A Slowly Kindled Light

An old diary entry, probably from April:

“You don’t have to be nice all of the time.”

I was Crash who said it. I don’t remember when; I dont’ remember what I said to prompt it. I just remember his voice saying it, and the force with which the answer rose from within me: Yes I do! Yes I do, or I might forget.”

I didn’t say it, though. I didn’t know him well enough at the time, and even now I don’t know if I would have. No point ruining a cheerful moment, and I suppose it would be a bit selfish – kind of making it all about me, and forcing everyone to deal with my issues without any warning. Not very fair.

I wanted to. It didn’t just rise up within me; it boiled up, scalding and bubbling and fluidly unstoppable. It’s been a part of me for so long, the knowledge that I have to be nice, that I don’t even notice it anymore. I’m not sure why it erupted just then, so violent and anguished. Perhaps because I’d started daring to believe that with them, I wouldn’t have to. Perhaps it was before I dared believe it. I don’t remember when it was, so it’s hard to say.

When seeking a name for my recent troubles, I once called them ‘a crisis of identity’. That’s not what they are, but it’s a decent name. In a way, what’s been happening has forced me to reevaluate the way I view myself. I don’t know if I’ve changed a lot, or if I’ve changed a little but only now noticed changes that have been happening for years; one way or another, I have to redefine the way I build my relationships and the way I protect myself.

A few weeks ago – maybe less – all this got me thinking about the last time I had what could be called a crisis of identity. At first it was just for comparison: “I haven’t been this confused and upset since I was twelve!” (Later, “I haven’t been this upset since I was twelve, and now I have even more in my head confusing me.”) But then (I should have seen it coming), I started worrying about the things that worried me then.

Or, well, not quite. Some of it really is settled and done. Back then I’d decided – or come to believe – or something like that – that all people are born with a certain amount of good and evil in their souls and, based on evidence, been forced to conclude that I was born more dark than light. By nature I am selfish, proud, vain, condescending, inconsiderate, egotistical, lazy, irresponsible, forgetful (even when it’s important), suspicious, bossy, unforgiving, arrogant, and apt to think that everyone should adapt to me, especially when I am having problems. This is not indicative of an abundance of goodness, and well I knew it (and still do). Indeed, a lot of the anguish and confusion I was feeling at the time left me when I finally admitted it to myself: I am not, by nature, a good person.

I don’t remember how I came to the next conclusion, the one that eventually saved me: I may not have been born bright, but I can strengthen the light within me. Nurture it gently, teach it to shine, hold back the darkness with all of my might. One thing I do remember clearly is a day on which I was walking a lap for P.E. and musing on this. I was disturbed by the realizations I was only just coming to. I was thinking on Septimus Heap – I don’t remember the connection exactly – and on how, if I hadn’t been raised by the family I have, I could easily have turned into a terrible person. I have the potential for good, which they have managed to bring out in me, but I have the predisposition to be very, very bad.

I distinctly remember the thought, curling through my mind, wrapped ’round a story as so many of my thoughts were (and sometimes still are).  I remember the frightening and inescapable weight of it. How hard it was to face.

I don’t remember any attempt to run away from it – I think once it had manifested itself so clearly in my conscious mind, I could never pretend it didn’t exist. I don’t remember it even being an option. I suppose the weight of its inevitability was so great that I knew it was true.  All evidence backed it, and so did my gut feeling. It hurt and it scared me, but it was true.

So I was born dark. Undeniably, irrefutably. Fine. I didn’t have to stay dark. If my family had changed me this much, then they would likely continue to do so, and I could further the process myself. I knew what I wanted to be: good. I had read enough books to know what that meant: compassionate, respectful, selfless, understanding, not a burden to others, and appreciative of the abilities of everyone. All I had to do, then, was work at it.

I did. It was hard. No surprise there, really.

I had to keep a tight clamp on any feelings of superiority, which half of my erstwhile classmates were making rather difficult. The real problem, though, was my mom, who had responded to all of their teasing by, basically, telling me I was awesome. When she realized how sarcastically I received this praise, or perhaps for some other reason that I just dont’ know, she started telling me in earnest that I am smarter than most people my age. More intelligent. A better brain, or at least more efficiently used. And all this while I was trying to be a better person and not look down on anyone.

