I could’ve been this guy, a true isolato, but more than anything this piece made me recall someone from my childhood whom I haven’t thought about in years.
Believing I was an Alien was a natural conclusion for someone that continually failed to find a place to belong. Concluding I was an Alien was yet another way my identity as an outsider was re-inforced. No wonder I couldn’t relate to humans, we weren’t even the same damn species.
When I was ten, I informed everyone who would listen to me in my fifth grade class that I was an alien and would one day return to my home planet.
I think some of these kids actually liked me and even after that some of them still attempted to befriend me in sort of amused befuddlement, so perhaps they weren’t as bad as I thought then.
Anyway, that’s how I acquired the nickname “Alien” that lasted for a few years.
About this time, I met a girl who I really liked. Well, much more than liked, to be fair. I think she also quite liked me. Neither of us really knew what to do with that, though, being 10 and all.
Her name was Anna. I don’t really want to know what happened to her, as after that year I never saw her again. She moved away. I want to believe she did something amazing and that her life is as glowing as she was.
She wasn’t the prettiest, nor even the smartest, but there was something ineffable, indefinable, about her. I am always tempted to believe that the cliché of love at first sight is ridiculous, until I remember Anna. I loved her fiercely the very first moment I saw her and heard her speak.
And if you think someone that young cannot love, then you are very wrong. It diminishes the humanity of a person that just because they are young (and I was no normal ten-year-old, not by a long shot, for that matter) to believe that emotions at that age are not real, and not fully realized.
Anna had the quickest wit of anyone I’ve ever met. She seemed aware of everything going on around her at all times. And she just seemed so alive, in her too-big tennis shoes and funny socks. There aren’t really words for these ideas, not in any language. The grass got three shades greener when she walked across it. The sun borrowed energy from her. That’s how it seemed in my mind at the time. That no one else seemed to notice at all just boggled my young mind.
Anyway, this story does have a point.
Children have their own lives, which adults rarely understand and really are better off not knowing about. It’s always been that way and probably always will be.
One day my grandmother and I were walking through the grocery store, the usual weekly shopping trip. We turn down an aisle and I see Anna.
We were quite friendly by this time, having talked on the phone quite a bit even after school and such, so she greets me warmly. Except she doesn’t use my given name.
She says, “Hey, Alien, what’s up?”
Anna said just about everything with nearly unbridled mirth. It was like she was constantly laughing – not at you, or anything in particular, just that she found the universe amusing in the most amicable way and wanted to share it, to help everyone else to see it.
That barely contained mirthful joy behind her laughing dancing eyes is what I noticed the first time I ever saw her.
So in the aisle Anna and I chatted for a bit but my grandmother was getting impatient so we said our goodbyes.
I noticed the confusion on my grandmother’s face as she said, “Alien? Did she mispronounce your middle name?”
My middle name is “Alan,” as I am sure most reading this know.
I said, “No, Gran, she didn’t mispronounce my name. It’s a long story. You wouldn’t really understand anyway.”
My grandmother loved me, but she cared a great deal about being normal, of fitting into the routine. Anything that disturbed that normalcy was a threat. She never would have understood me being “Alien” or anything about that.
Anna, though — she liked me more because I was Alien in the sense of an appellation and as an accurate descriptor of my relation to the rest of humanity. When Anna saw me more clearly she liked me better – the first time that had ever really happened to me. I’d like to think she felt that reciprocated when I looked at her.
I am very glad I was Alien to Anna, wherever she is now.