Kevin Trapp watched the large-screen TV that was affixed to a peach-colored wall in the waiting room. The on-screen images changed rapidly: a crowd of thousands cheering wildly in a cavernous arena; a female gymnast navigating a horizontal beam; an Asian sports analyst interviewing a stone-faced athlete.
When the camera cut back to the crowd, Kevin noticed a small group — likely a family unit — passing a box of something edible from member to member. This made Kevin hungry, so he reached for an open bag of Doritos on the table at hand and began stuffing chips into his mouth. Outside the spartan room in which he now sat, he could hear the periodic, muffled roar of the crowd. He wiped crumbs from his chin.
He stared at his bag of chips and began to reminisce about his schooldays. His “misbegotten youth,” as he liked to think of it. He remembered the ninth floor of the dormitory which he shared with a score of other boys. He had not been particularly popular with the other students — except for on Saturday nights. Kevin closed his eyes and smiled as he recalled the familiar refrain: “Kevin’s down!”
On Saturday nights, he and the others would walk the six blocks to the town’s bar district, where they would do what young men have always done: drink heavily. Some hours and many pitchers of beer later, they would stagger back to the dorm and ride the elevators to the ninth floor. Five minutes later would come the call: “Kevin’s down!” Again. Everyone knew what that meant.
The dorm was coed, i.e., boys on odd-numbered floors, girls on even-numbered floors. Occasionally, the clarion call about Kevin would attract a few girls, but mostly it drew other boys. They would open their doors, peer into the hallway, and behold the sight of poor Kevin sprawled in the hallway, so drunk that he could move no more. The protocol then was that several of the boys, sometimes more, would be tasked with heaving him off the floor and guiding him to the safety of his room and his bed.
Kevin’s dirty little secret: After the first hallway episode, in which he was indeed quite drunk and indeed passed out, Kevin began to fake it. It was simply too much fun having the boys carry him to bed. It was now a favorite memory.
In the waiting room of the sports arena, Kevin waxed nostalgic about dorm life and munched on his bag of chips. He washed them down with a Pepsi.
He thought of the boys and girls in that long-ago dormitory. Those were hedonistic times for most of them. Kevin did not miss the wanton sex nor the drunken revelry. What he missed was the companionship, the camaraderie. The emotional closeness he shared with the guys.
Kevin did not dwell on sex. His diabetes had long since rendered him impotent. Thinking about sex was a waste of time. He munched some more chips.
His time was at hand.
Kevin looked up again at the TV screen. The Asian sports analyst was interviewing an American athlete. Kevin scowled.
Ten or 12 years ago, the American gymnasts had fallen into disrepute and brought shame to the entire United States delegation. A videotape had surfaced on the Internet. The video featured a shining star of the female gymnastics team, a pretty Hmong American girl who had already secured one gold medal and was expected to garner more.
But the video did not celebrate her gymnastic achievements. The grainy, shaky footage initially revealed the girl, 20-year-old Suni Wang from Minnesota (her popular nickname was “Butterfly”), lying naked on the floor at a raucous party. Suni was the only female at the gathering, which was punctuated by loud, drunken whoops and whistles emanating from young men. Male athletes from the men’s gymnastics team, it later came to light.
Whoever was holding the camera panned up and down the comatose girl, from head to tail. Someone in the background made a rude comment, but loud music and shouts rendered it inaudible.
The videographer zoomed in on the poor girl’s face; in her stupor, her mouth was half open.
And then the penises came into view. And then they took turns, in the infamous words of one drunken boy, “giving her something to drink.”
After the video appeared on the Internet, the men’s gymnastics team was disbanded. No one in the general public seemed to care because the team hadn’t medaled in many years.
As for the girl, her career, too, was effectively over.
Kevin, who had by that time lost interest in all things related to sex, remembered a single image from the videotape scandal: the pretty Hmong girl curled up on the floor in the fetal position, her back to the camera. Beside her lay the tattered remains of her fancy red party dress.
Kevin looked back at the TV screen and again heard a faint roar from the nearby stadium. It was a strange sensation, sitting there in a room thousands of miles from home, snacking on Doritos, sipping Pepsi, and counting the minutes until his moment on the Big Stage.
There were very few Americans participating in this year’s Olympics. After the fall of the men’s gymnastics team, the country began to lose interest in sports in general and the Olympics in particular. It didn’t help that it had been years since any athlete from the United States had medaled.
Except, that is, for Kevin and his teammates.
Kevin and his mates still brought home the gold.
America might have given up on Olympic athletics, but here in Beijing, as attested to by the thunderous crowd, the Olympics were still a very big deal.
There was a knock on the door. It was time for Kevin to go.
Half a dozen Chinese men, all of them fit and wearing matching white casual clothes, entered the waiting room and approached Kevin. One of the men glanced at the table near Kevin’s chair, but his expression betrayed nothing. The table was littered with bare plates, empty bags of chips, and numerous soda bottles, also emptied.
The men faced a daunting task, but they were rehearsed and issued no complaints. They surrounded Kevin’s oversize recliner, which was set on oversize steel wheels, and began to push.
Large folds of his morbidly obese body began to spill over the edges of the chair, impeding the progress of the men situated at the sides of Kevin’s rolling transport, but the Chinese men had done this before for the Americans, so they made good time rolling down the hallway and into the arena.
The crowd grew silent as Kevin steeled himself for the challenge to come. He had prepared for this his entire life, and he was ready. Looking at the six men who strove mightily to wheel him into the arena, he thought again of the boys in his old dorm. “Kevin’s down!” they had cried, staring down at his 340-pound frame on the hallway floor.
But that had been years ago, when he was comparatively light.
Today he tipped the scales (literally) at 440 pounds — which was in line with the size of his American teammates.
As he was wheeled into the stadium, Kevin briefly took in the crowd of thousands and then turned his attention to the gigantic screen suspended high above the center of the arena. The screen was where Kevin lived. It was his heart and soul.
He was the king of the only Olympic event in which Americans still excelled — “esports.” His specialty game awaited on the hovering screen, his control pad rested comfortably on his lap, and he put down his Pepsi. This was his moment.
Kevin kicked ass.
Kevin brought home the gold.
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