I eventually realized/decided that I might be more intelligent than most, but that didn’t make me better because everyone had some talent or skill at which they excelled – everyone was better than me in some way, so it was okay for me to be better than them in this way. And besides, ‘most’ didn’t mean ‘everyone’. There were and are plenty of people at least as intelligent as I am and often more; if I kept that in mind, it kept me humble.

I learned to keep down my darker tendencies; to be constantly in control. Sometimes I would start feeling comfortable around someone and forget. Luckily, I only felt that comfortable around people I liked and respected, so I was never (as far as I know) accidentally nasty to someone; but sometimes I would catch myself being condescending, and sometimes I’d notice some deeply selfish thing I was doing or assuming or saying and not know how to stop myself.

Time is the greatest teacher. I eventually figured it out. I learned to think of others, to not say anything unless I was sure it was safe, and to not look down on people. I’m far from perfect, though. I still act selfishly, even if I’ve learned to think more kindly. I recently discovered that the reason I think so well of everyone is that I just don’t hold them to the same standards as I hold myself. That is hardly non-condescending, and it limits my pool of friends back to what it’s always been, because I can’t truly be friends with someone I hold to lower standards than myself.

This doesn’t actually bother me too much, even if it should, so I’ll deal with it when I’m not so preoccupied with so many other things. But it is proof positive that I’m not as good a person even as I thought I was. I have to keep at it.

So until I’ve become good, or until I’ve found another way I want to be, or maybe forever – God, I hope not forever – then yes, I do have to be nice all the time.

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Protected

My gymnasium had a sort of end-of-the-year party a few months ago. This is what I wrote in my journal the following day.

I miss my friends.

It’s always strange to go to a party, especially when I’m feeling so… fragile. Volatile. I kept needing to go off and be alone. What I really needed was silence, but I couldn’t find that, so I just fled to the most solitary places I could find. My friends kept asking if I was well, but it was nothing physical. The worst I had in that area was a headache, and it wasn’t really the problem.

At one point I put my head on Ripple’s shoulder and closed my eyes for a while. A bit later I put my head on the table and did the same.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my hair – Indigo, next to me. Then another – Ripple? – and a third – Crash, from across the table. I looked up and blinked in slight bewilderment at them; they all smiled back, half sheepish and half amused.

I put my head back down on the table and mused on the strange and unfamiliar feeling of being the one who is protected, who is small. No one has ever felt that way about me before unless I’d made them feel it – deliberately manipulated them into thinking so, and in the process hidden away a large part of who I am. (There’s family, of course, but that’s different.) I’ve always been the strong one – if not always the protector, then at least one who does not need protecting. I’ve never been the protected to anyone who actually knew me through and through.

It was strange, but I decided that it was also rather nice. These are people who know me, who know that I am strong but will allow me to be weak sometimes. Or maybe it’s really the other way around and I only think I’m strong. Either way, they know who I am and they want to protect me, without ever asking that I be anything but myself.

Strange, but nice.

Thoughts and Ramblings

I have just had a friend over from the US. I met her during my half-year of high school, and something just clicked. For no apparent reason, we are best friends. We understand each other instantly. We agree about nearly everything we discuss, from what constitutes a sensible drinking law to how much we love the dresses in My Fair Lady. When we sit in the kitchen talking, it feels as if she lives two blocks down and just came over for a quick chat and decided to stay for dinner. We both feel this way, and have several times discussed how odd it is that it feels so normal to be together.

We haven’t actually seen each other since, a year and a half ago or so, I went back to California for a week. Before that – well, we met somewhere in the first semester of freshman year. We had French together (and Geography), and French was the last class of the day, and somehow we ended up walking home together every day. Neither of us remembers how we started talking, nor do we remember a time before we knew each other. We just remember the street corner where our ways parted. We would stand there talking – then lean on the fence of somebody’s garden – then just sit on the sidewalk – and talk, and talk, and talk. We talked for over two hours on more than one occasion. I don’t even remember what we talked about. Everything and nothing, I expect – that’s what you talk about with friends. Things that matter, things that don’t matter, and things that are somewhere in between.

She came over on Monday night. This week is my spring break, so I’ve had time to show her the city. Well, I say I showed her the city – that’s technically true, as I knew where we were going and she didn’t really, but the truth is I was as much a tourist as she was. I’m not a person who gets out much – as in literally outside – unless someone makes me, so I hadn’t seen a lot of the sights and museums that we saw in years. Some things I hadn’t seen at all. It was great to get to know my own city like this. I only hope I’ll be able to continue doing so when she leaves.

