One of the earliest childhood concepts that parents tend to establish is the idea of ownership. As in that toy is mine. And that one. And that one. As in what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.
As in I never really took to this lesson. As in I’m a hard learner.
I don’t really remember the majority of my reprehensible behavior prior to walking or speaking, both feats of which I achieved by the age of five. Part of this fact saddens me, as I’m sure my unbridled sense of infantile rage and constant demand of attention gave way for multiple offenses that were later excused under the pretense of ignorance.
This seemingly much more complex concept is something I took to better than sharing.
However, despite not remembering the full collection of my life’s work, the earliest memory of being a total douche goes back to my days in preschool.
Now, a social butterfly like myself obviously breezed through the cliques of my preschool. Adept at coloring within the lines, taking naps, and putting the straw in my own Caprisun, I proved to be a prodigy in the classroom, and those around me were not without notice. But in a universe of endless supremacy, every hero must have his arch nemesis.
Enter Tony Guiterrez.
I am six years old.
At this stage in my destructive, Tang-chugging, Dr. Seuss-reading world tour, which is still on-going mind you, I had a slight obsession with dinosaurs.
As in sycophantic. As in outrageous psycho. As in a lifetime subscription to the dinosaur version of Zoobooks. As in the skull of a Pachycephalosaurus is thicker than a log of Grizzly Wintergreen.
Released on June 11th of 1993, my birth year, Jurassic Park burst onto the scene with a riveting plotline, tres chic acting chops, and CGI that could even make Kirstie Alley look passable. Needless to say, when I found it on my dad’s shelf of VHS tapes between Sleepless in Seattle – love Tom Hanks, just btw – and Primal Fear – also love Ed Norton, just btw – I lost control of myself. I became a T-rex – supreme ruler of Isla Sorna – learn your Jurassic Park references. The train had completely separated from the tracks, ripped apart like the final sequence of a Michael Vick’s Best in Show Special. I couldn’t spiral downwards any faster. Must go faster – learn your Jurassic Park references.
Everything became Jurassic Park. To provide proof that this is not hyperbole, allow me to illustrate.
In between my shifts as a T-rex, where I ate KFC using only two fingers per hand, and my shifts as a Pachycephalosaurus, where I headbutted those around me for no discernable reason other than my skull’s peak density surmounted the lyrics of Kanye’s latest album, I dreamed of becoming a paleontologist. Some kids want to be pilots. Some want to be a firefighter. Some want to be a ninja. I think Tony wanted to be an ice cream man – no ding at his character or future intentions, just saying everyone has their thing. I wanted to be Dr. Alan Grant.
Furthermore, for Christmas, I received the entire playset, which I later used to build models in my backyard, harass the dog, and even build dioramas for school. This trend continued past the later, and less well-received release of the Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, which playset I also own and used for similar purposes.
I may also own the Jurassic World playset, which may or may not sit in my closet among the shoes I received as gifts that I thought were too fugly to actually wear.
Stemming from this unhealthy obsession, the 1999 release of Godzilla was an obvious hit. And when I say hit, I mean the same way heroin hits an active user. The same way Mike Tyson hits the start button on the grill when he hears we’re having hearing for dinner.
This playset also made an appearance in my life, but due to the plotlines having no crossover and alternate characters, its use in my existing playsets other than my brother’s lego set, which was also mine, proved limited.
Tony Guiterrez had something. A big something. A big something he showed off and displayed. A big something he showed off and displayed in a way that made me feel like the headlining star in a festival of losers.
Godzilla 1999 24” with voice box, shooting fist (a power that he sadly doesn’t use in the movie), missile-breath, and action arms. Truthfully, I’m still unsure as to how Tony fit the behemoth into his backpack with one strap and a fire Hot Wheels logo.
Rest assured, Godzilla 1999 24” with voice box, shooting fist (a power that he sadly doesn’t use in the movie), missile-breath, and action arms was definitely one of Hasbro’s finest specimens. This multipurpose action figure – not toy – flew off the shelves at a retail price of $39.99.
