The Viking of the Gameroom

Bubbles: I’m not working for them, I’m working with em. They don’t give me the badge soon enough, I keep doing like I do.
Johnny: Why?
Bubbles: What do you mean ‘why’? How you gonna ask me why? Why the fuck are you in here, man, with all these falling down motherfuckers? Why you passing shit through a bag? Why they beat you down? Why I couldn’t do nothing about it?
Johnny: It’s all part of the game, right? I mean, you taught me that.

It is fitting that when Bubbles finally comes to visit his battered friend Johnny, he finds the slowly-recovering fiend head down on a table in the hospice game room. It is also fitting that the meal he brings arrives incomplete: the fries and chicken pieces made it, but jittery Bubbles spilled the shake on his pants while riding the bus.

Bubbles comes to see his beaten and broken friend, but by the midpoint of the conversation, the roles start to reverse, which corresponds nicely with the Twister mat on the floor. Bubbles, the one who still has his health, seems to be shaken in his understanding of things, while Johnny has a clearer sense of his identity than ever. Bubbles boasts that he is snitching, thinking that Johnny will be thrilled that his mentor is out to avenge the beating. But instead, Bubbles finds what happens when a protege really internalizes his master’s lessons.  Johnny sees all of his misfortunes, the beating, the bag, the bug, even the spilled shake, all of it, as part of “the game.” On the other hand, streat-toughened Bubbles is devastated by the inexplicable chain of events, and his powerlessness in the world.

Bubbles wants to find meaning in the world, even if that means violating the street’s number one rule: Don’t snitch. For that reason, Johnny just might be right. After all, this acceptance not only helps him to get past what happened in the past, it also gives him hope for future. He has been going to NA meetings, but all he wants to know is “who got the best package.” He is clearly disappointed to hear that “shit is weak all over,” and he finally asserts “I’m a viking, homes.” Unlike Bubbles, Johnny has found power and meaning in his total submission to the game, no matter how much it twists him up.

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