One of the museums we went to was Thorvaldsens Museum, which is a museum of sculptures, all of them done by a man named Bertel Thorvaldsen who was a very good professional sculptor in the early 1800s. It’s a very small museum, but we spent hours going through it. You see, at one point one of us looked at a statue and said, “I like him. He looks nice.” The other agreed. We sketched out his entire personality, and in no time we were doing this for every interesting statue we came across. We even managed to find Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom, and Peter, Susan, Lucy and possibly Edmund Pevensie.

We watched movies, we listened to music, we made chocolate-chip cookies. I took her to school, which I hope she found interesting. I introduced her to my Mao-friends and they all got along famously. I was so proud of my friends – they are so good at welcoming people; I’ve never seen them deliberately exclude anyone, and I know they never will. I know they’d rather pull people into the fun than keep them out of it. It makes me feel fortunate and proud, and I get all warm and fuzzy inside.

And now – in an hour – I’m going to get on a bus which will take me to Stockholm with the rest of my school’s choir and a school choir from Iceland. It’s going to take all night. From there we will take a ferry to Estonia, where we will meet with another Danish choir and an Estonian one. We shall all perform at a church and (I think) at an open square, not to mention performances in Stockholm and on the ferry there and back. We only come back on Sunday.

I’m all packed, but a bit tired. Or worn out. Or somewhere in between. I need to get a few of my thoughts out, which is why I’m writing this. I haven’t even written to Belle – sorry, Belle. I’ll write when I have more space in my head, I promise. It probably won’t be until Monday, though.

I also need to go. Fantastic. I’m off, then. Be back soon.

Telling Them

I told my friends I was leaving. Last Tuesday. It was going to be Monday, but Midnight wasn’t there – she was hanging out with some other friends. It was the first time this had happened, and it was really bad timing. “Don’t let her do this again tomorrow,” I told Indigo as we gathered our things to go back to class. “I have something to say.” Then Taz, Squiggle and I went to Indigo’s house after school, Indigo brought it up, and on the way home Squiggle guessed what it was. I sighed and told her the whole story, because I knew better than to leave her with no explanation. Taz guessed too, on Facebook later that day, but luckily I was already saying good night and so didn’t have to answer. Indigo also guessed, though I only found out the following day. I suppose my friends know me pretty well.

I literally made myself sick with worry all Tuesday morning – I got a headache, my stomach was clenched in a knot, I felt like I would burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I went up to Ripple and Crash’s classroom after the first class of the day and found Ripple looking even worse than I felt. She said she was going home, and I nearly panicked. “No! You can’t! I have something to tell you all!”

“Can’t you tell me now?” she asked. I found that no, I couldn’t. “I don’t think I can say it twice.”

She said she’d log onto Skype during lunch, then. I nodded, knowing it was the best I would get and grateful that I wouldn’t have to choose between putting it off another day or telling her on facebook or something. “Are you okay?” she asked. I just shook my head and shrugged at the same time – No, but it’s fine. Don’t worry about me. “Get better,” I told her with the closest thing to a smile I could muster. (Seriously, I was a wreck. I was overreacting more dramatically than I ever thought I would. I usually see myself as a sensible person who’ll react reasonably to things, but apparently I’m wrong.)

Crash didn’t even notice. He was doing math on his computer and had his back to me the whole time. It’s just as well – I was able to change the subject, asking what he was doing and such.

Lunchtime came around. Now everyone knew I had news. Squiggle wanted me to sit ‘in the middle’, and to be honest so did I. I ended up sitting between Crash and Taz, with the other three across from me. Ripple, on Crash’s computer (or was it Midnight’s?), was on the other side of Taz, to my right. I told them. “I’m not going to be here for the next school year. I’m moving in the summer. I’m going back to the US.”

I was looking down at the table. I didn’t see their immediate reactions. Indigo said that she’d guessed. Squiggle already knew, and Taz wasn’t exactly surprised either. He put a hand on my knee as I kept talking, to lend comfort and support and so on, but it didn’t work as well as it was supposed to. I told them the details and the reasons, as well as I could. They asked a few questions. I finally looked up at each of them. The one I remember most is Midnight. She was angry as well as sad, and she was the only one who didn’t seem to accept the news – as if she wanted to go and beat up reality until it changed its mind. No, that’s not quite right. She wasn’t the only one who felt that way, it’s just – what was it? I think it’s that I had to sit and watch as she felt reality closing in and taking away the options of denial. (To be fair, Ripple and Crash may have felt the same things, but I couldn’t see Ripple very well and I find Crash really hard to read. So I don’t know.)

