There’s a difference, a nuance in styles that I only learned today, but really could change the rest of my life. Like most of the important details in life, this one was hidden from me by women nigh until my 30th birthday. Apparently, I did not know the difference between “wanting” someone and “needing” someone. For the past 7 years I’ve been operating on the assumption that I needed a girlfriend. I had a hole in my heart, a hole much like the one Miroku has in his hand, vacuuming up any and all love that got near it, and offering back nothing in return. This gaping chest wound, as I like to call it, was insatiable, and always hungered for more. Eventually this hunger became so great that it ate my brain and confused me to the point that I forgot why I wanted to be with women in the first pace. The need to fill my gaping chest would overtake the want to have a loving companion in my life. The hunger grew and took on a life of its own until I was the hunger; behind my face was the hunger. Every time I opened my mouth the swirling winds of the abyss howled their pain to the outside world, and those who could sense it ran in fear, and everyone knew; everyone that is except for me. All I knew was that I needed something desperately, and all I could figure was that what I needed so desperately was a woman. I had distant memories of feeling whole and happy when I had a woman at the center of my life, when I had a mother, when I had… a girlfriend. And since I could not have another mother, I damn well had better find another girlfriend hadn’t I? So the monster swept the countryside, devouring love as it went, giving nothing in return, but no matter how much it consumed it could never get enough. And when it found prey that it could not eat, the monster howled its frustration to the moon, and the earth shook and the heavens wept at his rage, but none could slake his hunger.
And so the mighty beast walked the Earth eating what he could, destroying what he could not, and always wanting more, until one day he came upon a small raven-haired girl who he desired greatly. He opened his great maw, and the winds of the abyss swirled around her, ruffling her hair, and buffeting her plain black dress. All around her the sky darkened, and the grass clutched the Earth for dear life, but the girl was unfazed. She gazed up into the great emptiness with her deep brown eyes and raised her small hand to it, as if to say “stop”. She did this because she was about to say “stop”, which she then proceeded to do. This greatly disturbed the monster, as his victims either ran from him or were consumed by him; none had ever actually talked to him, not in many years. He closed his great tooth-filled mouth and peered at the small girl with his anger-filled eyes. “Who are you to tell me to stop? I am a monster, I stop for no one!” With that the monster roared a roar that wet the pants of children in several surrounding counties. Again, the child stood before him quite frankly unimpressed by his display. “I told you to stop”, she said, “because you are making a great noise and you need to stop”. The monster blustered and nearly fell over. “But I am a monster little girl, it is what I do! I roar and eat things. I need to fill this great hole in my heart you see.”
The girl examined the monster’s heart quite carefully. She looked at him and at his heart again. “You are mistaken. There is no hole here. Just a small wound.” The monster frowned, which was a sight in and of itself, seeing as how his great mouth had grown to such a size that when he frowned there was very much mouth to be frowning. In fact he had to take her word for it; he had not had opportunity to examine his own heart in many years. All he knew was the all consuming pain and hunger that drove him emanated from the place where he remembered his heart to be. “Well” he said, “can you fix it?” “Of course I can”, she said sharply, “Do I look like a ninny?” With that she reached into his heart and withdrew a sharp, spiky, thin, sickly white crystal from his heart. As soon as it was withdrawn, the wound healed, and the monster began to shrink. The winds slowed down, and the howls of the abyss became as a cool summer breeze. Soon there was just a boy, looking at a girl; no monsters to be found. “You saved me”, he said, “Just what did you do?” “Not much”, she replied, shaking the bloody white crystal before him, “I just helped you remember the difference between need and want.” She poked him in the chest and he felt warmth he had not felt in years. “The heart wants what it wants; it does not need anything because it already has everything it needs. You just got some extra need stuck in there. And when a person needs more than they want, well, that can get downright painful.” The girl conscientiously deposited the hateful crystal in the nearest garbage can and went about her way. “What…” the boy said, “What do I do now?” She skipped along her merry way and gave him one simple answer in reply; “You live silly boy, you live”.
