11/09/2017
Weird

When I was a kid, my calling card was "imagination".

Perhaps it's because I loved reading through the minutiae published in newspapers. I saw TV schedules. I saw basketball scores. Those sort of things. The next thing I know, I was making schedules for fictional television networks. At six in the evening, News Squad, with three news anchors ending the program with "...and this is News Squad!" while pointing towards the camera, much like Mike Enriquez and Karen Davila did on the very early days of Saksi, when it ran for just fifteen minutes and aired at a quarter to six.

I doodled newspapers as a kid, and if they weren't about what was happening in school, it was about things happening in this alternate reality planet on my head. Somehow I got my classmates in it, too. They had versions of themselves on the lands I made up, just as I had a version of myself. It's hard to explain it here without getting embarrassed now, because I will get detailed, although in hindsight I can never really get detailed, because knowing what I know now, there are a lot of cracks you have to fill, much like the rotation of the planets, and how concepts from this actual world can exist on that world.

All I can tell you, just to give a hint, is that there is a country called Loveland, and the capital is Carmeltown - it was a nod to my crush then.

To be honest, I never really abandoned it. Obviously I don't have time to thrash out the details anymore. I could not even finish a whole newspaper about a day in the life of that alternate universe. (Granted, I was attempting an American-style Sunday newspaper, with all these sections, and I was writing them all by hand, which is tiring.) That, and being out and about in this world seems to be enough now. Whether you're on foot in Manila or in, say, Hong Kong, you see things you never really had the means to think about when you were eight. And then, you're actually there, rather than just making it up. But Loveland and everything in it - the other superpower, Happyworld; the North Korea analogue of sorts, Bergito, which my classmate Freddie named, I think - it still exists somewhere in my head. Fuzzy, but it's somewhere.

When Friendster moved away from social networking in 2011, I managed to save almost all of the testimonials I got. I worked hard for those testimonials. They were the closest I got to having my ego stroked back then. Remember the thrill of getting one, especially from someone who you've always hounded for it? Like a crush or something? Ah, yeah. It's embarrassing today, but it's what we had back then. And we still do the new world equivalent of it today.

One day, a few months ago or so, I decided to look back and realized what they were really saying about me.

"Weird 'yan!"

"Napaka-weird..."

"'Etong si Henrik, weird..."

"He is so weird..."

I'll admit, I was being selective here. People - classmates from elementary, classmates from high school, classmates from college, even - called me more things than weird. I think, as time passed, we realized Friendster testimonials as early training in kissing ass - you say something that's generally true, possibly uncomfortable, and then lubricate it with some sort of saving grace. Say, how I inspired someone to pursue journalism because I kept on making those newspapers in elementary school. (She now works for the government.) There were things about how smart I supposedly am, how nice I supposedly am, that sort of thing. But my head squared in on "weird". People - classmates from elementary, classmates from high school, classmates from college, even - called me weird.

I remember someone arguing about the semantics of the word. "I mean the good kind of weird," she said. But then she still meant "unusual", and these days, that is a bad thing, unless you can sell the fact that the unusual you are will be the usual soon. You know how language evolves. It's how "literally" became both what it is supposedly, and its complete opposite, all at the same time.

The actual definition of "weird", according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "fate [or] destiny". Or, a "soothsayer". Something ahead of its time.

But I'll admit, I am being selective here. That's for "weird" as a noun. As an adjective, it does mean "unusual" - but that's because Shakespeare, however well his intentions were, used the phrase "weird sisters" to refer to the Fates, which apparently refer to three goddesses in Greek or Roman mythology that had control over the thread of your life, from your birth to your death. But then, apparently, in MacBeth, he portrayed those three as witches, and boom: weird, the way you and I know it, the way you referred to my imaginary pursuits, the way I look at myself now. Just slightly askew, not deliberately, but askew enough to be seen as too different, too hard to comprehend, too difficult to keep up with, and to therefore not be genuinely liked. Otherwise I wouldn't feel this alone most of the time.

And your responses...

Hey, I'd like to read a book about Loveland. Sounds like a place I would love to visit.

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