Part of me was still worried that they’d give up on me now that I was leaving. In a way, part of me is still worried. It’s not that I don’t trust my friends – it’s just that I don’t trust my own judgment of people. Most people have to tell me about themselves before I can understand them. This has happened with Indigo, Squiggle and Taz, but not so much with Ripple, Midnight and Crash. So while I’m not afraid in regards to the former, the latter worry me still. Especially Midnight, because I think she’s been abandoned before by people she trusted. I don’t want to abandon her, and that’s really not how I see it, but I can’t do more than hope that that’s not how she sees it.

As for Ripple and Crash . . . I don’t think they’ll feel bereft and betrayed, as Midnight might. But they might still close me out. I don’t think they will – they haven’t so far – but like I said, I don’t trust my own judgment of people. I can still only hope that I’m right about them, and it still scares me to leave my happiness in the hands of others.

Belle gave me some good advice yesterday: Forget about it. Get over it, move on. Find something else to put your energy into – write a story, bake a cake, whatever. You can’t affect the outcome, so don’t waste time getting all anxious about it. I’m going to try to take her advice, but I have to admit I don’t think I’ll be that good at it.

The other problem with all this is that in telling my friends, it seems to finally have sunk in for me. Not that I’m leaving Denmark: I’ve known that for a while now, and I’m actually rather pleased about it. That I’m leaving them. That it’ll hurt. That these people matter more to me than I’ve realized, or maybe more than I’ve admitted to myself. And so I’ve been depressed this past week, and making myself sick and head-achey and such. I’ve not been angry, exactly, nor exactly apathetic, and it would be silly to say I’m sad all the time. I’m not. Just – well – often.

I haven’t really paid attention to school since Tuesday. A little, in the more important classes – Italian and Danish, especially – but not really. I haven’t done my homework. I’ve been indulging myself pretty much constantly, because I know that it’s the best way to keep out of depression and head-aches and such. I spent all of today in my bedroom, doing a jigsaw puzzle. I hope I haven’t worried my parents.

Yesterday I was going to go get my passport renewed, and I decided to cut my third class of the day to do so. I ran into Crash and Ripple as I was going to the photography shop to take pictures, and when they asked me what I was doing I lied and said my class was canceled. I felt bad lying, but Crash and Ripple are the only two who might have actually tried to get me back to class, and I couldn’t have dealt with it just then. I spent five to ten minutes joking around with them, went home to get my birth certificate, cash for the photos, and so on, then got the photos taken. By then it was two o’clock, which is when school gets out, so I went to spend another half hour with my friends. I had to get to the embassy before three, when it closed, but I figured I could spare another half hour and honestly, I was in need of company.

See, the reason for my depression this week is that I’m going to have to leave my friends. Unsurprisingly, the best and most total cure for this depression is spending time with them. When I am surrounded by them, I feel better.

Y class was having Danish; everyone else was free. Crash, Ripple, Taz and I had way too much fun – for way too long, too, because suddenly I looked at the clock and it was two minutes to three. The embassy was closed, and they don’t open on weekends so I’d have to wait a whole week before getting it renewed. See, this next week is the week of class trips for second years, and I’m going to Florence. Ripple and Crash are going to Iceland. Midnight, Squiggle and Indigo are also going to Florence, conveniently enough, so I’m not likely to get overly depressed while I’m there. We intend to get together and do stuff and have fun and such. We all feel very sorry for Taz, who’s only in first year and will have to suffer an entire week without our spectacular company.

We talked yesterday – and joked, and played around – until Ripple had to go meet her mother at the shopping mall (which is two minutes from the school). We accompanied her, in part to get chocolate. Ripple went off with her mom, Crash and Taz got chocolate, Indigo joined us (Squiggle and Midnight left, each for their own reasons) and we went back to school, where we sat and talked for another hour or two.

I’m lucky in my friends. I’m glad I had this last day with them, even if it cost me a class and a passport. (To be honest I don’t really care about the class – it was just Geography – and while I do care about the passport, I don’t think it’s such a terrible price to pay.) I’m glad I’m going to Florence, so I can hopefully clear my head a bit. I’m glad that Midnight, Indigo and Squiggle will be there too, so they can save me if I fall into gloom. Perhaps on this trip I’ll tell a few of my classmates that I’ll be leaving. Whether I do or not, it should be a good trip. I think I’ll come back much more cheerful, and hopefully with more of a grip on myself.

