Ryan M. was a pretty crazy kid when I first met him in fourth grade. The other kids picked on him a lot, but he and I got along fairly well.

He was more of a spaz than me, and went crazy for He-Man toys. He practically worshipped the stuff, and even in the 7th grade would often make allegorical references to He-Man’s conquest of Castle Grayskull – and the ongoing conflict between him and Skeletor. He made no sense, and he seemed to get weirder every year.

He also went bonkers for Pac Man, and used to plead with kids to chase him around the playground like “ghost monsters”. After he’d managed to convince someone to do so, he’d run around all over the place like a freak – crazily chanting “MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP MOP”. He’d often quickly stoop down, grab a small rock, throw it in the air, make a ‘clapping’ motion with his arms as if to ‘eat’ it, and turn around.

“CHOMMMP…. POWER PELLET!” he’d proudly yell, usually to the utter bewilderment of the other kid.

He’d then persuade them to run away from him, in the same fashion that blue ghosts would try to evade Pac Man himself. Most times, the other kid would just walk away, but he occasionally succeeded in roping small groups of people into impromptu Pac Man sessions out on the blacktop.

WALK LIKE A RETARDED EGYPTIAN

The funniest and most random thing he used to do was this weird walk that was patently his. Here, you can try it yourself:

  1. Orient your legs so that your feet are nearly pointing at each other.
  2. Squat down, butt protruding outward.
  3. Put both arms in “V” positions, with your hands flat and pointing outward. It’s almost an Egyptian pose, except that both arms should both be pointing outward, away from each other.
    In breakdancing circles, this position would commonly be referred to as a “Tut”.
  4. Still squatting, with your legs twisted toward each other, try to walk forward with your arms in this position. As you do so, move your arms inward and outward.
  5. You’ll quickly find that it is impossible to do this without feeling and looking like a total idiot.

Anyway, Ryan used to do this all the time. He’d strut around the playground like a drunken ostrich, oblivious to the fact that his classmates and teachers thought that he might really have some serious problems. This, in turn, inevitably led to a great deal of teasing and mistreatment by the punks in our class.

Even though he was a total goober, he was still my friend.
His parents and my parents somehow knew each other as well, and they all came over for dinner every so often.
Unfortunately, his parents abruptly split up sometime shortly before our 8th grade year started, and he moved to Idaho with his mom. It’s always messed up when a friend suddenly moves away like that, so I was a little bummed at first. However, 8th grade came and went, and memories of Ryan’s quirky antics soon faded.


PAC MAN WITH A BEARD

Around eight or nine years later, Juanita and I were up visiting mis padres one weekend during the summer months. My mom came in and woke me up, saying something like “You’ll never guess who’s here.”
I asked her what was going on, and she told me that Ryan’s mom had called up out of the blue, and had stopped over for a morning visit. It was kind of cool, but unexpected – as we hadn’t really heard anything from them in years.
I got up, showered, dressed, and went out and talked with the two of them for a while. She said that Ryan might be coming by later that afternoon to say hi, and that he’d brought his family with him.

Family?

The thought of that guy having a family made me shudder, but I figured it’d be cool to see him again and say hello. Besides, being a weird kid doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll wind up as a weird adult… right?

Sure enough, around 4:00 that afternoon, a white mid-80’s era Oldsmobile pulled up at my folks’ house. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I actually saw Ryan himself get out. I hadn’t seen the guy in nearly a decade, and he looked a lot different. He was actually bearded, which was something to behold. A pregnant woman and a couple of kids popped out of the car as well, and I went out to greet them.
Their visit was extremely odd. I seem to recall that his “wife” was actually more of a “fiancee, kind of”, and that there was some confusion over which kids he’d fathered and which one was his. Apparently times had been a little rough for them, and I think they were trying to find a permanent home or something. I seem to recall him explaining that they’d been living with relatives, but that it hadn’t worked out.
Despite all this, he was all excited about some kind of “roleplaying card game” idea that he had, and wanted to talk to me about helping him produce it. It was as if half his brain was stuck at age 12, like a big part of him hadn’t changed at all. However, he was now a grown man with a family — who needed food, shelter, and stability… instead of ideas for roleplaying games.

It was a pretty uncomfortable visit, to say the least. It was actually quite depressing, seeing him in that situation. After they left, much reflecting and discussion occurred.
That was about six years ago, and I have no idea what happened to him after they left the driveway. Hopefully he’s doing all right, and was able to secure a better life for his family somewhere. If I ever walk past a store window and see a He-Man vs. Pac Man roleplaying game on display, I’ll know that he made it.