Such a dramatic title to begin with and yet such a ubiquitous subject. Pencil. That’s me. Hello, I’m finally here to let you know all about me, my flaws, my best traits, my opinions and of course, drum roll please, my experiences in this worldly life we all share. Let’s start with a quick but necessary family tree. Without this, you’ll be lost in my usually nonsensical but at times dramatic discourse.
So I am Pencil, middle child of Softy and Eyeballs. I have an older sibling, namely River and a younger sibling called Fish or Fishie, whichever sounds nicer to the ears. So as immigrants in this first-world country of Canada, we came here as a family and lived here for the past nine years. To me it sounds like a long time already but actually it’s not even half my life yet; it will be when I turn twenty-six. There you go. The basics are done and yet you wonder, so how will this be actually helpful to you? It’s not terribly useful, unfortunately, but at least with the basics done, you won’t stop reading for a few seconds every now and then to try and figure out if you’ve been introduced to Softy or whoever I’ve just mentioned.
Sometimes, introductions are necessary and sometimes not. If it was up to me, I’d introduce everybody around me but then you’ll just be reading about everybody and not really about me, Pencil. So let’s start. Being a middle child is hard. If you are a middle child too, you’ll understand this more than you want to admit. River is such a blessing for Eyeballs that anything after would be unimportant. And if you know about parents in general, you’ll understand this too. Having a younger sibling is a lot of work too for a middle child such as myself. It seems that more and more of late, I’ve been given the task of handling all stressful matters with regards to Fishie. Stressful matters like school, attitude and discipline, and other general stuff. Isn’t that what parents are for? But then, I’m reminded of that Bible story where a boy had rudely remarked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And I think to myself, I’m such an awful person, for not wanting anything to do with Fishie, especially with schoolwork and discipline. It’s hard, and this is coming from a person who generally gets along with Fishie more than anybody else in the house. One moment, we’re such good pals then we can barely stand each other in the next one. This is because when it comes to schoolwork, I can be such a keener. And it’s not because I want the best marks in my classes (I hardly ever get the best when I was in university or in high school for that matter, but I was an honour student in my academic past), or the recognition of being smart. It’s because I know I’m not smart that I try to excel. River is way better than me in Mathematics of any sort. And so was Fishie, when she used to put in the effort. I was great in Language Arts and Science and Phys. Ed. but otherwise, I put in a lot of effort to get my results, which of course are mostly in the high expectations of Eyeballs and Softy, but mostly Eyeballs. I remember, more than a decade ago, I was anal about getting good marks to get attention. I was an introvert of a child and wasn’t very spontaneous like River –which the Family adored–and not very cute like Fishie–which specific Family members are very fond of. I was stuck in the background, getting missed often by Family relatives who would often visit. My fifteen seconds of fame was when I’d get dragged out of the background and showed off by Eyeballs saying “Pencil is on the honours’ list this year,” where I would smile proudly but shyly. After a minimum of good lucks and great jobs and some pat on the back or a rare hug, I would often blend back into the background, not knowing what to do since my few seconds were done. I would often just watch them all, as though I was looking through a window; seeing, hearing and observing it all, learning from it what I could. That was when I started thinking that my friends must love me more than my entire Family. And to me family is everything, or it used to be; I wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that so easily.
I was–and still am–a very loyal friend. My best friend since kindergarten, Rosebud, lived not too far from my house, a five minute walk was all it took to get to her house. It’s funny because after kindergarten, we’ve been classmates up to sixth grade. And the most I’ve interacted with her like a ‘best friend’ was during the sixth grade. We often hung around her house or my house, playing outside with our neighbours or spending time inside, drawing or making paper dolls or trying to teach our dogs some tricks. Rosebud was–and still is–a very sweet person. We became so close that I gave her a puppy from my only dog, the high and mighty, Luka.
In between the second and fifth grades, I’ve always been a floater, getting along with most people in my class. Being one of the many ‘class clowns,’ it was expected. I hardly had anybody that I didn’t get along well with. There was this this one girl, back in second grade, who loved tricking me into doing things. I was so gullible then, I would smack my second grade self on the head if I could. During recess one time, she came up to me and said, “Pencil, can you come with me to the store (this specific store sold candies and sweet drinks)? I’ll give you a dollar if you do.” Even though I wasn’t very inclined to go with her because I know she was a nasty kid, I didn’t see anything wrong with her request and so I went with her. Getting some free money was a very big plus for a seven year old; think about the candies that money could afford. So there I was, tagging along as she bought her candy, a box of stick candy in miniature cigarette boxes that we would hold between our fingers as though we were smoking real cigarettes, and some strawberry flavoured gummy hoops. She started walking out of the store and I followed. We were halfway to our building and I asked casually, “So can I get my dollar now?” She turned to look at me while chewing on a gummy. Smiling, she said, “I was just joking about that.” Then that awful laugh came out of her ugly square face. Stunned as I was, I thought to myself, never ever to trust this girl ever again. But her misdeeds didn’t stop there. One afternoon, we were in class and needing to write class notes; it was Science class. I looked in my backpack on the floor and shuffled around, sure that I had put it in my bag before I went to school that day. The same nasty girl happened to sit beside me in that class. “Did you see my Science notebook?” I had innocently asked since she was closest to me. She tried to hide a smile, but something in me twinged in suspicion. “Nope. I haven’t seen it.” Giggling, she kept looking at me. I kept looking at her, wondering if she would give it back. Call the teacher, my inner voice said, she’s not supposed to do that. I wanted to, but I was in fear of our teacher. She was the type to get very angry and yell at you in the middle of class for something small like abbreviating your last name. (I learned about abbreviating words from Softy and thought I would look so cool for trying it out at school.) So I went home without my notebook. For fear of getting scolded by Eyeballs (Softy worked abroad back then), I kept quiet about it, stressing myself about it miserably until she finally decided to give it back, two days after. “Here, I found your notebook somewhere.” Oh, the hatred that seeped into me when I saw her while her mother and sister were waiting outside by the hallway. I thought, you must be an awfully blind or very lenient mother and that sister must have the same black streak of cruelty in her. (I know, I was being judgemental. You can’t blame me, I was angry.) I swore I would never have anything to do with her again. She moved to a different school in third grade.
I’m such a loser, aren’t I? I can’t even fight back even when I know I’m in the right. It’s not that easy in my case; I’m half Softy and half Eyeballs, anyways. But–there’s always this big BUT–only in DNA, is what I like to say. The Softy part of me I’ve abhorred most of my life; the Eyeballs part of me, I’m indifferent about it.
(To be continued…)