The Harry Potter Marathon (part 2)

Continued:

Before going to sleep I had warned my friends that I am a monster in the mornings, and that if you wake me with lights and noise I will hate you with a black and bitter loathing for a good while after. This is perfectly true, and I was also completely honest when I said that if you anger me as I’m waking up I will not forgive you for the rest of the day (or at least not until I’ve won a shouting match with you). I think I scared them a little, because they were very nice about waking me. They were not quite as nice to Crash, though that might have been just because he was so hard to get up.  He fell off the bed and onto my mattress just as I finally sat up and started noticing my surroundings, apparently because he’d been either dragged or pushed there (or both). He grabbed my pillow, but I wasn’t ready to get up yet after all and grabbed it right back. (I think I tried to leave him half, but it didn’t work out so well because everyone else was trying so hard to yank him to his feet.) It took another ten minutes of poking, pulling, laughing and stealing his covers before he finally got up.

We made our sleepy way downstairs again, where there was breakfast. Ripple made smoothies – unfortunately these contained berries, which I am not fond of, but she had a banana and I ate that. It broke in half and fell on the floor, which saddened me greatly. I picked it up and put it back, and three minutes later it fell again. This saddened me so that I threw away the broken-off piece and grumpily settled for what was left.

We retired to the living room. I wrapped myself in my sleeping bag, lay down against someone – Taz, I think – and tried to keep my eyes open. Luckily I haven’t seen the fourth movie so very many times, so I managed without any great difficulty. I think Crash didn’t have too much trouble either, and no one else was as prone to drifting off. Indigo showed up towards the end of the movie and someone descended to the matress. After that we regularly changed seats so everyone would have a chance on the couch. Come to think of it, I think Indigo was the only one not to lie on the floor – perhaps because she was still a bit sick, and we all subconsciously wanted to ensure she stayed well. (It was subconscious for me, anyway.)

After the fifth movie Ripple declared that we all needed fresh air. This was a despotic decree on her part; no one had any choice in the matter. After much griping and groaning about how cold it was outside, we finally changed out of our pyjamas and went. Everyone was hungry by then, so we stopped by a pizza place and everyone but Squiggle ordered a pizza. I had no cash on me, so I borrowed from Taz. Then we stopped by the supermarket again to buy chocolate. Squiggle bought a cucumber, for some unfathomable reason even she couldn’t give. The line was irritatingly long, and Ripple and I left them there and went off ahead. There was a yarn shop between her house and the supermarket which had previously caught my eye; now Ripple suggested we might look inside. I needed no more encouragement, and I came out of there with four skeins of a lovely deep blue. Ripple laughed at me, but I didn’t mind.

We came out and saw everyone else walking ahead of us. We giggled at them as they came to the door and rang the bell repeatedly and fruitlessly. Then we all went inside and ate pizza, except Squiggle, who ate her cucumber. The TV had mysteriously stopped working, and Ripple, Taz and Crash spent ten minutes trying to figure out why. Ripple finally called her dad, who suggested pressing the ‘on’ button on the television set. Feeling rather silly, we settled down to more Harry Potter.

I’d only seen each of the last three movies once, so I was quite gripped. We had a few discussions about how good a certain actor was or how tough a certain character had become, and one or two about how all of the battle spells seem to just throw people back in the air, no matter which one you choose. Crash commented on how ‘evil’ people actually murder their victims a lot more humanely than the ‘good’ ones – one hit with the Death Curse and they’re gone, instead of battering them with magic until they finally succumb.

At some point between movies it was decided that we would perform at the school’s Bandfest. Taz and Indigo both play the keyboard and Ripple plays the drums; Indigo has recently started learning to play guitar, so she ended up doing that. I got slated as lead singer. We agreed to meet the following Thursday to practice.

It was around midnight when we finally finished the movies. Squiggle had homework that she needed to turn in before ten a.m. the next day lest she face consequences which could be . . . severe, so she went home. Crash and Indigo did the same, for less urgent reasons. Taz, Ripple and I saw them off, cleaned up a bit and went to bed.

