paperback writer
A Short Description for a Lifetime

It's an assignment Zoe created for me, to help me out of a (THE) funk, and we did it together, like in the old days of youth and endless prose:

I think you should write a brief essay (like, one page, stream-of-consciousness) on our childhood "game" (with all its facets) as if you were explaining it to a college audience in a magazine article. Whereupon you should msg it to me. :)
So here goes:


It was so much more than a game. It was us against the world; we three nerdettes and our tiny, infinite world versus the burgeoning social constructions of Elementary school. It was our bubble, meant to sustain us for the duration of recess while everyone else played kickball and sorted themselves into the social groups that would last through middle and high school and, unfortunately for some, on into forever.

We enjoyed a brief stint of popularity with the game. It was, after all, extremely inventive and, dare I say, fun. We quickly became overwhelmed, however, and dismayed at the rapid decline in the quality of play and togetherness we originally felt. Thus we further alienated ourselves by "firing" everyone not originally associated with us. Branding ourselves as the aliens we truly began to believe we were. We had so much in common with our two Jupitan and single Martian characters because we were them. We were important in our own worlds, and invisible in everyone else's. We were strange and awkward, unsure of the proper customs and rituals one must go through to gain universal acceptance.

Our threesome became a foursome, and we entreated further into ourselves. We had stories, inside jokes, a language. It might have been fiction but the bonds we forged were real. While we were together, in those first two or three years, we protected each other in our mutual innocence. We casually glanced at the world, considered it an outsider and moved on. The world, in turn, turned without us. Come seventh grade and The Split. One of us moved across the country and two of us by this point were home schooled. All four of us found ourselves in new lives.

Suddenly the game was a memory, fresh in time, but distant in its relevance to our sudden grown up lives. Adjusting without each other was the hardest, but the loss of the game was traumatic. We referenced it with a measure of desperation. It was a comforting link to when we enjoyed being weird.

Flash forward: 2009. We are adults, we four, and we've stayed scattered. We have settled into our weirdness, and college has helped us understand it's okay. We still reference the game, but without the old feelings of desperation, because we survived middle school together. And high school, and college, and all the joys and traumas that come with a friendship that stretches thirteen plus years. It's with comfortable fondness that we reminisce now, and continually add to the tomes of our alien misfit friendship. Because it's so much more than a game. It's a metaphor, an interpretation because we're all artists in a way. It's not our only commonality but it's our strongest one. It's our lives together. And that's no game.

And hers:

I'm not sure what a child psychologist would have labeled it.

"Harmless," yes. "Healthy play-acting," probably.

The trouble would likely come when he or she tried to pinpoint the source. Were our cloistered 4th grade activities born out of a sense of elitism tied to our excellent grades? Or was the game some sort of compensation for a lack of popularity?

Such musings we'd have laughed off, being too busy trying to infiltrate a planet.

The story was this: 3 alien researchers (2 Jupitans and a Martian) went undercover on planet earth as elementary schoolers. A fourth player, who was half-Earthling, would join later.

It started as a 4th grade Lit class cartoon assignment that was fleshed out years later in an 8th grade short story. In-between it grew a look, a location, and even a language.

Like the foreignest of foreign students, we spouted signs of the game, referring to our winter jackets as breathing apparatuses (since aliens can't process earth air with their lungs alone) and signing everything in our alien signatures. A portion of the playground was known as the "spaceship" and we spent our time there keeping it clean and inventing things.

The school game itself lasted only the two years we were all together, but the lore lived on. More drawings were made. Birth certifcates and adoption papers drafted. Alien clothing styles were illustrated. Most of these records live on, though they are sandwiched now between full college binders on bookshelves.

It is not something any of us, I imagine, think of often. As the designated scribe, I can still write (and often do, when I don't want my notes read ove rmy shoulder) our symbol language, costructed from the symbols on a standard keyboard. The others recall only a handful of symbols, but even a Zipton would know that English read backward is another of our earmarks.

We'd probably still answer to our backward names.

And when we one day have daughters of our own, maybe we will tell them of our fanciful game.

Though I suspect they'll be too busy enfleshing worlds of their own.


Anyway that's all for now. Slowly but surely, I think my fingertips are melting.

The current mood of bratnatch at
FIN. 2:54 a.m., Monday, Feb. 02, 2009

ink :: graphite

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A work in Aberration.