People said that Lola was wise beyond her years. She thought just the opposite. Lola believed that she was able to see solutions to problems that no one else could see because she didn’t have all the confusing and contradictory ideas that “experience” gave grown-ups. It was, she believed, her lack of wisdom that enabled her to see the simplicity in life. The only problem with her theory of life was that as much as she tried to follow the rules of simplicity, trouble always seemed to find her. For example, there was the Dragon that ate her good friend.
Lola had two friends that she tended to play with more than others, Martin and Sarah. Martin was a chubby kid from down her street, but he was always able to make her laugh, and he had the coolest toys. Sarah, seemed to think that Lola was the most awesome girl in the world, and Lola thought that she should be friends with a girl who had such great taste in people. Lola overlooked one person however, and it was this person who was to ensure that she would not have the nice peaceful weekend she was hoping for.
Martin, Sarah, and Lola were playing after school on a Friday afternoon when there reverie was unexpectedly cut short. It had been a beautiful day, but it would not be much of a story if it stayed that way, now would it? What appeared to be a small hurricane attacked the playground, hovered for a second, and then took off again. The three kids stopped for a moment, but, like goldfish, quickly forgot what had distracted them and went on playing. A few minutes later, another momentary cyclone buzzed over their heads, and Lola swore she saw a large green blur in the middle of it, but it was moving so fast she could not make out what it was. This finally attracted Lola’s attention, and she began to scan the skies to see just what was disturbing her peaceful sky and peaceful afternoon. Even her big brown eyes could not find the source of the distraction however, which lead her to come to the right conclusion exactly one second too late. From the heart of the sun flew something unspeakable, something that almost unsettled Lola… almost. It was huge, serpent-like, and winged, and most definitely angry. It roared, and its power flattened all of them to the ground. Lola was the only one who could even manage to get herself to one knee, and even that took a great deal of her own power to manage. The leviathan hovered over them, its massive wings beating the air like an oversized hummingbird. As it blocked out the sun, they could not make out any details save for its glowing green eyes and devilishly sharp teeth. With a flick of its neck its head shot out and snatched Martin between its jaws. Before anyone could act, a ghostly form of Martin had been taken into the beast’s mouth and swallowed whole. Martin blinked for a few seconds, suddenly unaffected by all that had been going on around him, and said “what am I doing her, I should be home doing my homework.” He wandered in the direction of his house, seemingly dazed and confused as to what he had been doing for the last hour.
Lola snarled at the Dragon, “You’re gonna pay for that! Martin was funny, and I liked playing with him, and you just ate anything interesting about him!” The monster laughed a horrifying chilling laugh that shook Sarah to her very core. Sarah, for her part, would have been happy if the monster had just laughed, for his voice was far more frightening. “And what are you going to do about it you little runt? I’m going to rule this playground, and a tiny, weak, girl like you can’t do anything about it. If you’re lucky I may let you be my pet when I’m done taking over.” There was a lot Lola could take, and there was much that didn’t faze her, but there was one thing that always got to her, no matter what. Lola could not stand being called weak, it was the highest insult to her. She grinded her teeth in anger, and said, “You jerk! I’ll make you pay for that…” “GRAWR!!!” roared the Dragon, knocking Lola back to the ground. If you want to try, meet me at the big playground near your house tomorrow around noon. And just to make sure you show up”, the dragon wrapped it’s tail around Sarah and took her with him, I’m taking her as insurance. Seeya later alligator!” The Dragon seemed to be amused by something it said as it flew away, chuckling to itself. Lola could do nothing but watch and fume; all she wanted to do tomorrow was play on the swings, but now it looked like she was going to have to do some chores first.
Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez were busy eating their breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning, oblivious to the actions of their daughter as usual. Lola woke up and knew that she had a busy Saturday ahead of her. She opened her closet and looked over her many, many costumes. She had at least a dozen black dresses, of all different shapes and sizes, but all of the deepest ebony imaginable. She chose the sleeveless one with the white lacey fringes around the neck and shoulders, and of course, her black stockings. The next part would be the hardest part, putting on her armor. For what she needed to do today, she would need armor, and armor is always hard to put on. Mr. Ramirez barely looked up from his paper as his daughter flopped down at the kitchen table next to him tugging on her magical leg bracers. They shined as if they had just been polished by the Latinos down at the car wash. The table rattled and rocked as Mr. Ramirez ate his breakfast of fried spam and pork rinds with a side of grapefruit. “You going out today missy?” he said in his thick Philipino accent, failing to look up from his paper. “Yeah dad”, she said, “I have to fight a Dragon.” Mr. Ramirez turned the page of his newspaper and said “Sounds like a disaster. Why do you have to do such things?” By this point the raven haired 10 year old was bumping into her mother, who was busy washing the dishes. “I have to do it because the dragon tried to eat my friend and said nasty things about me. So I have to go do something about it. And I want to use the swings.” Mrs. Ramirez dried another plate and put it in the pile next to her. She sometimes worried about her daughter, especially when she insisted on putting on her “armor” and roughhousing with the other boys. She wished she would be more girl-like and play with dolls. At least her little Lola liked dresses, but her unhealthy obsession with the color black worried her even more. “Little Lola, why don’t you go play with the girls instead of fighting this ‘Dragon’?” Lola finished pulling on her armor and went back to her room for her sword and shield. “Sorry mom, it’s a matter of honor. And besides, I’m angry, and I need my revenge.” The Ramirez’s sighed together; they knew now that even at 10 years of age, that what Lola wanted, Lola got.
The play ground was surrounded by tall Oaks all around. Over the horizon through the large trees came a very small girl, carrying a large sword and a round shield. The wind blew through her long hair, which seemed larger than ever considering the slightness of the rest of her. I say all of that to say her opponent for the day was exactly the opposite in every way. The Dragon was at least 10 stories tall, with a 50 ft long tail tipped with long, extremely sharp barbs. The Dragon’s feet and claws ended in long razor-sharp talons, and his mouth was full of the sharpest teeth that the world has ever seen. He pulled his head back and roared his rage to the sky as children ran in all directions, their terror obvious as they fled from the monster in their midst. For his size, however, the dragon was fast as a lizard, and managed to keep them all corralled with his long tail and neck. The sun dazzled off of his jade-green scales as he darted left and right, snatching up a boy here, a girl there, dropping them into a pile in the middle of the playground where he could strike more fear into their hearts. His eyes burned a deep, cold green as he noticed a new player had entered his private sandbox. For a second she looked like nothing more than a small black dot, but she got a lot larger at a disturbingly fast pace. Like a bullet Lola launched herself shield first into the dragon’s chest, knocking the wind out of him and driving him back several feet. He dropped the tall, pale girl he was holding in order to steady himself. Lola back flipped gracefully from her target, landing on one knee as the dragon tumbled backward, dust filling the air. The children the monster held captive ran past her as she held her pose, civilly waiting for her opponent to regain his composure.
As the Dragon got to its feet, arms and wings flailing, it howled and roared obviously displeased at this new development. “And just who the hell are you”, he finally sputtered. Lola stood as he did, albeit with far more grace and a lot less bluster, “You know who I am Lewis, you’ve been badmouthing me all week at school.” The Dragon, now positively identified as Lewis, narrowed his icy green eyes at her and said “oh yes, it is my darling Little Lola isn’t it? I’ve been waiting for you!” Lewis reared back and lunged, cobra-like, at Lola who hop scotched backwards from his strike. He then slashed at her with his right claws, then his left claws in a 1-2 combination, which she danced out of the way of. Lewis then spun around and kicked at Lola with his left foot then the right. Lola’s fast, but Lewis’s snake-like speed was allowing his attacks to edge closer and closer to her. Just when she thought he was done, his tail came around and slammed her directly in the ribs. As she flew into the air, Lewis unfurled his wings and hit her with a powerful blast of air that knocked her full strength into one of the tall Oak trees surrounding the park. Lola hit the tree at full speed, putting a huge crater in the bark and shaking the tree to its very roots. After her momentum was spent, she fell down the length of the tree and hit the ground with a dull thud. Lewis laughed a great belly laugh, “You? You’re going to save you’re friend?” He picked up the tall skinny girl he held before and huffed at her. “You’re mine from now on Sarah. Lola can’t save you, and if she can’t, no one can.” Lewis grinned a grin that overflowed with the long dangerous swords that he called teeth, and suddenly noticed something; Lola wasn’t where she was supposed to be. He lowered his arm and looked around, slightly panicked. Gradually he started to pick up small bursts of sand drifting around him. “It’s her” he thought, “she’s moving faster than I can see”. Eventually he would catch images of her as she changed direction, little more than what one would see in a subliminal message. He could hear her moving, the tell-tale high-pitched “zwee” sound that high speed fighting makes. But he couldn’t find her!