I had a weird dream in which Ripple was forcing us all to go out hiking. She’d already gotten Taz on her side, and both of them were growing steadily more annoyed as I struggled to get up and move at anything other than a snail’s pace. Meanwhile the whole bedroom was transported to Russia, I think it was, though it might have been France. There were immense public gardens with monolithic structures in reddish-pinkish-orange granite. I couldn’t find my hiking boots and Ripple was threatening to leave without me.

Taz finally dragged me into the land of wakefulness. He took even longer to wake me than Squiggle had, just sort of rubbing my shoulder and saying my name. I have no idea how long he was at it before I started hearing him, but it took a while after that before I woke enough to open my eyes. I wanted to tell him to stop speaking Danish and try English instead, it being my native tongue and all, but I was too sleepy.

When woken, I will not get out of bed unless bullied into doing so. I’m actually quite susceptible to this kind of bullying, seeing as I know myself so well and do realize that getting up is what people are supposed to do in the mornings. Just give me five to ten minutes, and then you can drag me off whenever. Taz and Ripple didn’t know that, though, and didn’t seem inclined to test my temper. We ended up just talking for some while as I slowly woke up.

I made an effort. Really I did. Eventually I attained a sitting position. I even stood up. Then we all just sort of stood around staring at each other, and I gave up and sat back down. Ripple fell over onto the bed, and I took that as a cue to do the same. Taz joined us. Ripple started drumming on his stomach, then mine. This turned into a tickle fight, which ended up with all of us sort of piled on top of each other. On top of me, actually, now that I think about it. Hmph. Anyway, this process repeated itself, with small variations, several times.

We went down to breakfast. It was a tad awkward, as Ripple’s father and brother had both returned home and we’d never met either of them, but after the ice was broken pleasant, if sparse, conversation did take place. Then we retreated upstairs once more and piled on top of each other again for a bit. I looked at Ripple’s books – I find myself drawn to books no matter where I am – and we played with a puzzle box she had sitting on a shelf. After that we played a game called Axis of Evil, which was interesting (especially as I won both times).

After that it was sort of silently agreed upon that it was time to go. We changed out of our pyjamas, packed our things and finished cleaning up. Ripple saw us out, then Taz, who had a bike, walked with me to the bus stop – or almost to the bus stop, as the bus arrived just before we did and I sprinted to catch it. I spent the rest of Wednesday happy, except that I refused to admit how tired I was so I ended up doing nothing all day.

It was, all told, a spectacular movie marathon. It would have been better if we’d all been there, and from the start, but it was still fantastic. Sometimes I look around me and I realize how lucky I am to have people I can spend so much time with, people I can rely on and laugh with and spend time with without worrying. People who make me grin, and often, when they’re not even there. Not everyone has that. I am going to fight to keep this friendship together through the years, really I am, because it’s worth it.

The Harry Potter Marathon (part 1)

This is going to be a real diary entry, in which I detail everything (worth mentioning) that happened at the Harry Potter marathon. If you find this boring, I’m sorry; perhaps you should come back another day. (Belle – you can skim if you like, or just not read it. I won’t mind.) It has also taken me so long to write that I’m splitting it into pieces, and I make no promises about when the next piece will come. This all actually took place from the tenth of February to the twelfth.

This was a sleep-over movie marathon just for the Mao-people; that means Squiggle, Midnight (who couldn’t come), Indigo (who was sick and therefore couldn’t come either), Taz, Ripple and Crash. True to form, I arrived obscenely late. This was in part due to having to wait nearly half an hour for the bus, but in larger part due to my general inability to be on time for anything at all.

Indigo and Squiggle had previously ordained that we should all wear costumes, and assigned them randomly. Everyone else, somewhat miffed with this process as far as I could tell, had decided to dress as Harry Potter characters instead. I was Hermione, due to my bushy brown hair; Taz was Harry and wore an awesome cloak (which was actually a uniform from Japan – I’ve forgotten what the uniform was for); Ripple was Neville, which worked even though she’s a girl; and Crash should have been Ron, only Crash has a peculiar loathing of dressing up and ended up not doing it. We berated him mercilessly and called him a Muggle, which annoyed him to no end. (Crash is really fun to tease, because he reacts with just the right amount of indignation and irritation.) Squiggle somehow caught wind of this change in plans and decided to dress as everything she could. She came in a black-and-orange harlequin costume with a witch’s hat, a pink skirt and a small black mask. (Ripple said that she and Midnight had been planning to betray us all and come as Sirius and Lupin instead. I find the amount of deception going around here simply shocking.)

