On the Plight of Trolls and People

It is a universally acknowledged fact that trolls are immensely ugly. In fact, some may argue that they are the ugliest creatures on Earth.  While the adult phase of their life does admittedly yield extreme unbecomeliness, newly born offspring are downright detestable. Not only is their skin wrinkled grotesquely, but coupled with the atrocious odor and cacophonous screams they make for a sight not even their mothers care to see.

Therefore, mother trolls prefer to switch their offspring for human babies. Of course, the human parents are heartbroken at the sudden change in their once-beloved child, but the advancement of the troll’s age only adds to their despair. Once the terrible twos roll around, the baby troll is running around wildly with its little mouth open, putting every new object through a trial by tooth. Not even the dad’s signed baseball or mother’s hair curlers can escape its insatiable hunger. Then comes the sickening sevens, when the troll runs rampant on the playground. Despite all the mother’s efforts, its hair stands up in menacing spikes and the eyebrows (which are, in fact, two separate ones) appear as a single thick furrow due to the nasty troll’s chronic scowl.

The reason for his unreasonable attitude is somewhat of a paradox: he senses that people sense his petulance and dislike it, so he becomes dislikeable due to people’s dislike.  Now, the word “dislike” is quite an understatement. You see, not only is the young troll’s appearance undesirable, but his demeanor is positively vile. This becomes most obvious when he reaches his treacherous teens; for he is then able to hide his true nature and warp into a passable human life.

You may think that would be an improvement, but instead this trickery allows the troll to spread his unpleasantness and lower the overall reputation of mankind. What would have been the fine young man in his place is now tragically entrapped somewhere in the cavernous labyrinth of troll dwellings under a mountain, squinting in the darkness while the troll scowls in the light. Needless to say, it would be best for everyone if both species simply kept their respective offspring and raised them the way nature intended.

(Dedicated to my Ex)

The Tag Paradigm

The usual chilly air kissed my cheeks like an old friend as I bounded out with the rest of the kids for recess. Excitement permeated the atmosphere as only children’s emotions can; for today we not only broke free from the constricting walls of the classroom, but also the standard routine of the playground. Though it really began as a typical school day, a tiny episode in the story of my life, the following events became engraved in my memory. I only realized why it seemed so important to me when I recalled that day years later, and understood it as the first time I chose my own path through life.

At the time, my childish disposition proved quite obstinate and competitive. Since the girls usually insisted on playing games like Nurses and Horses, which failed to peak my interest, I usually kicked a ball around with the boys on the gravel soccer field. The adults noticed that this behavior of mine seemed unusual only because a definite line separated the male and female students in my class. In second grade, most of the girls wore make-up and centered their actions on impressing the boys (which constantly perplexed my youthful mind). The boys also attempted to imitate their elder siblings, trying to act tough and cool, and fashioning their hair so outrageously with hair product I worried it might prove a fire hazard. However, after they approved of my sports abilities, the boys accepted me as one of their own. In fact, my long ponytail in the midst of all the short styles became so accepted that, when asked to number the girls in the class, a female classmate of mine gave the wrong number. When someone pointed out her mistake, she explained, “Oh, well Em doesn’t count, she’s one of the boys.” I grinned at this remark, pleased with her standpoint. Still, our class as a whole did not reside among the best in the school (quite the contrary, in fact). At the moment we burst through the doors that day, though, everyone was of the same mind for once. We all eagerly agreed to infuse some more fun into our break through changing things up by playing a game of freeze tag in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom composed of a rectangular piece of deceptively large forest which sat on the school grounds next to the buildings we recently exited. Threadbare trees stood there, and only a few stubborn leaves clung lightly, dancing on their branches. Pale green moss crept over the boulders, and sticks and stones littered the ground: our dazzling Kingdom, the place where we proceeded to commence our game. At first, I hid and watched how the girls pranced around, feigning sluggishness, and saw the boys’ egos grow as they rapidly froze them one by one. My arrogant thought that their heads were big enough as it was convinced me to scale them down to size. After evaluating the game those first few minutes, I figured out that I would never catch anyone by changing targets. So, starting up, I focused on a guy named Jasper and proceeded to chase him down. Green, grey, and brown flashed by, but my eyes stayed glued on Jasper’s bright shirt. The wind streamed through my hair as my legs stretched to accommodate the uneven ground. Racing at full speed, the simple joy of the game elated me. Others ran past, attempting to aid Jasper by distracting me, but I paid them no heed. Bounding over sticks and stones in close pursuit, I finally tapped Jasper on the back, huffing triumphantly. He turned toward me, and to my surprise I saw his face red with exertion and anger. “That isn’t how you play tag!” he steamed. “You’re not supposed to chase just one person. You’re no fun!” I stared at him in confusion, my joy snuffed out just like that. The other kids did not have fun when I played, because I tried too hard? My childish reasoning told me that if I played as he said, never tagging anyone, then there would be no point to the game. To me, this seemed fundamentally wrong, leaving no joy in playing. Sadly, I turned away to hide my discouragement at this revelation. I wondered whether I could bear to lose on purpose, and stayed standing there as Jasper stalked off. Stepping quietly away, I went off to sit alone for the rest of the break to ponder my dilemma.

