What do you think of society?
Corrupt. Selfish. Everyone only seeks their own happiness, right? People claim people who are already claimed, in pursuit of their own interests, and ignoring the feelings of others. People walk past those who are needy, and only demand money for their own interests. Children and teenagers do not differ in terms of vocabulary-they think swear words are cool. They call each other names without caring about the consequences. They tell themselves that they are immortal, they are the generation.
Is that right?
"I'm Yokoi Cassie Johnson," I spoke, introducing myself. Several kids snickered at the uneven matching of my name. I could hear them twisting it into derogatory monikers, which I ignored. "I'm Japanese-American, and I have lived in-" Something distracted me. The teacher was looking at her nails. She turned towards me and nodded. "-I have lived in France for six years, and I came back to America a few months ago."
"That's fascinating, Yokoi. France is an amazing place, filled with culture and history, such as its Revolution. However I'm afraid you'll have to select a more American name," she spoke. "Everyone here has trouble pronouncing foreign names." Yokoi isn't even difficult to pronounce. But it'll save me the derogatory nicknames, I suppose. The teacher doesn't look mean, so I'm not angry at her or anything. "How about, Julie?"
I'm used to it, anyways. It's not the first time that I've been laughed at. Because I wear my hear very short and have bangs, people often mock me and mistake me for Chinese or Vietnamese. They even try to imitate what they think is a Japanese accent, and make snarky remarks about what a "freak" and "nerd" I am or how my bangs make me "ugly".
I don't even speak Japanese. I've never been to Japan, and most of my life has been spent in America, France, or wherever Father wants to go. My family has grown to become relaxed, and whereas I do have a lot of more pressure than the average kid, I'm not really brilliant for my age. It's just the current generation that's losing its intelligence capacity.
"So, how's it going, Yo-ko?" Some of the kids mock my name. "Bet you think you're all that better than us, eh? Been to France, now that's a thing to be proud of-Would you like some cheese, chérie?" They imitate what they think is French gestures.
It's okay. If you just pretend you didn't hear them, they don't go away, but that's just my way of dealing with them. They might get provoked because I'm ignoring them, but sometimes they just think I'm being snobbish and walk away.
"How are you doing?" I turn around and I see a girl. "Hey, I'm sorry about earlier, but I'm sure we can start over again! I'm-" I just walk away. Again, another person is taking me for snobbish, or perhaps introverted. I can see her, angrily complaining to her friends All I did was be nice to her!
When I get older, maybe I'll meet different people. But for now, every human falls into the same mold. The mold is something that causes you to become bitter, sad, angry, terrible, or heartless. I'm afraid that I will fall into it-but I know enough people have already allowed themselves to become heartless without struggling.
"Hey, my name is Leah. It used to be Baek Hyun-Ji, but the teacher made me change it. So I chose the first name that came into my head, and I've regretted it ever since- There are about three Leahs in our class, besides me! Leah Liang Lin, who is Chinese, Leah Martin, who is American, and Leah Ramirez-Spanish. Would you like me to call you Yokoi or Julia?"
I don't like Leah because she's a bit pushy. Between lengthy speeches, she allows me three seconds of silence-she can read the mood and feel that she is unwanted, I think, she just chooses not to act accordingly.
"Sure, you can call me anything...I'm used to all sorts of names."
"Alright! Is it alright if I call you Yokoi, then? By the way, I'm Korean. Are you Japanese? It's just, your first name is a Japanese name." That's fairly reasonable, I suppose. I nodded. Leah starts smiling.
"You can call me Leah! My Korean name is a bit difficult. Hey, we better rush to class now!"
I don't really understand our relationship. She was an optimist-I was a pessimist. She was religious, I felt more like an atheist. But surprisingly, there were no moments when we clashed. I didn't feel like talking bitterly to her, and she never tried to convert me to her beliefs, respecting mine. I didn't feel like forcing mine on her, either. She said she would give me time to strengthen my own beliefs. When I asked her why she wasn't trying to change me, she simply shrugged.
"It's the first of the Amendment laws, I guess."
"No...that's the right to bear arms."
"No, that's the second!"
I started hanging out with Leah in my free time. We called each other with both our Asian names and Western names. I hadn't changed much-I was still narrow-minded and introverted, only this time, I had a friend. One major thing that I realized was that my life and mind centered around somebody else, instead of on protecting myself.
I became afraid. I didn't want to get hurt. Even after years of telling myself I didn't care, I was afraid. I had put up walls, but somebody broke them down and stole my heart. I felt insecure, and separated myself from Leah- I locked myself in my apartment, spending hours studying, disabling all devices which could have been used for communication and refusing to come out. For a while, this worked, but I eventually had to go out to buy food and go to the bathroom. I found Leah working at the convenience store that I visited to buy pre-made Instant Lasagna.
