High school had never given me a sense of ideal appearance or a moment of having all eyes on me in a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind outfit. Now, within my dorm, in front of my mirror, I finally have a use for make-up. Disguised as someone else, I feel sensational at last.
Anime, horror, and academics had never melted together so perfectly before my eyes. The characters that some writer brought into this world, with my envious idolization, can be brought forth with the right amount of fake blood and wigs. L from Death Note. Grell from Black Butler. Prince Baka from Level E. Maybe combine looks a bit? L’s hair with Jeff the Killer’s Chelsea Smile? Or just make myself look like a creep for some extra fun?
While visiting my father over Spring Break, the only thing that truly stayed with me was food. In Maryland, you basically had McDonald’s, Arby’s, or you cook for yourself. His new home in Kentucky was restaurant to restaurant to restaurant to restaurant. Ironically, he had been losing weight since he got there.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost weight too. He took me to my favorite kinds of places. China Buffet. El Tarasco, with rather plump chimmichangas. Taco Bell. Dairy Queen. My taste buds would have been on holiday all week, if the rides didn’t give me motion sickness.
I was pretty bad at playing video games as a kid. The only system I had at the time was a Gamecube and I could only grab a handful of games before production stopped and I had to switch to Wii. I was out of practice, but I loved to watch others play – not to exclude myself from the experience, but so that I could at least see the story behind games I wouldn’t have played. My Uncle Skip had a Playstation 2 and got me addicted to watching him play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
He was kind enough to let me take the reins every now and then. I just had fun cutting the grass for rupees and going fishing or bug collecting. I tried my hand once at really progressing him in the game. My mission was just to go across the field to get to the town over, to take care of something I could never hope to remember. I kept my eye on the map below, watching the mark on the map move as I did, dedicated to get to my destination. It was roughly an hour later before I realized that the map changed positions like a compass and I had been riding in circles instead of straight across a field that would take less than a minute to traverse.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that I have insomnia, but I’ve had abnormal sleeping patterns for the longest time. It took pride in one thing, though: if I knew I would be up long enough, I would make myself do something productive with my time. One night – October 1st I remember, since I always decorate for holidays on the first of their month – I had gotten up particularly early. Everyone else in the house was still asleep. I still claim my intentions were as innocent as can be; I just figured I would take the extra time awake to decorate for Halloween. It never even occurred to me how different the house would be when everyone else came too.
As I placed sticky, bloody handprints on our bathroom’s full-length mirror, I was also unaware that my father had watched a movie about Bloody Mary the previous evening. He never mentioned it to me, so how could I? What I DID hear about the next morning was how my father woke up soon after I went to sleep and how his heart started on seeing the beginnings of the season. He wasn’t angry – just the opposite; when I woke up again, he was in tears laughing.
I never had a truly supernatural experience until coming to Hollins. Even now, I never saw doors opening or heard unexplainable footsteps. The way I’ve come to understand it, I never will. Two friends of mine, who shall remain unnamed, seemed particularly lost in their minds one night. Each had begun to see things I couldn’t. As we walked the campus grounds that night, one claimed to see lights that would follow us. I never saw those lights. Another heard voices when passing a couple buildings. I never heard those voices. Things only got worse when we escaped to the chapel.
We thought, if there is anything, the church was supposed to be a protected and holy place, but still the first friend could feel things, one good and one bad, one over the stage and one near the instruments, fighting each other. The place was a battleground and friend two could no longer stay, her mind becoming foggy. I followed her out as friend one ushered me away to her and she was no longer there. I shook her and hugged her until she came back. I regrouped with friend one and went back to my place to recover. Both of them were curdled into fetal positions, fighting something inside, completely blacking out in front of my eyes. They were fighting their own battles and I couldn’t see any of it. All I could do was try to offer comfort. I held them close and wished more than anything that they would be released. Soon enough, they were back.
I found out later, from a supposedly psychic friend of a friend, one who could see auras, that all three of us were special. The two that recovered were like magnets to spirits, beacons that would bring entities to them, latching on to their brilliant and blinding emotions. I was the opposite. I was like repellant, where nothing every came near me. Apparently, my will had been enough to spread that ability, at least at close range. So no, I still have not experienced anything supernatural at Hollins, if you think about it. My little gift, for the most part, is exactly that.