When the image of all the simpering girls in my class came to mind, I finally reached a solution. So, shining bright over the grey field, the next day found me out on the gravel soccer field with my compatriots once more, laughing again as my hair flew out behind me and my foot guided the ball into the back of the net, scoring the winning goal.

A Forgotten Smile

I used to smile all the time. My classmates couldn’t figure out why, nor did I even stop to wonder; but when I moved to America, I had plenty of time to wonder. I wondered why adults insisted on obscuring the truth.

“You will find a good team there,” said my coach.
“You will adjust to the school soon enough,” said my tutor.
“You will be happy,” said my mom.
I wondered why my new coach’s face got red when he screamed, why math did not seem to work out anymore, why my brother cried in the mornings. But most of all, I wondered where my smile had gone.

*  *  *

I am halfway through my sixth year in school, and it has been a week since I moved to America. My family sits around a subdued breakfast table, the threat of the daunting first day of school weighing on our heads. Unable to stand the somber mood, I abruptly get up to put my coat on and turn around to discover Adam sobbing uncontrollably. It is so sudden, my brain is slow in registering why.

“I don’t want to go to school!” Adam cries vehemently, clearing my confusion. My first irrational thought is to yell back bitterly, “I don’t either!” but then I feel sorry for him. I know exactly how he feels. As Mom and Dad start comforting and coaxing I turn to hide the sudden look of distress on my face. This ardent protest from Adam makes me worry that he would rather stay home and lapse into apathy instead of face his troubles, and an even scarier thought is that it isn’t such an unappealing thought for me either.

When Adam finally agrees to go, Mom drives us to the new school so the principal can show us around, but when we arrive my spirits drop again. This building sprawls in an identical pattern which quickly confuses my senses. The wide beige floors and colourless lights make me worry about a monotonous school year to come, because they are completely incongruous with my vision of unique vibrancy I associate with education.

In Sweden, our school encompassed several scattered red buildings interspersed with playgrounds and benches and patches of forest. We used to pour onto the soccer field, rain or shine, and play with the old soccer ball Jonathan brought for school. No matter how much I intended to avoid it, all my shoes became worn and frayed at the tips, but my cheeks glowed bright and healthy.

Now our recesses are nothing but five minutes between classes. The halls quickly overcrowd with preoccupied students scurrying for classes, giving me the impression of an undulating anthill. A map of the school saves me from coming late to my next class and I sit down surreptitiously behind raucous laughter. People generously turn around to include me, and that turns out to be the pattern for the rest of the day. It bothers me that for some reason they think I’m shy just because I’m quiet, which is false. Everyone here is just too loud; what if I don’t want the whole school to know what I’m eating for lunch? I watch my new classmates in an effort to understand their flippancy, why they talk so much when they have nothing to say, how they get excited over a piece of candy or love immersing themselves in monochromatic cyberspace. As I slouch on the bus ride home, I figure that last one is because everyday life here is so monotonous—wake up, go to school, go to sports, go back home, do homework, sleep. That is the world here.

In Sweden, Adam and I would race each other home every day after school and drop our bags in the driveway as we ran past into the forest. There, amid mossy boulders and flowered ground we hunted for berries, mushrooms, apples, and any adventures we could find. When the setting sun shooed us away we went home to Mom and told her about all the amazing things accomplished that day, and so she got into the habit of always asking.

I get off at my bus stop and amble towards the big empty house.

“How was your day?” Mom asks anxiously as soon as I step inside, echoing my reverie.

“Fine,” I say. Noting my laconic answer, Mom switches tactics and starts talking about how this huge house belongs exclusively to us. I nod placatingly, watching the paint flakes as her voice echoes throughout the unfinished rooms.

In Sweden we rented all our houses–that meant no tacking up wall decorations or choosing the colours, but it also meant brand-new buildings with a view switching from forest to sea to wide rocks. I enjoyed running wild in the woods behind the first house, eating freshly caught fish while watching ferries at the second, and cycling around the bumpy terrain of the third. It gave me a chance to experience and appreciate several aspects of my city.

I’ve quickly realized that there will be no running wild here. There is no wilderness nearby, only private property. People prefer to stay immured in the protected sanctuary of their houses rather than facing the numerous dangers of our suburban streets. Instead, a free day is just “awesome” because you can watch another PLL episode, or reach another level in Mario Bros.

In Sweden, my family would travel every chance we got. Road trips all over Europe, from London, to Oslo, to Brussels, to Rome. We saw sperm whales in Norway, the Alps in Switzerland, gondolas in Venice, and castles everywhere we went. I touched relics older than this country, and met people as diverse as the cultures they came from.

Now Mom promises that we can still do things, but when I picture road trips in America, all I see is McDonald’s highway stops and a ubiquitous language. I sincerely hope that the TV in front of me is just as misleading as television everywhere.