As a result of numerous factors – namely a busy schedule, the low-paying stipend of time out, and my inability to land a quality job as a result of poor economic choices made during the presidency of Bush Sr. in conjunction with child labor laws – I did not have one.
And Tony having one might as well have been me being the only one not having one. Anyone who is anyone knows that what makes something valuable is that someone else does not have it.
Sitting in the corner next to my basket full of velcro fruit and someone else’s show-and-tell beanie baby, I had never been so disrespected. So, with a few huffs of Elmer’s glue and maybe a bite or two of a pizza roll, I charged onto the scene.
Tony had been fumbling with the large wooden blocks, constructing arches, skyscrapers, and tunnels. He even filled it with some of those dreadful Playmobil people who all have awkward dimensions and faces out of my worst coloring book’s nightmare. For the record, my worst coloring book was Chica-Chica Boom-Boom – The Graphic Novel. Who wants to draw letters? They actually got me to color in the first ten pages before I felt stupid and unoriginal. Clever girl . . . – learn your Jurassic Park references.
In any case, Tony is on the opposite side of our carpet – the gray one with occasional spots of colors so you can’t really tell what the fuck it is. Later, I would hold Crayola crayons against the carpet to solve this mystery. I was 14. I digress. Tony is being a real ace architect.
Then, before any of his Playmobil constituency knew what hit them, Godzilla’s missile-breath burst the interstate into flames. The action-arms swung violently, colliding with GUITERREZ Building, shredding it like my future STD results.
In an instant, panic spurred forth from the embers and the entire classroom quaked from the sheer sense of doom. The troll doll with the paste-filled hair dove from the top of the nearby hair salon on L-Street. Against the pavement, his limp body exhaled one final time.
My rage halted in terror, and I, Lord T-rex, stepped back in fear. Eyes-wide, tear ducts spewing like they’d chugged a bottle of Ipecac . . . and eaten too much raw fish . . . and contracted a re-emerging form of Chlora, I looked helplessly at my teacher, waiting for her to intervene on this pure, unadulterated act of hatred that rivaled only the nightmarish tune of “Clean Up.”
God is dead.
Whistling as it whipped through the air, Godzilla’s tail swept across the horizon, blocking out the fluorescent glow of our classroom’s shitty lights. Accelerating faster than Bill Cosby’s hand at a bar, I almost missed the sight of the plastic tail slamming into the Lego church, which anti-climatically tipped over, rather than shattering.
Again, Tony is probably a graduate of ice cream man school, where they don’t teach architecture gooder than other subjects, such as the three part series: business ethics, the ethics of children, and the ethics of how to do business with children without getting caught. Fucking tony.
Finally, the slaughterhouse subsides, and a wave of relief washes over me. I breathe for the first time in what must have been two minutes. Personal record. Good day. Pretty sure it would have impressed my swim teacher. Really nailed that lesson on the chicken-airplane-soldier method of floating on your back.
Standing above the broken and ravaged city, I towered over Tony and his Godzilla 1999 24” with voice box, shooting fist (a power that he sadly doesn’t use in the movie), missile-breath, and action arms, and whispered fiercely. “Give him to me.” A rabid and zealous foam began seeping through the missing tooth hole and onto the disemboweled denizens of former Tony Town.
My turn. Learn the fucking concept of sharing here Tony.
Below me, kneeling like a peasant, still working with his hands, the butt-faced architect began the rebuilding process, blatantly ignoring my demands. Piece by piece, he re-stacked the arches and reformed the skyscraper with the triangular prism at the top.
I pause for a moment, admiring the shapely gothic-style complete with the Gargoyle action figure. In my reverie, I picture the façade of Reims Cathedral in France. As the Playmobil people began to rise from the ashes, their physical accomplishments soon reflect their progress in the mind. In the surplus economy founded on a combination of outsourced and slave labor, the Troll doll reincarnated separates from the predominant and archaic church traditions of offering indulgences, hostility towards gay marriage, and sexual misconduct in dioceses near ice-cream-man routes, and asserts a more enlightened stance based on the scientific method and libertarianism.