Homestuck is a fairly popular webcomic circulating throughout the fandoms of the world, a very random SciFi-comedy thing – like a drugged Dr. Who comic. Readers loved to make fan characters (humans and alien trolls alike) and there were tons of cosplayers at conventions. I had never paid it much mind as I didn’t even know where to read it. A friend of mine at this college, Noelle, fixed that in an instant. She sent me a link and was in the room as I began reading the first act. Fairly weird in the beginning. Kids inside a video game to escape that universe (literally) as Earth was being destroyed by meteors. One of the characters either had more humor or annoyance than the rest. I honestly couldn’t say which. “Noelle, the world is ending and all he’s doing right now is rapping.”
“Dave gets useful later, I swear!” she claimed through her laughter. I continued and the ‘server player’ made a mistake and threw a kid’s bathtub through the wall. And then a mistake with the capturing device sent a birthday cake into the commode. “Noelle…there’s a cake in the toilet.”
“Yes, yes there is.” That was the first act. I am now in the third act of act six. To this day, that toilet cake has become our challenge. As we were both accepted to the Hollins Abroad – London program, Noelle has decided to see if a host family will get the reference.
I never liked dolls. Dolls are girly and creepy. Especially those porcelain dolls grandmothers seem to always keep a collection of. Both of my grandmothers tried to pawn off a few to me and I reluctantly had to accept a couple. It was like they were constantly staring at me, plotting something. There was a serious evil inside of those frilly bonnets. I’m not sure if it was a fear born of hatred or hatred born of fear. I locked a couple dolls in a suitcase and hide them somewhere just so I wouldn’t have to look at them. No idea where they are now.
However, there is one kind of doll I can tolerate. There’s a collection called Living Dead Dolls. Very morbid pieces, covered in blood, dark clothes, and gothic make-up. These are the dolls that are said to give people nightmares, encased in coffin boxes. I came across one at a flea market one day, Little Red Riding Hood from the Scary Tales series – a 13th year anniversary edition too. All I could think of was how beautiful she looked, so I had my grandmother buy her. I have another doll in my room too. It was a porcelain doll, much like the kind I despise, altered to fit one of the Otaku girl’s previous costumes: a yandere girl (think psycho-stalker ex-girlfriend). That doll is covered in “blood”, in a dress laced with needles, and has one leg smashed. I named her Mary.
With these, I never imagine evil plotting against me. There is no darkness hidden inside of them. They’re honest. You can already see what they have to offer.
I don’t really trust doctors or hospitals. One could say it’s because of my family history. My mother studied to be a nurse and was a very good student. She took time off when she was pregnant with me and looked for birth control after I was born. Doctors said the traditional medicine wouldn’t be good for her, so they gave her a shot instead. Mom called my grandmother, saying she got hives and my father took her home where she slept and never woke up. An experience like that was sure to kick trust in medicine out of you, right? But I was less than two months old at the time. I was hardly scarred by it.
Instead, I just hated how clean everything was supposed to be, yet somehow I could still feel and smell the odor of the sick and dying. No, it was a fairly smaller incident that broke my trust. I had found out that, in my family history, people had been allergic to penicillin and I thought it would be smart to be tested for an allergic reaction. And what do I hear? Oh no, I had already been given this substance quite a few times. No harm done, they said. Maybe not, but what if I was allergic? Was that not something to look into my family about? It’s a common allergy! I would have been dead without a clue in my head. I didn’t know if I was scared or angry.
It was embarrassing how deep I was in the closet during high school. I looked at boys just like any other girl would be expected to, and was attracted to a few, but the overwhelming majority of them were mindless, bullies and I was a target in that area for thirteen years by graduation – yes, I was bullied from kindergarten to 12th grade. By the same people for a different reason each year. So I didn’t think much of it when I wasn’t interested in any of them. My dad would ask, “You have a boyfriend yet?” “No.” “Girlfriend?” “Dad, I’m not gay.” – (communicated through a punch in the shoulder). I thought I’d look for someone in high school. Someone who didn’t target others or act like an animal.
