I made the decision to move to Brooklyn and train as a plumber as soon as the divorce came through. The high carbohydrate diet of pastas and pizzas didn’t rest well with me thanks to a gluten intolerance.
An old history teacher once told me that intolerance is synonymous with racism, so I pushed against my nature and fought off the spectre of prejudice by consuming vast quantities of wheat-based dishes.
When not gripping the sides of my toilet seat between meals, I ventured out onto the New York streets. I head-butted stones above me in the hope of obtaining wealth or discovering a magical beanstalk.
After several concussions, I became keenly aware of the limitations of the American healthcare system and craved to spend just one night lying on a trolley in a corridor until a bed could be found for me in an NHS hospital.
I ate a red-and-white mushroom hoping it would make me grow to twice my usual size. The man who sold it to me said there was nothing else like it.
I may have grown. I may have gained the ability to break stones with my head and survive a tortoise bite, though I can’t be sure. Instead,
I was exposed again to the limitations of the American healthcare system and a curious stream of horrific waking dreams that haunt me to this day.
A fire fighter dragged me from a sewer pipe. I’d been stuck in there for a few days, but a homeless man raised the alarm.
I explained I was trying to get to the Mushroom Kingdom, that Princess Toadstool had been kidnapped. The fire fighter laughed and told me the princess was in another castle. I didn’t see any castles.
He must have been working for Bowser.
It was the incident in the pet shop that led to my arrest. After jumping on three tortoises in an effort to eject them from their shells, a police officer yanked my right arm behind my back while his partner pointed a pistol at me – an actual pistol.
I told them there might have been a 1-UP or a starman. I could have been invulnerable. I could have lived again.
The officers asked my name, and I told them I was Super Mario. I told them Princess Toadstool was in danger and that they needed to release me so I could get to the Mushroom Kingdom and defeat Bowser. I said they should call Luigi if they didn’t believe me.
They told me to remove my raccoon ears and place my hands above my head while they read me my rights and took away my tail.