Nearby, the death monster looms ominously, still full from his meal of subway cars and parking meter police.
Tony hasn’t looked up yet, happily at work.
My shadow forces itself upon him as the sun peers through the blinds from across the baseball field. Silently, I raise my fist, stretching my arm away from my zip-off cargo shorts and upwards toward the asbestos-ridden ceiling as if it were an angel’s wing prepared to unleash the wrath of our Lord and savior, the Tyrannosaur.
Swifter than Snookie lost her virginity, my hands were on the prize. With Tony’s back still turned, I had gone Heist on Godzilla 1999 24” with voice box, shooting fist (a power that he sadly doesn’t use in the movie), missile-breath, and action arms.
In a dizzying blur of adrenaline and euphoria from the miraculous heist, I mashed all the buttons, nearly bloodying my hands against Godzilla’s razorback scales.
The whirlwind of attention I was receiving from all other children for now owning the coolest toy in the classroom combined with the ejection of the shooting fist (still caught up about it not being used in the movie btw), all three rounds of missile-breath, and the iconic shrill of a lizard without a cause who refuses to play by the rules must have stirred suspicion in Tony.
“Hey. That’s mine.” Tony says, tapping me on the shoulder.
I’m not listening. As in fuck off you’re not a real architect and nobody likes you and you stink and you don’t even nap during naptime and you suck.
I typically don’t believe in love, the cheesy dumbstruck love affairs we see in movies, the Jerry-Maguire-had-me-at-hello kitsch, or in really anything that doesn’t fall under the categories of new Slurpee flavors or Nutella, but if love does exist, then this was it. I guess life finds a way – learn your Jurassic Park references.
I’m rubbing my clammy hands all over my refurbished – I use this word rather than new because it still is damaged goods to an extent – Godzilla 1999 24” with voice box, shooting fist (a power that he sadly doesn’t use in the movie), missile-breath, and action arms, when teacher seizes me from behind.
For a moment, I consider the benefit of a doubt that in my Caprisun-induced stupor and post-lunch fervor that I am about the receive the Heimlich and choose not to fight. Then, quickly realizing the growing distance between my and my refurbished property I become as heavy as I can, allowing the genetic material of my past five Halloweens to transmute into a body of 45-pound dumbbells. The pores of my skin burst open, cells lysing right and left to secrete an oily slick substance to evade her take down.
All of this happens without a sound. I am already the center of attention so there is no point in screaming. A gentleman knows when he’s won. Stacey looks onwards in her princess dress, half-mortified, half-impressed, and half too beautiful in this world to require a working knowledge of fractions.
Despite me unveiling all of the arcane escape magic I know, teacher sets me down in the blue plastic chair near the sink.
“You can’t just take people’s toys like that. Okay?” She condescends.
I refuse to speak and wildly kick my legs at her, my lightly worn Sketchers overflowing with spite.
As in don’t talk to me like that. As in you paid tuition in full at a four-year private college to try and control me. As in good luck. As in this is my intermission.
Tony has already completed the renovations of his city, which at this point has surpassed the cubbies as the tallest structure in the room. He begins to relocate his people, carefully twisting their arms into position in a sickening fashion. Tony’s proficiency as an ice-cream man has given him the talent of an architect in the same way that being a janitor makes one good as a member of the bomb squad.
The teacher leaves me and returns to her perch next to the hallway door.
Now, on the floor next to the fake kitchen, rekindling my relationship with the velcro fruit, I glance to my left.
It is a familiar face, a toy I have long forgotten in my devout vocation to the ways of our lord and savior, the Tyrannosaur
Weighing approximately 10 pounds and being forged out of metal wheels and dense quantum-polymers, the race-car had waited a lifetime for this moment.
