I used to pretend that my pencil was a rocket. As my Grade 3 teacher broke the world into morsels digestible to eight year olds, I was launching golden missiles into space. I would squint with one eye open and, holding my Ticonderoga by the metal band around the eraser, move it steadily upward into my field of vision. Then, once the lead tip (or “nose cone”) had ascended out of view, I would deftly switch hands, grabbing the tip in my other hand while releasing the engine in time to see it sweep seamlessly by. Persistence of vision provided the illusion of unassisted flight across a constellation of adolescent heads. This business was hardly subtle, and on more than one occasion I was spotted by the teacher, my attention compromised, and made to participate in undesirable activities.
Daydreaming wasn’t the problem. Daydreaming is never the problem. The problem before the child with fantastic proclivities is figuring out a way to attend to matters of mind without gaining the attention of the authorities, as participation represents a spiritual forfeiture, and, to a lesser degree, an endorsement of dogma.
Several years passage found me an asocial tyke not yet at home in my own skin. A recent growth spurt had seen my legs replaced by mysteriously articulated stilts over which I had yet to gain mastery. But, though I was as awkward as a moist fawn, nothing could keep me from my running. I ran constantly, whether circuiting the school playground or dashing to the teacher’s desk to hand in my paper at the conclusion of a pop quiz. I had but two gears, fidgeting or sprinting. And if my energy seemed boundless then I can only attribute it to one thing: the power cartridges in my shoes. In the heel of each treble-striped Adidas was an invisible cylinder, shallow and wide. These provided me with a capacity for physical activity that few could match, and which fewer still could even tolerate. I would extract spent cartridges from my soles at least once a week, and this behavior became so ingrained that it continued–albeit with slightly diminished frequency–right up until my graduation from High School.
My tendency to running abated sometime during Grade 8, once I became aware of the disapproving glances of the girls. The girls had existed prior to my awareness of them, to be sure, but never in any substantial way. I’d seen them, if at all, as representatives from some obscure and transient sect, no more than shadows really. But something had changed over the Summer, and now, as I became more aware of them, they became painfully aware of me, as in Lovecraft’s tales of spectral beasties from beyond. And oh how the girls judged me, and tormented me by their mere existence. And so I had no choice but to withdraw, again.
As a teenager, during my final years of innocence, I spent most of my time pretending that I was a hollow giant, and that people–tiny to me–watched my every movement from my observatory eyes. I became hyper-conscious of my physical structure, and went about my business in a plodding, calculated fashion, supplying sound effects if I felt particularly alone. Sometimes I would pick up something nearby–a die, a salt shaker, a floppy disk–in order to satisfy the curiosity of my inner audience. A whine of hydraulics brought my arm toward my eye windows, and the little people would lean forward in their theatre seats, straining to examine each new artifact in as much detail as possible. As reserved as I had become though, there were still occasional difficulties. Using the lavatory became a challenge, for instance. I couldn’t risk seeing myself after all. And I remember one day when my stepfather caught me peering down at a sock that dangled from my fingertips. When I noticed him he just shook his head and went silently into the other room. I wondered how long he’d been watching me, and what his inner audience was saying about me.
Now, more than a decade removed from that age, I find that some things do not change. I haven’t used pencils in decades, the soles of my shoes are too thin for cartridges, and the theatre seats behind my eyes are empty. But presently I’m pretending that I’m an adult, and I do adult things such as buying my own hats, and working in an office during the day. And though none of this makes the least bit of sense to me, though I am certainly a fraud, I’ve garnered nothing but approval–praise even–for so successfully mocking the trappings of adulthood. This pretend life of mine is not as interesting as my more youthful pursuits, not by any measure, but fewer people are apt to question it.