By William Baker III
If you know me, you know I have two sides. Funny and, yes, petty, too. This dichotomy has proven, time and time again, to be trouble. But I’m still in high school, and I still believe a little grudge goes a long way. Just maybe not the right way. Have I learned a lesson about hard feelings? Let me tell you a story.
When I was nine, I was obsessed with Minecraft. Sorry, I guess I should rephrase. Since I was nine, I’ve been obsessed with Minecraft. I still am. Just recently, I got a lamp in the shape of a Minecraft beehive. The cord even has a little bee at the end. But regardless, the age of nine was probably my peak interest in the game.
On the day of my ninth birthday party, it was beautiful, sunny and warm. A bit strange for late November when it can be very cool, but I didn’t question it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. I had for months. Now, every year since my parents allowed me to have birthday parties with friends, I had gone to Bounce U. It’s every toddler’s dream: a massive, indoor bounce house complex, dressed up in stark purple and bright neon orange. And no parental supervision! So when my two best friends arrived at my house in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, one having come out from New Jersey and the other having made the truly formidable trip across my apartment building, they were, um, rather surprised when I insisted on us playing Minecraft – at home.
They looked at each other, but eventually said that was fine for when we came back. So I clarified. It wouldn’t be “after” Bounce U. There would be no Bounce U, no going anywhere at all, in fact, except to the scratchy living room couches my parents had purchased. It would be in the house, on the couch, for several hours straight of Minecraft.
As hard as it is to believe, my friends weren’t too crazy about this idea. Ben, (the one from across the building) said, “I don’t even like Minecraft!”
Absurd. Inconceivable! Now, while I could respect and cherish his opinion as my oldest and closest friend, he switches the list of games he’s into every five minutes. So I scoffed, ignored his reticence and turned to Zach.
Zach looked at Ben again, and then agreed, “Sorry, William. That’s not fun.”
“That’s crazy!” I was shocked. I had never considered the possibility that they wouldn’t enjoy Minecraft as much as I would!
I thought for a minute and devised a plan. “Here’s the deal,” I said, hands on my hips. “You can each pick a game, and we’ll play it for an hour. But after both of your games, we’ll play Minecraft for an hour.” My mother, reading the newspaper on her iPad in the kitchen, raised her eyebrows but didn’t interfere. She now says that was her biggest regret.
Ben was initially opposed to the idea, but stopped disagreeing when I said, “If you don’t like it, you can always leave.” Looking back, that may not have been my brightest decision. He eventually relented, though. Zach was fine with the idea.
We played Zach’s game first, and to be honest, I don’t even remember what it was. Then we had pizza for lunch, and we moved on to Ben’s game. He picked the Roblox offering, “Be a Parkour Ninja,” a world-renowned classic. But regardless of his love for it and declared proficiency, I had no plans to lose.
In the end, Ben was second on the kill leaderboard to me, and I gave him a smug look that said, Man, I really felt accomplished over my Roblox superiority. Even though it wasn’t trash talk, that was the final straw. Ben got up and started walking out of the room.
“Where are you going?!” I asked. “It’s time to switch to Minecraft!” He continued walking, not even turning back to look at me. “I’m going home,” he said.
And then he left. Just left. The nerve, and on MY BIRTHDAY! My mom suggested calling his parents, but I stopped her. I was going to enjoy my hour of Minecraft with or without Ben. And I did! I had a ton of fun with Zach. We started a new world, built a house, fought monsters and died over and over again in the Nether. It was amazing.
But I didn’t forget what Ben did. I remembered, and still remember to this day, his transgression. And for the next four months, I refused to interact with him. Now, if you don’t know how long four months is to a nine-year-old, it’s sort of like what Covid quarantine felt like. Forever. This wasn’t just a birthday’s worth of bitterness. I would pass him in the lobby and turn my head away, like some kind of snooty celebrity. His parents called mine a few weeks later to invite me to the park for a picnic, and I actually said ‘no.’ I think my parents were worried that we’d never be friends again.
Eventually, I got bored with playing games alone and finally started to hang out with Ben again. But I never missed an opportunity to remind him of the Minecraft time I was so rightfully owed. To his credit, he never caved. I thought, “His debt will come due, though. It’s only a matter of time.”
Or maybe it won’t. As betrayed as I felt, the fault was also my own. I shouldn’t have forced Ben into doing something he didn’t want to do, no matter how entitled I felt. It took me four months to realize that my lifelong friendship was more important than Minecraft. Ben’s still my best friend. And that relationship is a valuable thing. But I suspect it’ll take me even longer to forget what happened on my ninth birthday.
William Baker attends Hunter College High School in Upper Manhattan. He’s our newest intern and this is his first story for The Circle.