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The Upper Echelons of Irony (Or: How Do I Live Without You?)

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The upper echelons of irony should always include measures of sincerity.

That's what you told your (now younger) brother. You'd been given the very same instruction from your (then older) brother, but for you, it was different. It wasn't just an instruction. It was a justification. It was an excuse.

It was an excuse as to why you were so obsessed with some bit of action schlock from the 90s.

Otherwise known as Con Air.

True to the Strider name, Strider Jr. was as sharp as his anime shades were pointy, and noticed you were taking this Con Air thing a little too far, stretching the very boundaries of irony, far past the borders of satire and mockery, threatening to spill over into the forbidden territory of sincerity itself.

You'd used this age-old pearl of Strider wisdom to explain yourself. That your obsession with Con Air and/or it's triumphant anthem "How Do I Live Without You" (the Trisha Yearwood version, naturally) was not merely irony, but a fusion of irony and sincerity so refined and unparalleled that it would make grown men weep. And of course was sophisticated beyond his limited comprehension.

...You don't think he actually bought all that but at least it was a distaction.

...Distraction. (Old habits die hard.)

It was a distraction from the fact that well of course you were fucking sincere about Con Air. Not about the movie itself. Hell, it was hard to like ironically. It was about what it meant to you. What it had meant to John.

(And by extension, what John had meant to you.)

Arranged around you is the world's largest collection of B-grade action flick memorabilia. The posters on the wall create full length paper tapestries of shitty action flick. Props adorn the room, some placed on pedestals, each carefully labelled with the movie it had belonged to and a short description, including the tatty Con Air bunny (now rightfully returned to its box) and a bottle of apple juice (or was it?). Costumes are placed in full length glass display cases-you espy a Ghostbusters outfit on your right- and of course, a grubby wifebeater and an even grubbier pair of jeans. The whole room is about as highly guarded as your average secret service base.

It is obvious that this entire room was a painstaking labour of love.

When asked about it, you'd replied with your trademark poker face that it was your tribute to the action movie industry and inspiration flowed from that room like a violently stabbed artery.

They were still debating over whether that was meant seriously.

Beyond the ironic facade that surrounds this room, these movies are gathered here in this glorious congregation because they have two things in common.

Firstly, they are all borderline unwatchable (but that's not it).

Secondly, John Egbert loved these movies completely unironically with all of his heart.

(And by extension, you loved John Egbert completely unironically with all of your heart.)

That's how you choose to remember him. By something that could well qualify as a sort of Egbertian shrine. You tell yourself that in this assorted collection, the Egbert spirit lives on.

You like to think that he'd take that as a huge compliment. He probably would.

You also think that if you'd told your annoying pre-game thirteen year old self that in the future that the only connection you'd have with your best friend was shitty movie memorabilia, you're pretty sure that he'd ask you to stop being ironic. Or to fuck off. Or both.

But it's real and this room is all that remains of him, like you're trying to piece him together, one interest at a time.

You don't know if this situation is actually ironic or Strider ironic or neither but whatever it is, it's pretty goddamn cruel.

Truth is, it's not just in memory of John. It's in memory of normality. The times before the game. The times when your best friend was still alive at the same time as you were. The times when you were just the Dave of Guy. The times that were. Had been. Never were. (Tenses are/were/are going to be funny when time travel is involved)

The other thing that this room is notable for is the smaller back room connected in it. In it is contained the largest single collection of information regarding the comedian John Crocker.

There are biographies, his entire filmography, videos of his live routines all archived neatly according to year. You'd needed to know, for sure, that he'd lived a good life.

There are hundreds of things there and you've seen all of them. You've watched them, waiting, hoping, for him to say or do something that would show that he remembered you. A reference to the game maybe, or to a Snoop Dogg song that wouldn't be released for another fifteen years or so. Maybe even to stairs, falling down them, and how it kept happening.

But there was nothing.

You have a hard time accepting that your best friend had a great life. It's not the "had" part that bothers you the most. The fact that he's dead now isn't the worst thing. The worst thing is that he had a great life, a wonderful life, and you weren't in it.

You wonder every day how you are supposed to live without him, and then are reminded that for his entire life, John Egbert had lived without you.

The song version of your sentiments starts playing over the speakers, as it always does, since you've set it to play every two hours. (It's ridiculous and cheesy and it doesn't make much sense to anyone besides yourself, but they think you're doing it for effect. Dave Strider is always good at effect, if nothing else.)

The melody bursts into its soaring chorus of how one would survive without without one's object of affection.

You betray no emotion. You wonder if you have any left.

"How do I survive? That's a great question, Egbert."

"I'm working on it."

You slump down on a sofa, hands clenched perhaps a little too tightly.

"I'm working on it."