“That’s it!” he yelled as he unfurled his wings and buffeted the playground with hurricane force winds. “Run all you want, you can’t outrun the wind!” In fact, Lola wasn’t. She ran up one of the trees, and had launched herself directly at Lewis’s nose. He noticed, but a fraction of a second too late as her shield crashed into his snout, breaking everything there. As we all know, getting smashed in the nose is extremely disorienting, and Lola took the opportunity to flip forward, hop, and slash Lewis right between the eyes with her sword. He reared back and howled in pain, grabbing his face as near blackish-red blood gushed from his face and nose. Lola continued running, slaloming between the column of spikes bisecting his back and slashing the whole way down. Lewis desperately reached behind him to stop her. He quickly discovered how hard it is to swat a flea moving near the speed of sound that was armed with a sword and a shield. When Lola got near the bottom of Lewis, the world dropped out from beneath her, literally; he dropped his tail and swatted her with the end of it. She shot into orbit as if a space shuttle were underneath her. Lewis yelled “FIRE WHIRLWIND!” and started to blow fire in front of him while using his wings to create a cyclone. What resulted was just what he said; a huge column of fire, and Lola was falling right into it. All she could do was cover up behind her shield and armor and hope to survive. The heat was unbearable, and he was just adding to it. Once Lewis felt like he had created enough heat to duplicate a small sun, he pulled his wings far back, and blew the Tornado the wall of Oak trees. After being spun in a fiery tornado, the last thing Lola really needed was to be slammed into a rock hard Oak tree (again) exactly the way little girls should not be slammed against large solid objects. As she hit the ground (again) she noticed something aside from the staggering pain racking her body; her dress was torn. Her. Dress. Was. Torn.
“That’s it. Now, I’m angry.”
Lewis was quickly crossing the playground to deliver the killing blow, and slammed his hand down on her. He brushed the blunt side of one of his talons against her honey brown face and said “Oh Lola, you are such a wonderful fighter. You know, it doesn’t have to be this way between us. All I want to do is lay down with you resting your beautiful black hair on my chest.” He ran his talon through her hair and said “we could have a wonderful life together, or” he turned his talon over to the sharp side and the hair was instantly cut just from the force of gravity, his claws were that sharp “we could be enemies. I would much rather do things the easy way. Because if I can’t have you, no one will.” Lola squirmed beneath his hand “is that what this is about? Jealousy? Because I became best friends with Sarah, you turned into this?” Lewis smirked “Duh Lola, don’t you recognize the green eyed monster when you see him? Now how are we going to finish this, the easy way or the hard way? You know you belong with me, and you should be with me. I need you, AND I WILL BURN EVERY KID IN THIS TOWN UNTIL YOU AND I ARE THE ONLY ONES LEFT!”
Lola knew this had to stop, and soon. Not only had her former friend clearly lost his mind, but her dress was torn, and that meant that playtime was over. Lola started to glow with a dark radiant energy that forced the Dragon of Jealousy off of her. “I SUMMON THE RADIANT BLACKNESS POWER-UP!” Suddenly, all light disappeared from the playground; when it returned, Lola was a shining black star, zipping around Lewis at speeds that made him more than slightly nervous. The star circled his right leg, and suddenly his knee cracked. Lewis screamed in pain and collapsed onto his side as his left knee soon followed. The Dragon could not follow her movements; all he could do was feel the various hits she delivered to his body and the accompanying pain. Finally, when the blows stopped, she floated before him. In his daze of pain and blood all he could see was Lola, bathed in what looked like ebony flames. “I want you to know one thing Lewis. I belong to no one. I do not need anyone. And it does not matter how big or strong you or anyone else gets, I will always be able to beat you. Now if you want to talk about this like friends, I’m all for it, but until then, I’m going to finish you before you hurt anyone else. You’re not the only one around here who can Burn baby burn; BLACK STAR SUPERNOVA!” Lola’s aura started to glow stronger, larger, brighter, and most importantly hotter, threatening to engulf all of Lewis. He used his last bit of energy to take off into the air, and flew away. “We’ll finish this discussion later Lola. I guarantee it!”
