Senior year found him bloated, dyspeptic, and, most cruelly, alone in his lack of a girlfriend. His two nerd boys, Al and Miggs, had, in the craziest twist of fortune, both succeeded in landing themselves girls that summer. Nothing special, skanks really, but girls nonetheless. Al had met his at Menlo Park Mall, near the arcade; she’d come on to him, he bragged, and when she informed him, after she sucked his dick, that she had a girlfriend desperate to meet somebody, Al had dragged Miggs away from his Atari and out to a movie, and the rest was, as they say, history. By the end of the week, Miggs had his, too, and only then did Oscar find out about any of it, while they were in his room setting up for another “hair-raising” Champions adventure against the Death-Dealing Destroyers. At first, he didn’t say much. He just rolled his dice over and over. Said, You guys sure got lucky. Guess I’m next. It killed him that they hadn’t thought to include him in their girl heists; he hated Al for inviting Miggs instead of him, and he hated Miggs for getting a girl, period. Al’s getting a girl Oscar could comprehend; Al looked completely normal, and he had a nice gold necklace he wore everywhere. It was Miggs’s girl-getting that astounded him. Miggs was an even bigger freak than Oscar. Acne galore and a retard’s laugh and gray fucking teeth from having been given some medicine too young. What little faith Oscar had in the world took an SS-N-17 Snipe to the head. When, finally, he couldn’t take it no more, he asked pathetically, What, these girls don’t have any other friends?
Al and Miggs traded glances over their character sheets. I don’t think so, dude.
And right there he realized something he’d never known: his fucked-up, comic-book-reading, role-playing, game-loving, no-sports-playing friends were embarrassed by him.
Knocked the architecture right out of his legs. He closed the game early—the Exterminators found the Destroyers’ hideout right away; that was bogus, Al groused as Oscar showed them the door. Locked himself in his room, lay in bed for a couple of stunned hours, then got up, undressed in the bathroom he no longer had to share because his sister was at Rutgers, and examined himself in the mirror. The fat! The miles of stretch marks! The tumescent horribleness of his proportions! He looked straight out of a Daniel Clowes comic book. Like the fat, blackish kid in Beto Hernández’s Palomar.
Jesus Christ, he whispered. I’m a Morlock.
Spent a week looking at himself in the mirror, turned himself every which way, took stock, didn’t flinch, and then he went to Chucho’s and had the barber shave his Puerto Rican ’fro off, lost the mustache, then the glasses, bought contacts, was already trying to stop eating, starving himself dizzy, and the next time Al and Miggs saw him Miggs said, Dude, what’s the matter with you?
Changes, Oscar said pseudo-cryptically.
He, Miggs, and Al were never quite the same friends again. He hung out, saw movies, talked Los Brothers Hernández, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore with them but, over all, he kept his distance. Listened to their messages on the machine and resisted the urge to run over to their places. Didn’t see them but once, twice a week. I’ve been finishing up my first novel, he told them when they asked about his absences.