Someone who would be beside me every day, like my best friend Leah. Smart. Kind. Beautiful. I wouldn’t mind being with her instead of anyone there and – WHAT DID I CATCH MYSELF THINKING? I had made a reputation for myself, at least to my few good friends, for being into guys, going as far as enjoying guy/guy material as I would shamelessly tell them. When I figured out that I liked my best friend, why, I could never admit it. I did research online, trying to disprove the theory set in my head, trying to rationally find an alternate solution. I even asked her, “If I wanted to be a relationship with a girl, but wasn’t even thinking about sex with her (specifically) or anything, would that still make me gay?” Funny how such a rational approach can also be so panicked. And that’s not even broaching the subject of realizing I was genderfluid. That was a whole other can of worms.
I never did have the ability to make plants grow. I think my oldest memory was of a chia pet my grandmother had. The seeds on Tweety Bird’s head never grew. Around the same time, during elementary school, every Earth day we would be given a baby tree to plant in our backyards. Thinking back now, I think most of the trees I brought home were dead just from the trip back to my home, roots tangled and torn and placed in refrigeration in towels soaked in water until they could be planted. But I still urged on to do it and was disappointed when they never grew and seemed to become one with the grass instead. Dad had also bought a biodome out of a magazine with a couple other educational toys that would allow me to grow carnivorous plants. But, all that was in that dome, through weeks of instruction, was soil and the decorations that came with it.
Between high school and Hollins, there were a couple volunteer events where we could buy plants or just adopt them for a few nights before planting them during a get-together a club was holding. A community garden my grade created in middle school flourished, at least from last time I saw it. More recently at this university, a group offered mint and lemon tea, or some such beverages, for the planting. Even in the Edible Poetry class we worked together for our own garden. I can’t help but think that, if I can only plant when others help, then they just never notice that the ones I happen to plant die immediately.
Music is an epic escape. It became ever vital in high school, which was the most torture my life ever was. Every semester I signed up to be in the choir and take at least one art class so that I wouldn’t feel so stressed between classes and the wall that was crumbling between me and my tormentors. The happy, energetic beat of a good song would pick me up in no time. But then, as I spent more time on YouTube and watching different shows, I would find AMVs of what I had been watching and suddenly the music I was listening to had a whole new meaning to it.
The “Cell Block Tango” was now about deadly Disney Princesses. “Accidentally in Love” was suddenly about Edward Elric and Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist. “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled became and controlling exchange between Haruhi Fujioka and Kyoya Ootori in Ouran High School Host Club. Then, I began to make some of my own.
I heard “Blood” by In This Moment and made it into a love story between Sebastian Michaelis and Ciel Phantomhive of Black Butler. I flipped “Bring Me To Life” into a relationship between Misa Amane from Death Note and Beyond Birthday from its prequel, Another Note. Every time I hear “Savages” from Pocahontas, I think of Vlad and Joss from the book series The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod – or I even used “You’ll Be In My Heart” to think of Joss and his younger sister, Cecil (in a more mournful, familial way). Now, every time I listen to music I am conducting videos, more AMVs, in my head. Music isn’t even about escape to me anymore. It’s just more storytelling.
So in high school, a year or two before it was time for me to move away for college, I needed some extra cash. I had already been writing stories and posting them on FanFiction.net and had recently migrated to DeviantArt.com. With a Paypal account now in my possession, I thought I’d offer to write short stories for $20 each issue. I didn’t have a degree or anything, so it wasn’t like I had room to be picky on the price. Writing came relatively easy. Each issue was about 1,250-1,750 words long, the average for my one-shot stories at that time (unless a muse was screaming in my ear). And for quite a while, it worked. I was even paid regularly for editing a person’s articles for a humanitarian website. It was spare cash, at least.
One commission in particular was kind of fun to work with. Someone had their own picture of how Alice in Wonderland would work, more dark and complex, looking more into choices in Alice’s mind. At the time was happy to get the money as well, because I had to submit the $400 enrollment deposit for Hollins, and I only had $100 so far - and my uncle gave that to me. I expected the usual $20, but instead he gave me $200. I messaged him, asking if it was a mistake, like taking note of my usual fee and missed a decimal point or something. But, no. He thought it deserved it. And then he wanted me to write a follow-up issue. Getting into Hollins had then become a lot easier.