All through dinner and while getting ready for bed I reflect on my dismal day and wonder how I will manage in the future. I know I can never get excited over a piece of candy or video games; not after seeing so much of Europe, feeling the impact of vistas that are truly awesome. All my future impressions here will be only average compared to that, so will I only ever be content and never jubilant? I snuggle under my covers and catch sight of a book on my dresser. That one object defies my prejudice against America, because books in English tend to be the most potent for me — full of vibrant new ventures. Once the wall of favoritism is breached, more pleasantries exclusively American fill my mind. I imagine the enticing aroma of Swiss Miss hot chocolate warming me while words dance around in my head; Michigan winters bringing the novelty of thick white flurries outside. For the first time all day, a pleasant feeling settles in me, something I didn’t know the wall was hiding. At that thought, the corners of my mouth slowly begin to curve up.

A Dream Instead of Sleep

The empty city verified this unnatural hour – three in the morning. Even more unnatural, we spent none of the previous hours sleeping or packing, just waiting to go to the airport. Me, waiting to go there and back. Therefore, my friend slipped into a drowsy daze as I slipped in after her to the taxi, and I fell to ruminating whether or not check-in would even be open three-and-a-half hours before the flight.

In an attempt to throw off these surly thoughts prompted by the late hour, I asked the only question I would need to for the rest of the drive:

“So how did you come to be driving a taxicab at three in the morning?”

As immediate as the flip of a switch, our previously pensive driver inundated us with his thoughts. Normally a good quality for dozing, his animated habit of waving his hands and looking me in the eyes through the mirror, instead of at the road, had the opposite effect: suddenly I had the urge to act as a lookout. Soon, though, my weariness wore out for a different reason – the story he was telling.

With each uttering of a renowned writers’ name, his heavy accent became slightly more cryptic with excitement. Eventually it became clear that that accent hid a great penchant for writing – often poetry.

“Whitman cannot compare to Shakespeare, and Rumi, Hafez…” after a good chunk of time extolling these poets, it came as a surprise to hear his more permanent employment is not literary, but concerned with IT and computers. In fact, after getting caught at Schiphol Airport, he went to the highly lauded Delft Technical University.

So the accent hid much more than a poetical mind…wait, “Excuse me, what do you mean by ‘caught’ at the airport?”

“Oh, I had a fake Visa,” he explained practically, “and was trying to get to Canada.” Then he told me about his birthplace, Afghanistan. How his published work on the horrors of the Kuwait war – something about dead women’s bodies in piles – got him thrown in prison for three days. Even the remembrance of this awful time did not dull his enthusiasm for writing. He ended up jumping from one place to another, trying to reach Canada, which seemed to embody something grand in his eyes. As great as The Hague is, there is something majestic in the wide-open nature in Canada which would inspire his poetry more than a smoky city. But now he has accepted Canada as a hazy dream.

For the length of that car ride, I forgot that my parent’s house lies less than an hour away from the Canadian border. Swaddled in the empty night hours, this car belonged to our Afghani driver’s story, and the world took its shape from his eyes. Instead of sleep that night, I discovered his dream. And instead of the horrors of the Kuwait War or prison or a lost country, he told me about the beautiful craftsmanship of words.

Handshake

Note: This is part of my motivation letter which got me into university.

The handshake sent a jolt straight through my brain to my core.

Listening to a Tuskegee airman is one thing, but to feel his sturdy, wrinkled hand in such a common greeting was like touching history. As if I were able to, by extension, be gripping controls of a WWII airplane fighting against bullets and the prejudice of a nation.

My nation.

It could have been just a handshake, just a funny name (Tuskegee – who came up with that?), or just nothing at all if I were not looking for a newspaper story. But Mrs. Martin had told us to be bold journalists, and Mrs. Washington had lectured on the first African-American pilots; so when “Tuskegee airman” popped up in an announcement for a lecture, I popped out for lunch.

Now here I was one random morning, not only touching history but savoring it in my hands like a warm cup of pumpkin spice latte in October.

The lieutnant smiled and departed, but my mind still resonated with images and implications that Mrs. Washington had pressed into my hand like a key which opens the caves behind external observation.

Then I observed that lunch ended in ten minutes, so I gathered my precious interview notes to hurry back to school. This time sleepiness did not shadow my mood; rather, I hummed with the prospect of teachers handing out more keys.

First blog post

Dear Blog,

One year ago I flipped a switch which flipped my life like Mickey Mouse’s trailer: one minute I’m singing in the bathtub and the next I’m eating breakfast. In my own apartment, with no tub. 3,936 miles away from all my family and friends.

Man, that was one big, strange change. So big and sudden that it seemed like it shouldn’t be possible. Lives should be more permanent, right? Whatever happened to roots?

I kept my promise to friends and family: writing letters and keeping in touch takes up a big part of my time. The only problem is, it has replaced my journal, and now I don’t know which memories have gone to which parts of the world. Hence, the blog.

Yes, this blog will be my ‘universal letter’ space. A space which I will try not to censor as much as I do for certain people, and just let my voice flow. It is also of direct consequence of a couple of my friends urging me into the twentieth century — I do mean that — and actually posting my writing online instead of hiding it on paper. A timeless medium, in my opinion.

Anyway, here you go guys: my inner thoughts, let’s see how this goes.

P.S. These thoughts will not be in chronological order;)