You have to see thing. I can’t believe I never made you watch it. It’s so stupid. I have this tape from when I was a kid and oh my god. You just have to see it.
This kid was in my class in elementary school. Every year kindergarten through fifth grade. Had this weird lisp that never went away. You know some kids can’t talk quite right yet when they first start school but they figure it out as they get older? This kid couldn’t. It just stuck on him.
We’d play Hot Wheels or whatever on the playground when we were little but he kept wanting to do it as we got older way beyond when we shoulda been playing with Hot Wheels. All the other kids started making fun of the way he talks. Like to his face. I don’t think they woulda done it if he was just a little off anyways but since he was it was like fair game. So I don’t wanna really hang out with him too much anymore. I mean I was nice enough to him. Didn’t really make fun of him or nothing like that. We lived on the same street so we had to ride the bus together and we’d walk home when we got dropped off. Not together. More like side by side.
He was too much like a little kid still and it bugged me. He was the youngest of six which I bet is rough in its own way but I was a kid and I didn’t care about that at the time. I just didn’t wanna hang out with this weird little guy anymore and he didn’t seem to get it.
So anyway. His dad puts in his 30 and the family moves off to one of the Carolinas the summer before sixth grade. I didn’t think of this kid for a minute after he left. And then one day I get home from school and my mom says I got a package. I’m not expecting nothing and you know when you’re a kid getting a package in the mail is like the greatest thrill in the world. It was one of those manila envelopes with the bubble wrap inside. I open this thing up and it’s a VHS tape. No label on it or nothing.
I pop it in the VCR and oh my god. I almost died. It’s a home video of this kid. He grew a little since I last seen him but only a little. But he’s trying so hard to be a teenager. So god damn hard. He’s wearing what woulda been the hot fashion back then. An Agassi shirt and Bugle Boy jean shorts and a paid of gleaming white Reebok Pumps. Kid’s got a chain too. White gold it looks like. I would bet a million dollars he’s drenched in Drakkar Noir too. His hair’s moussed to death or at least what I can see of it because the camera’s on a tripod or something and the way the shot is angled it cuts off the top of his head. He’s sitting on his bed with one leg up and one hanging off the bed like he’s a camp counselor about to give me some real serious talk.
He starts talking to me. What’s up man. Haven’t seen you in a while. His voice is a little deeper than the year before but just barely and he’s trying to make up for it by talking as low as he can. He sounds like a cartoon and with the lisp on top of it the way he talks is almost upsetting. He tells me Carolina’s a little hotter than Queens but he’s used to it already. There’s no palm trees. I thought there were palm trees he says and he does this theatrical shrug that kills me just to think about it.
He’s showing me his new room. The new Super Nintendo games he got. A crossbow he begged to get for his birthday. The poster of a girl in a bikini washing a Lamborghini on his wall. And he’s talking about it all like he’s a god damn millionaire who’s made it to the top. He actually says Yeah life’s pretty good and clasps his arms behind his head. Except with the lisp it comes out life’th pretty good.
Then he starts talking about his new junior high and he’s trying to play like he’s a big man there too. Tells me he has a girlfriend named Tina. She’th awethome. Totally hot too. And I think to myself oh man no why are you saying that. I know you’re lying about having a girlfriend. Why are you doing this no please stop.
He’s been looking straight at the camera the whole time so it’s weird when he looks away all of a sudden. Darts his head like he heard a noise.
Thome of the kidth at thchool can be jerkth he says. But what can you do. It ith what it ith. And there’s a super long pause and he looks around the room. Like what he needs to say next is written somewhere but he can’t find it.
Then asks me to write him back but he stops himself mid-sentence. I mean tape. Video. Thend a tape. Tape yourthelf. And I swear to god he smacks himself in the head. He says Thupid in this squeaky cracking voice and he gets up off the bed and you see him turn off the camera and that’s it.
My mom thought this was the sweetest thing that he wanted to keep in touch and told me I should send him a tape too. She nagged me about it for months and I kept telling her I’d do it until she forgot or figured out there was no way in hell I was gonna do that.
Every time a friend came to my house for years I made them watch that tape. If they knew the kid it was funny. If they didn’t know him it was even funnier. The desperate sweaty try-hard-ness of the whole thing. Me and my friends would quote it to each other. If someone fucked up we’d say thupid just the way he did.
Freshman year of college we’d watch this thing in my dorm room every Friday night before we went out. I did a shot-for-shot remake of it for an intro to filmmaking class even though it confused the shit out of the professor. I’ve showed it at every party I ever had at every place I’ve ever lived. Like it’s three am and things are winding down I pop the tape in as a treat to everyone who stuck around that long. Sometimes somebody would be like oh no this fucking thing again and I’d be like yes this fucking thing again.
The tape made me laugh even harder as the years went by. If I had a shitty day at work I’d come home and pop the tape in. I still have a VCR just so I can watch it. The clothes the kid wore were so in that moment. Like if he taped it a week later he’d have been wearing something completely different. He looks so trapped in that time. He looks so trapped.
The tape used to be the litmus test for every girl I went out with. Like if they didn’t think it was funny then things probably weren’t going to work out. I was dating this one girl for like two months before I showed it to her and I thought we got along well enough but she didn’t think it was even a little funny. She said I was laughing at this poor kid and I was being too cruel. I told her I’m not laughing at him. I’m not laughing at whoever this person is now. I’m laughing 20 years later at a dumb kid doing something dumb. And this girl said But he’s still here. And I don’t know if she meant the kid is out there somewhere or she meant he was there on the TV screen. Anyway it didn’t work out between us. Probably dodged a bullet.
I thought about putting it on YouTube. I bet it’d get a million views. I know it would. But people would share it for a couple of days and it’d be forgotten. Who remembers what people were sharing last week let alone last year? This way it’s mine. I’m the gatekeeper. I decide who gets to see it. You come to my house and you watch or you don’t get to watch it.
If random people watched the video they would laugh at him. I’m not laughing at him. I’m laughing at this one moment caught on tape. The other day I tripped walking up the subway stairs and dropped an ice coffee all over the place. This guy walking in the other direction laughed and I was mad for a moment but then I thought shit if I saw myself at that split second I probably would have laughed too. That guy might still be laughing now and there ain’t shit I can do about it. So let him laugh.
This kid is probably fine now. He’s probably doing better than me. I got a crappy apartment and a job I can’t stand and meanwhile for all I know he’s a CEO with a penthouse and a hot wife named Tina. Got a speech therapist and got rid of that lisp. Everything’s great for him now. Better than things are for me. I bet.
But you gotta see this thing. It’s real. I mean it’s really something.