"Hey, is everything all right? I just started working here today," Leah told me. "I thought you might stop by," she smiled, "Just a little hope that you'd run out of canned food. You do know that I have the extra key to your apartment, right?" I got angry and she apologized, even though it should have been the reverse-me for running out on her. She didn't make me apologize, but I did so anyways.
I think it was that moment, that I fell for Leah.
When Leah got a boyfriend, I started getting jealous of him for taking up all of Leah's time. She had already postponed a few dates with him so that she could meet me, but it wasn't enough. I went up to him in secret, and whispered to him that I knew he liked guys. Surprisingly...he did. Apparently, he had been seeing quite a few. I got angry at him for taking up Leah's time, and only for the reason of keeping his reputation "clean". With an unexpected burst of strength, I knocked him out and told him to never, never go near Leah again.
I think I did a very good job. He kept a good distance from all four of the Leahs in our class.
But eventually, I fell into the human mold. I started pretending that I liked a boy so Leah never suspected that I liked girls-even less, her. I think she really did believe me-but for some reason, every time I invited her along with the boy, she refused to come and acted depressed. I soon found out that she liked that boy. Her feelings were reciprocated, I also found out. This left me in a situation where I had no idea how to act. I wanted to hide in my apartment again, but I knew that my relationship with Leah would only worsen if I did.
I lost interest in Leah because of the way she acted-she had fallen into the human mold.
Or at least I thought.
One afternoon, I was walking home. I had reverted to my old self-atheist, pessimist, indifferent, believing that all humans would become the same thing eventually, and that they were predictable. You could place them in categories, and they were unchangeable from the moment they fit into a class. I lost all faith in everything. Most of all, in my best friend Leah.
"She doesn't care anymore. You're safe to go out with me, now."
I stopped. That was his voice. I froze against the wall, then took another step.
"So, what do you think now, Hyun-Ji?" I winced. He was using her real name. Her first name, nonetheless.
"I don't think I can," I heard her voice.
"Of course you can! What's stopping you now?". My face darkened into a grimace. I continued walking, briskly and quicker. I covered my ears. Ugh, if they could just stop talking...
"Why?" I heard a groan from the boy. "Last month, it was because you were uncomfortable with her being around you. She's gone now. What?"
"I'm sorry, but...Yokoi is my best friend. I do have feelings, but I don't want to betray her. Yokoi was my only friend." I froze. That must be untrue-she must have known I was there! She was lying. Leah must have had other friends, since she was so bright and wonderful and kind and sweet and funny. How could she not be popular? Lies, lies!
"You're kidding," the boy snorted.
"Yokoi was always hiding herself behind figurative walls. She was very tentative when it came to our relationship, so she rarely pursued relationships with others. Even when I see her twitching because she wants to pet the dog, or because she wants to play with that little kid, or walk up and talk to a person, she doesn't. She just gives up. But for the first time, she showed interest in someone-you-so I'll give up for her."
I gaped. It was true-I had wanted to make bonds with others, secretly, but I kept retreating to the safety of the mental walls I put up to block out the pain of being rejected and teased. I never thought that Leah, who was loud and wacky, would have paid attention to this. I didn't think that the reason she was avoiding me was because she didn't want to disturb my chances of forming a relationship with somebody else.
"I'm not interested. She wears her hair in bangs," the boy stated, bored.
"I don't like you," Leah hissed. "You know what, Yokoi scared off my boyfriend. I ought to pay her back, why don't I. Have a load of this!"
I was surprised to find that Leah was strong. She seemed to have a burst of strength, too, because normally Leah was weak and couldn't lift up anything heavier than an average ten-year-old. However, something gave her the strength to beat up that good-for-nothing. It takes a lot of strength to punch somebody you liked, I guess, but that strength comes to you if he messes with your best friend.
"Yokoi?" Leah turned around to see me. "Um...Sorry! I didn't mean to..."
"It's alright. How did you find out?"
"Yokoi. Do you think I'm stupid? I just knew that you would do something to him," Leah rolled her eyes. "Come on. I want to go wash off. That guy has greasy hands."
For a few seconds, I just stood there frozen while she waved her hand in front of my face. Then I did something I hadn't done since I turned into a teenager-I let out a laugh. A loud, bellowing laugh, full of glee and tears from laughing so hard. I bent over gasping.
It was that moment, that all my faith was restored. I realized that even though humans fall into the mold, some will fall back out and change their shape. Maybe sometimes, they never even change at all.
"I love you, Leah," I grinned with tears in my eyes. She probably didn't understand how true those words were.
"Love you too!" She hugged me. "By the way, I didn't know how to tell you, but the truth is I'm actually pansexual! I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, I was too preoccupied by something...Hey, Yokoi? You're stiff again-"
"I hate you!" I ran off screaming.