two-player with? Forgive the excitement in my voice, Father, but those were joyful those times. I had little time to wonder why my older brother had been held back as I needed to shift my focus towards road safety and be careful; there were many roads to cross ahead on the way to the store and I was instructed to be quick that day - mum was very insistent.
The actual one hour job could end up taking at least an hour and a half, sometimes two. From our home we would walk about a mile - the distractions where located naturally along the route - to the shop, quickly grab whatever we needed on the list, agitatedly wait in the much and often exaggerated check-out line and then rush back home. It was this fabricated inflated queuing time that we would use to cover up our play time. As bad as lying to my mum is, that isn't the worst part, Father. Not this day, anyway.
I recited the item's aisle locations over in my head to minimise the amount of time I'd spend in the store, this way I could extend my time with the arcade games. Without an extra pair of hands I would need to be precise. I ran to save time. I could see the store appearing in the distance and knew what I had to do. Into the kebab shop I diverted.
Mario's Kebab House. Father, this place was notorious for its contemporary arcade scene, only the dedicated arcade emporiums in the city centre had more recent and bloated examples. The amount of games I played there over the years... ah, wow... for instance: Street Fighter, Area 88, Robocop, Two Crude Dudes, Toki, DonPachi, R-Type, Double Dragon, Saint Dragon, Knights Of The Round, Sunset Riders, Final Fight, Ninja Gaiden Arcade, Lethal Enforcers, Chase HQ, Captain Commando, TMHT, Snow Brothers, Legend of Hero Tonma, New Zealand Story, Virtua Cop, Bubble Bobble, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Double Dragon 3: Rosetta Stone, Street Fighter 2, Gradius, Mortal Kombat 2, Darkstalkers, Tekken-what? Yes. Sorry Father. You're right, I am getting off track.
I struggled to push open the stiff, blue neon lit, glass door with both my nine-ish year old hands, the door almost seemed to somehow harbour the weight of my mother's disapproval behind it. As I stepped inside I was welcomed by a warm rush of air carrying with it that unique tangy smell of roasting meat. Ah, I'm home I thought. Fat Mario (a portly Greek fella) was leaning over a newspaper behind the counter, looked up and greeted me with disappointment – he knew I wasn't there for his food. To my shame, Father, I must have ordered only a handful of times over the many years he was in business.
The games' sound-effects and music started to get louder as they filled my ears. I darted over, excited to see what games were running. I had to stand on tip-toe sometimes due to the height of the machines, but thankfully Fat Mario always had a footstool reliably nearby. As I grew up over the following years, I came to appreciate what a nice and tolerate gentleman Mario was - not only for hosting a great selection of games but for also not kicking me out of his kebab house. Bless him, Father, I hope his life went well.
The hypnotising flicker of the screen in front of my giddy little face had a flashing message asking me to "insert coin". I needed to break the twenty note into change, I'll order some french fries, I thought. I reached into my right pocket and scraped around. Hmm. I checked my left pocket. OK. I re-examined the right pocket. I fumbled over to the window and lent over my self to peer into my pockets, using the bright day to light up each pocket. Nothing. The colour in my face drained away. I felt a chill crawl up my neck and over my head as I stood frozen inside the heated kebab shop. Staring at my reflection in the window, I gritted my teeth and hissed "You twat!"--Sorry, Father--at myself. My eyes welled up with tears as I got angrier at my reflection. I had lost the money, Father.
I tried to piece together where I could have dropped it. Somehow it fell out of my pocket. Where? Crossing the roads? I retraced my steps but never did find out. I felt so guilty and so much dread that I didn't want to go home. I couldn't face my hard-working mother who trusted me to be a sensible young man. I was panic-stricken, which made the walk home feel never-ending. How do I explain myself? How will mum react?! Money was tight, in short supply, and never to be wasted. And I'd lost a week's worth of food shopping money.
Quietly, and heavily sulking, I returned home nearly three hours later. Even though she took the news really well and it was high among the many stupid things I had done as a youngster, it was one of the few times I didn't get yelled at. Over the next few days I scolded myself more than she ever would or did. Yet, it still burns me up today. And mum could see how bad I felt when I returned with empty hands and pockets. That day I made a promise to myself that I would pay her back a hundred times over when I got older and had a job. And, you know what, Father, I'm proud to say I did just that and more.
However, I still need and seek your forgiveness, Father Wrenchfarm. You see, although I came clean about losing the money, I never told her why we would take so long to do the weekly shopping run.
(To those who are a little confused about this blog it is in response to an idea that WrenchFarm planted in his final Recap blog. Nanashi and I decided in the comments to expand upon on this and so here we are. Do you have anything to confess?)