“Of course we will you idiot”, she said, “We have class together.” Lola sighed and wondered why she went through all of this trouble just to use the swings.
Monday was… awkward to say the least.
I don’t remember what class was about. It wasn’t really important, since I already knew my grammar backwards and forwards, but I really should have been paying attention. What I was paying attention to, however, was the psycho-drama going on all around me. I didn’t quite understand why, but a lot of my classmates where being overcome with some strange new feelings and emotions that I suspect even they did not understand. For instance, my former friend Lewis, to my left, seems to have developed some strange sort of intense liking for me, and in his jealousy he’s turned into a giant green dragon. Well, not now of course, now he just looks somewhat reptilian, but all of those with enough imagination could see the cold green light coming from his eyes and the reptilian scaly sheen his skin had taken. And the fact that he just… won’t… stop… staring… at… me… As for Sarah, the one he is Jealous of, she’s still shaking like a leaf over the whole experience, and I think she’s convinced herself that it was all some sort of bad date she went on. Whatever happens, I have to settle this today because I refuse to have my lunch periods disturbed by this mess all week long, and I definitely do not want to go another 10 rounds with Godzilla over here. My imagination is still sore from our last go round. I definitely had to take care of this today if I wanted to have any peace for the rest of the week. Gym is before Lunch, I’ll take care of Dragon breath then.
The rest of the morning went uneventfully for Lola, except for some furtive glances shot back and forth across the classroom. It was as she said, the air was thick with miscommunications, and few if any of the students were concentrating on their studies. It was late Spring, and the weather was getting warmer. Spring fever was setting in, and everyone was getting antsy; it even showed in the younger teachers. The flirtation between the male and female teacher’s, and the female and female gym teachers at Shikai Elementary School was beginning to show itself. The imagination of the students, however, where running wild, and Lola was only beginning to understand the significance of that for herself and for everyone around her. The monsters in the world would grow and multiply, but fortunately, so would her friends, and the good things that happen to people when they need them too.
Since it was such a beautiful day, all the kids were on the playground today. Lola asked Lewis to hang back in the gym for a while. He did as she asked since he was infatuated with her, but he could not find her. He wandered around the gym a bit until he unexpectedly ran directly into her fist. “SHO-RYU-KEN” Lola cried as she Dragon Punched Lewis into the air. She had gone into Street Fighter mode, as evidenced by her long golden-blonde hair and red karate gi. Lewis Flew into the air and hit the steel girders at the top of the gym. Hard. As he came down he tried to assume his Dragon form, but as you may have noticed, Lola is a very smart girl. Before he hit the ground she met him in midair and gave him a big bear hug, pile-driving him into the gym floor. She then stood him up and yelled “Shippu Jinrai Kyaku!” roundhouse-kicking Lewis into the air, then knocking him down to Earth again. As his broken form lay there, twitching and battered, much of his lizard form drained from him, save for the jealous green eyes, which still blazed with the same fury that Lola had seen on Saturday. She kneeled down in front of him and said, “oh, I wanted to talk to you at lunch. This was just to remind you to be there, and no funny business.” As she got to the gym door to go outside and play with the rest of the kids, she turned around, flashed a big smile at Lewis, gave him a thumbs up and said “Ya’ta ne!”
Recess was rather uneventful, though Lola did notice that kids weren’t slipping into their imaginative forms as easily as they used to. It seemed like it was as easy as putting on clothes before, but she noticed that for some kids, it seemed to be getting… harder for them to use their imaginations. For some now it seemed to be like flexing a muscle; they could do it, but eventually their minds would get fatigued. Not for her of course, Lola always knew she was different. But there was something strange happening to those around her, and whatever it was could eventually afflict her too! If only… if only she actually gave a damn about others she would do something about it!
“Lewis, what do you want from me?”
