When I first found out that my parents and I were leaving South America to move to New York in 2001, I was pumped. I made all sort of plans to explore the city, and concocted various scenarios in my mind on how my fabulous new life would be. In one, I would be sought after by a talent agent and then shipped to Hollywood — next day delivery.
The images of fame would play in my head. Leonardo DiCaprio told his people he simply must have me in his next film. Then I’m walking in Central Park eating ice cream when suddenly, I’m attacked by flashes from paparazzi who are shouting, “C’est magnifique!” or “Très belle!” The rapid click of the camera shutter was like music to my ears.
Flash forward six months into my life in the ‘States; In the Bronx, exactly 2,458 miles away from my dreams. No Leo, no papparazi, no new friends. Everyone hated me in my first year of high school. I tried joining different Spanish countries’ clubs, but somehow I was perceived as conceited, even though I tried extremely hard to fit in and was quite humble about my cashmere sweater. They said I was more American than Spanish because I was more familiar with Pearl Jam than Hombres G. I scoffed at them or rolled my eyes, involuntarily validating their point.
So I took to my self, sulking into my books, ignoring calls and letters from my friends back home. I sat around eating junk. Simply waiting for the rest of our stuff to arrive at the apartment so I could finally organize my room and lay out my video games. To make matters worse, I didn’t have my game boy. I fell asleep on the airplane, most likely pushing my beloved Tetris into a slit in the airline’s pillow.
I argued with my mother more and more every day, pleading to go back home. She answered me by saying we could go back in a few years if it didn’t get better for me, but that I should at least try. She assured me that when my games arrived, I would feel better and could invite my friends to the apartment for a celebratory marathon. A cheer for the new! A new country with new friends. I opened my mouth to say, “What friends?” in a bratty tone, but the shadow of a tear in my mother’s eye stopped me. Instead I said, “Sure no worries, but where the hell is my Nintendo?”
A week later our stuff arrived: three boxes. I pulled out clothes and yearbooks from one. In the second, there were old picture frames holding babies, weddings, people we lost. I pulled some Lisa Frank stickers and some of my old Barbies from the third leaving only empty space and a piece of duct tape that was hastily placed for protection at the bottom of the box. I stared at the thick bumps on the shiny surface, sticky edges flared up, threatening to come undone.
No fancy attaché to play the “101 Games” cassette.
No orange gun.
No new friends.
I couldn’t help the tears. My Nintendo was not just a game console, it was memories of my dad and I finally beating that last level and cheering so loudly that my mother would come into the living room concerned. Memories of her, too, even though she wasn’t a gamer but would play Doctor Mario with us once in a while. Whenever my mother attempted Mario Bros. she would, and I’m not exaggerating here, fall in the second gap every time. It was hilarious. This game was a box of happy childhood memories. I grew up playing Nintendo and losing my fist console made me feel so far away from the old life I yearned to re-establish. It made moving to New York so real, so permanent, so different than I expected at first.
My parents offered to replace it, but I knew doing so would only put a Band-Aid on the issue. Not to mention, my collection of games and remote controls could never be replaced. Still, what else could I do?
So, I settled for a Playstation and played “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my parents. It was pretty fun. We would get so hyped whenever we made it past the $25,000 mark. When we finally won the million dollars, Regis Philbin’s voice would yell, “You do know that this is just a game right? You really didn’t win a million dollars.”
My parents would laugh so hard. I looked at them thinking to my self, “I think I’ll be okay in this new country.” I guess I was growing up.