number one

I remember my first delusion. My first “during the day dream.” It was warm and mosquito season, and the sun stayed out longer. So I got to stay out longer, too. I was nine years old, sitting on a neighborhood kid’s stoop. I’d never sat on that stoop before, even though I walked or drove or biked past it quite often. The wooden stairs were old and warped and pointed at a slightly diagonal angle, towards the junkyard house on the corner. They sold old broken cars on their front lawn, which my parents thought was just plain tacky. But they had a well-kept garden by their front door, and the bright yellow tulips looked so lovely in the setting sun.

In between those two tulips was a black cat, with bright yellow stripes. Just like the flowers. He was sitting calmly between the two, with his bright eyes focused just on me. I remember turning around, to see whom else he could be staring at other than me. His paw was going up and down, like a Maneki-neko.

As I write this, I have a hard time believing what I’m saying. Let alone trusting a complete stranger to think I’m anything other than insane.

Even as a nine year old, I knew I was being crazy. I shook my eyes and thought to myself, “How absurd! That’s not possibly real, my eyes are playing a trick on me.” And then I decided my eyes had super powers; I could bend light with my eyes and control what I saw.

Until this day, nearly thirteen years later, I just chalked it up to some weird over-active imagination outburst. They started happening more often after this, and I just started to acknowledge that they happen, and then they go away. Once I tried to explain light-bending super power to my mom, but she didn’t understand.

For the past few weeks, I have been spending the majority of my time exploring different mental illnesses that may be related to delusions: manic depression, psychosis, schizophrenia; the usual suspects. I’ve crammed a lot of knowledge into my head in a short amount of time on a relatively serious topic, and I should’ve known—or at least braced myself—for the onslaught of emotional revelations about to come my way. And although it’s depressing and kind of pathetic, it’s also really validating. As in one of those, “So that’s why I’ve got this irrational fear,” moments of clarity. I think the word is self-acceptance, but I don’t want to jinx it.

Some friends were at my apartment when I got home this evening. They were reminiscing on old softball cheers. I started thinking about how much I fucking hated softball, and how awful the mosquitos were. My thoughts wandered to that old, broken stoop. I starting thinking about a conversation that I had earlier today with a kind man who had previously suffered from psychosis. He spoke very honestly about very personal things, and he was very brave. He scared me a bit, though: I felt as though he was reading my diary. And what is scarier than being honest with yourself?

He explained to me that trauma makes your brain do funny things. And when your brain does funny things, it’s to protect your insides from getting burned or broken from whatever not-so-funny things are going on in the real world. I nodded my head, feeling completely enlightened. A real Marquise moment for me.

For the record, I can still shake my eyeballs and dilate and un-dilate my pupils. It’s a pretty good party trick.

the talk

I don’t remember exactly how my mother and I decided to have “the talk,” but I certainly remember repeating it to hapless Darby Kendall* the very next day. We were at our friend Kathleen McDonald’s* birthday party, which happened to fall on New Years Eve. Everyone was giddy and giggly from apple cider and silly string, and I blurted out, “Did you know that your vagina will bleed?” to Darby on the staircase. I think her mother was sitting in the kitchen directly behind us, and turned just as red as her daughter did.

I remember watching the cartoon Braceface on one of those Saturday morning cartoon programs. We didn’t have cable growing up. In one episode, the main character, Sharon, got her period. I was thoroughly confused: What the heck is a period, other than a piece of punctuation? And what the heck is that weird, white sponge she’s holding? Why did it expand in the water? Why is she in pain? Why are her dad and brother laughing? Nothing made sense. This was one of the last times I was ever truly baffled.

I asked my mother what a period was, and she had a look on her face that resembled the one she made when I found out Santa wasn’t real. “What do you mean? It’s just a period. Like a comma,” she said. I knew she was lying. It drove me crazy that she wouldn’t just tell me what it was. I was probably too young. Hell, I was watching cartoons on ABC.

There was another incident, either before or after Braceface. I was at my weekly gymnastics class, and one of the other gymnasts kept talking about “touching herself” while we did our warm-ups on the low beam. I was the youngest in the class, and just pretended I knew what she was talking about. I got home and uncomfortably asked my mother what “touching herself” meant; I knew it had to be something bad if I didn’t know what it was. I don’t remember what she ended up telling me, but I do know that if I ever heard my mother say the word “masturbation” I would never, ever forget it.

Shortly after this incident, my mother told my sister and I everything. We had twin beds in our room, and while tucking us in for the night she spilled. How grown up kisses are different than mommy kisses. How hair grows on where you pee. How daddy’s parts go inside mommies and make babies. We were horrified. We were confused. We felt dirty. Maybe it’s because I pushed her to tell me something I was too young for. Maybe it’s because we were Catholic. Either way, sex was a shameful, embarrassing, and taboo topic to never be discussed again.

When I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real, I told my best friend, Feng Lin Lu, the next day at school. She was a foreign student from China, and didn’t understand much English. Let alone a blubbering third grader whose entire life felt like a lie. When I found out what sex was, I told the most naïve person possible. I needed a reaction, a response.



names changed to protect the innocent.