With its orange spoiler and steel-plated front end, it smiled back at me with a vestige of justice. Delicately, I picked it up and placed it between my legs, rocking it back and forth, the way one might caress a bomb before it explodes.
Its serrated steel wheels, formed from hours of improper outside use on the asphalt furnace, nicked at the carpet with the soothing sound of the microfibers being drawn-and-quartered. All I had to do was wait.
Assassinating the target, now approximately ten feet from me, would require a resilient and merciless patience for precision. Advanced snipers wouldn’t have even been able to make the shot. I’m fairly certain the Coriolis Effect even played a part.
After examining the temperature in the room, improvising wind readings from the air conditioning unit, and performing some rudimentary trigonometry, I lined up the shot into the heart of Tony’s main street, the microfibers of the carpet still begging for an end to their torment.
In the final moment before squeezing the trigger, snipers are trained to ignore all existing circumstances and focus only on their heartbeat. Across long distances, even the involuntary pumping of the heart can alter the way the bullet travels, and mine had to be perfect.
As Tony’s head hit the floor, gazing through the last arch to make sure his actors had all taken their place on the stage, I jettisoned the race-car missile from my hand.
His tears began almost as soon as I released it, and I hold no doubts that the metal bumper plate of my ten-pound revenge slammed into his face before the sound waves of the carpet’s shrieks did.
The race-car, similar to most other modern projectiles, broke the sound barrier, thus creating a sonic boom. Why do you think guns are loud? Or that dumbbells are loud when I drop them? Or that people think that words are hurtful? It’s all just the cost of surpassing Mach 1.
And then I was on my feet, dashing to Godzilla before Tony’s kneejerk reaction to the pain caused him to knock the heavy blocks on top of himself.
Like a lightning bolt hurtling across the room, I took a brief glimpse of Tony as I passed. All in 1080p, picture-perfect slo-mo, the towers began to fall and the Playmobil man sitting atop his triangular prism rocketed towards the ground in startling similarity to his first death. The sight epitomized our modern standards of beauty, and a pseudo-sapio-heterosexual like myself choked on the irony. Tony had become the monster he had played with, and now the unforgiving and Protestant Troll would smack him in the mouth for his hypocrisy like the bludgeoning of a war-hammer.
Again reunited with Godzilla, I slammed my fist against his back once more, sending out the shooting fist, all the rounds of his missile-breath, and that quintessential mutant-reptile scream. Suddenly out of gas and exhausted from a mission well-accomplished, I plopped down on the floor, my body collapsing like it did the first time I saw LFO live in concert.
Tony, now buried underneath the rubble of his once crown jewel of a city, continued to sob loudly, most likely more pained from embarrassment than actual pain. Hell, if I had robbed myself in that manner, I would also probably be upset.
Actually, scratch that. I’d commend myself for robbing myself with such poise and flair.
Of course, I was hauled off to the principal’s office and missed a substantial amount of naptime, but that is not the point.
Sharks don’t sleep, Tony. They also don’t share – they get shared with. By every other thing in the food chain.
And herein lies the lesson.
Ownership, much like sex, comes down to if you’re willing to stoop low enough to get it. It is not enough to just have dreams of paleontology or becoming the neighborhood supplier of push pops, nor is it enough to have a patience for precision or an immoral taste for theatricality. Ownership requires more than just the know-how or the skill. It requires the balls, the sacrifice, and the ability to guiltlessly smile at yourself in the mirror once you’re done.
Conversely, sharing is more than just a boring spectator sport. It is an ownership unto itself. Had Tony simply listened to my original request, I would have mashed the buttons, quenched my bloodlust, and walked like another satisfied one-night-stand. He could have built anything he wanted, sold all the Batman popsicles with the gumball eyes as he wanted, and put the Playmobil people in any shape, but he just had to be an ignorant architect.
Point is, and I’m sure Tony would tell you the same now, perhaps even having it all isn’t having enough.
You keep what you have by giving it away.
That’s what sharing is all about.