So. It was at Ripple’s house. I arrived to find them all playing a card game called Munchkin, which I’d never heard of. It was one of those games where you attack each other with battle cards and so on. The cards had names like “Cheese Grater of Peace” and “Sneakers of Running Really Fast”; Taz won the game with a card that encouraged him to mock all other players. He proceeded to do so with gusto. This resulted in a minor scuffle involving Squiggle (and I think Ripple) sitting on top of him. (Taz is enormously tall – nearly as tall as most doorways – so there’s plenty of room for multiple people to sit on him.)

Eventually Taz stopped, Squiggle got off of him and we set out to buy snacks. (I also ended up buying four rolls of sea-green yarn, which I’m quite pleased with.) Ripple stayed behind to make dinner, but demanded in return that we leave someone with her for company. Crash, Squiggle, Taz and I raced not to be the one left behind (not because we don’t enjoy Ripple’s company, but because we all wanted to buy our own snacks). Taz lost. He was genuinely angry, which was a first as he’s usually quite laid back. It wasn’t meant to anger him and I’m sorry it did, but I do wish he hadn’t taken it so seriously. Still, perhaps I’m being unfair. One way or another, he went off alone to buy snacks when we returned.

Then we started on the movies. The first one was almost boring, as I’ve seen it about a billion times; Crash had never seen it in English, for which we berated him mercilessly once more. I sat there with my knitting and let my mind wander a bit. Halfway through the movie we stopped for dinner, which was very good. Ripple had made very nearly all of it, even the bread, and I was deeply impressed. Over dinner we discussed family and how it can be so terribly awful. I felt rather awkward at this converstion, as my family is not so bad even at the worst of times.

It was past nine when we finished and went back to the movie. Ripple’s living room is very small and rectangular, with the television in one of the short ends and the door in the other. By the door is an armchair; along the wall is a couch, which at a pinch can fit four. There’s also a table, which we shoved aside to make room for a thin matress that everyone disdained. Ripple sat in the armchair to begin with; I sat on the couch, at the end nearest the television, and sometimes sat on the sofa’s arm to have more room for my arms (necessary, when knitting). By the time we were halfway through the second movie, though, I had given up on my knitting and the couch had turned into a massed tangle of arms and legs. Periodically we would shift around so no one had to stay in the armchair for too long. Occasionally Squiggle descended to the matress, at which points we all promptly used her as a footrest.

Midnight called us on Skype. We all spent some time waving enthusiastically and talking over each other as we tried to tell her what had happened so far. She got some pretty hilarious pictures out of it, especially as everyone kept trying to be the only one on camera. We put the computer on the table facing the screen and she watched the movie with us for a while. She wrote to us in the chat box, but because the computer was facing away from us we didn’t notice. She eventually logged off. We felt rather bad when we finally did see the messages, but it was too late by then.

We got through three movies on the first day. We nearly didn’t get through that; Ripple had to be nudged several times to keep her awake, and Squiggle delighted in not answering when we called her name and then complaining when we poked her. Crash, who is infuriatingly superhuman in his ability to sleep only two hours out of every twenty-four, tried to put in the next movie, but Ripple wouldn’t let him. We trooped upstairs to Ripple’s room, taking the matress with us.

Ripple had plenty of bedclothes, matresses, and pillows for all of us. Crash took too long accepting when offered the only sleeping bag, which Ripple said was wonderfully warm, so I took it. “I get cold at night and I forgot my sweater,” I said when he protested. “I’m going to sleep in my boxers,” he replied plaintively. “Then you don’t need it,” I countered, which makes perfect sense because if he needed the warmth he’d have planned more carefully and brought along pyjamas. The logic of this argument was probably not apparent to anyone but me, but I got to keep the sleeping bag anyway.

It was two in the morning. Ripple was ecstatic to finally get to bed; Crash, whose two-hours-only trick apparently only works if those two hours are six and seven o’clock, was annoyed and kept saying he wasn’t going to be able to sleep at all, much less wake up at seven the next day. I offered to tell a story – I have many years of experience in telling bedtime stories, and my sister at least is rarely awake by the end of them. Sure enough, Crash nodded off in no time at all, and I felt rather pleased with myself. Nearly everyone had fallen asleep halfway through the story; only Squiggle was awake at the end of it. She asked if I’d made it up myself (which I hadn’t) and then proceeded to tell me a story her grandfather had invented. I’d had enough trouble staying up through my own story; I barely made it through five minutes of hers.