Memoirs of a Poogle
It is said that every master was once a student. That every wildfire was once a spark. That every tree started as a tiny seed. Few today still believe in these words – and why should they? They are all blind, and cannot see what is beneath their noses. History has given them tomes of proof – but they do not listen. They are caught in their foolish notions that the masters shall always be masters, and students always students.
Perhaps I may be able to change that.
The tale of my past is not amazing. It is not filled with tales of glory or adventure. There is no hero, no villain; no plot. Just myself, living the life I was born into. Braving the hardships, basking in the joys. I was not special then. I was just another dreamer to be scoffed at.
At neoschool, I would always be the one picked on. I was the runt, the nerd, the geeky Poogle with orange braces – the victim. I was always the center of a joke, and not in a good way. All too many times had I walked in unaware of the sign taped on my shirt. All too many times I had been tripped and had fallen face first into my lunch.
There was not much to remember from those days. And it was not for lack of excitement, no. I chose to block out the events of my childhood. I could not bear the thought of having to revisit them years later, could not bear the thought of having to relive the pain. So, like a painter hiding a missed stroke, I blanketed them with something else. I may not have been able to recall the name of the class bully, but I could envision every delicate vein of black on a butterfly’s wings. I could still remember that fresh-cut scent of spring that accompanied every new blossom. Swirling leaves in the fall – I could remember the exact hue of each separate one. Now golden, now scarlet, now withered brown. In the winter, each snowflake to land on my mitten was like a crystal etching in my memory. The separate tingles of wet and cold took the place of the separate taunts of classmates.
But I still managed to remember the face of the one who had hurt me most. I would not have called her a bully at first, and still refuse to now. Her name was Lila. She was a Zafara, blue. Her long locks of raven black hair shone under lights, capturing the essence of the night sky itself. She was kind to me, the only one to ever try to be my friend. She stuck close to me, ready to help me up when I fell. She had managed to melt through my strongest of barriers, my only real contact to the world swirling about me. I had just begun to feel safe, to be able to relax around others.
And then she betrayed me.
I had no way of knowing whether or not she did it on purpose. Perhaps she did, and her friendship was just a mask I had failed to see behind. But then, perhaps it was all a mistake, a cold happenstance of fate. If so, then I had just shunned the only one to ever reach out to me. In either case, we still would have never said another word to each other. Lila, caught up in her new group of ‘friends’, would have been far too popular to be seen with outcasts such as myself. And I, sorrowed beyond belief, would have been far too angry, far too sad to respond anyhow. She had given me that sweet, sweet taste of friendship, only to steal it away again. I was distraught. Destroyed. Damaged. Because of her, I made a promise to myself. I promised to never again allow someone to reach so deep inside me. My barriers came back up, stronger than ever. They were fueled with the combined powers of sadness, determination, and revenge. I became an impenetrable soul. Like a Yooyu, I just curled up. I rolled into myself, and rolled through everything that might come my way. I learned to cancel out my feelings, to wipe my mind blank. Everything I did was automated, thoughtless.
Years passed like this. My eyes saw the world, but did my mind? My soul? I could see myself growing taller, stronger, bigger by the day – but did I really see it? Did the impact of that sink in? Before, when each disparaging remark was like a burning brand, I was able to experience things, to know and feel. But now? Now? Now I could not even appreciate the chirping birds, or the azure sky, or the silver-grey of rain. There were no new thoughts being added to my memory, and if there were, then they were all thoughts of nothingness.
And then, it all came back.
It was not as if a wall had suddenly broken, and all my feelings were free. But it was not gradual, either. Rather, they came back in chunks. Scattered blocks of every random shape and size, slowly building up, connecting.
I could barely feel the change at first. There was many a time where I would feel a twinge of something – something that was different, but familiar at the same time – and I would not be able to classify it. But those were the early stages. Random spurts, a desperate and unconscious plea for help. And then, a feeling.
I could remember standing by a window, staring out at a frost covered world. The iced branches hung before me, glittering like a thousand stars. But I paid no heed. It did not penetrate. The sky was cloudy and grey, iron in its very grimness. But it did not penetrate. And then, a patter of footsteps. A splash of snow. Cheerful cries as children pelted snowballs at each other. I froze. Something had penetrated.
It had been so long since I had opened myself to the feelings of others. Whilst inside my shell, no one could get in, true – but also, I could not see out. Being able to realize, to identify the joy, well. It opened a tiny crack in the armor. And while it may not have been much of an opening, while it may not have been a very big comeback, I felt a little surge of hope – the first I’d felt in oh so long – rise up inside me. Because this crack was like a candle in a dark room. For practical uses, no, it was not much. It could not be used. But inside, emotionally, it was a promise. A promise of things to come, of feelings to come, of light vanquishing dark.
Day by day, I could feel my feelings grow stronger. Bigger. Better. I knew, I wished, and I hoped with every ounce of returned feeling I could muster. I felt, and took joy in the insults my classmates passed me. They may have stung like a voracious wind, but it was like a voracious wind on a cold, brisk, star-filled night. The wind was but part of the complete picture, making it more and more real. The pain was but part of the joy, making it seem truer and truer to me. I could once again see the world with eyes that could see. I could once again hear children babbling and be able to truly hear it. I could taste a melting chocolate, and truly and deeply taste it.
Deep inside, I marveled at all these wonders that I had missed for so long.
But, all the same, something was missing. It was subtle, and I only barely knew its absence. There were things in life that you never noticed when they were there, but then knew when they weren’t. And then there were the things that you knew were there, but then didn’t notice their disappearance. And then there were those thing that you knew were there, and you knew you had lost.
But this chunk, the thing that made its absence so special, so different, so puzzling, was really that it was none of these. I had not known I’d had it, and I had not known I’d lost it.
But I wanted it back.
I was standing in the art center. A cup of tea swirled up before me, sending up wisps of steam. I could remember staring wistfully at the sign declaring ‘Poetry Contest’. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to see my name in print, see something written by me being seen by the world.
I traced the names of the poets, almost in envy. But it was a sad envy; sad because I knew I could never do this.
There was a quill and a sheet of paper waiting before me. I picked it up, my hand trembling. Not from fear, not from cold, not from excitement. It was a strong feeling of belonging, of knowing where I stood in the world and where the world stood in me. I had a purpose, a goal, something to shoot for, to achieve. The hole inside filled itself up. I leaned down and dipped the quill in ink. There was a pause, filled with a sweetness – but only a pause. And then I began to write.
They say every master started out as a student, and every student can become a master.
I had been a student, downtrodden, teased. I had been nothing more than a dreamer with false hopes, a believer with false beliefs. But now?
Now, I am a master. An idol, someone to look up to – a legend. Now, I am the bard known as Alstaf Poogle.
And this is my memoir.