“I don’t know.”
“What would you even do if you had me?”
“I don’t know.”
“So what exactly, are you doing all of this for?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“That’s becoming somewhat apparent.”
The pair sat bye themselves in a corner of the lunchroom and ate quietly. “You know you scared poor Sarah half to death.”
“Yeah I see that now. You know you could have just told me this before instead of beating the snot out of me.”
“Yes but that would not have been nearly as much fun. For me. Now listen, I don’t know what all of this is about ‘me’ and ‘you’ and ‘us’, but I asked my older sister and she says it sounds a lot like ‘drama’, which is a word I don’t like one bit. She says that a 10 and 11 year old are way too young for ‘drama’, and that it should be avoided at all costs. Me and her don’t agree on much, but I think I’m gonna go with her on this one”
“Do you think I want to feel this way? I mean, being a dragon is pretty cool, but being consumed by jealousy isn’t. Like I said, even if I had you I wouldn’t know what to do with you, and most of the time I think girls are horrible and… what’s the word my dad uses… repulsive. Mainly I just want you so that no one else can have you.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!”
“I know! I know it doesn’t make any sense! Look, I lived in the city most of my life. When we moved out here, the first night I went outside I looked up into the sky, and a billion stars shined down on me. I never knew they were there before, but they’ve been there for millions of years and I never knew until we moved here. And I sat there for hours until my mother made me come inside. But now every chance I get I go outside and let all those tiny suns shine on me and somehow every time I see them it’s like the first night all over again. That’s how I feel when I see you Lola. Every day when I look at you, it’s like the first time, it’s like the first time I saw a sky full of stars.”
Lewis looked at Lola and suddenly realized that he was speaking out loud and that she could hear him. Consequently for 5 minutes after they both sat in silence and sipped at their milk.
“This is awkward”, Lola finally announced, “I hate awkward. So here’s what happens from here on. You don’t get me, no one gets me. If you turn into that Dragon again, I’ll pound the jealousy out of you, rip your heart out, and physically crush your jealousy in my hands. Now, to be honest, that’s what I’m hoping will happen. More fun for me. There is an alternative; would you like to hear the alternative?”
Lewis eagerly shook his head yes. Anything, he thought, would be preferable to getting the snot kicked out of him. And he was being truthful; he honestly did not like feeling this way. He wanted nothing more than to be able to look at himself in the mirror and not see his own hateful, baleful green gaze staring back at him. Lately he hated himself and everyone else, and the one person who he did not hate he could not have, and that made the hate in his heart grow stronger. As he walked down this path in his mind the balefire in his heart grew stronger, and his nails dug furrows in the table they sat at. He looked up angrily and the fire was back in his eyes. It was met by Lola’s equally unsettling gaze, which quickly put down his minor uprising.
“But we can end this all right now. In fact, I am going to end this right now.” Lewis flinched as Lola sat back down in her chair, never removing her gaze from his. “Listen, I like you, you’re a good friend. But whatever it is that you feel for me, stop feeling it, because it’s creepy and in the end I’m only going to end up having to hurt you again, got it? I don’t mind hurting you, but I suspect you do.”
Lewis pondered her words. Logically speaking, she had kicked his butt twice now, and it had hurt a lot. Add to that the painful longing that the jealousy had engendered in him, and the terror he had inspired in his classmates…
Lewis closed his eyes again. He saw the scaly green path of Hatred he was on, and for the first time he saw how it was lined with barbs and spikes and thorns, and at the end there really was no treasure, no reward but more of the same. The path had always been lined with Jade flames which prevented him from seeing what was beyond them, but now the flames where so low that he could see another path, the one he was originally on. This path involved less burning and clawing and more fast food and video game playing.
When Lewis opened his eyes, they were a normal color again, brown in case you were wondering. Lola was stuffing the rest of her cheeseburger into her mouth, being very careful not to get any ketchup onto her black dress. After she choked down the rest of her meal she said, “I guess you made a decision huh?”
“Yeah”, Lewis said, “I did, and I feel much better. But… what do I do about all the people I’ve scared and hurt?”
“I don’t know” Lola said, “go back to class? I don’t do damage control; I just hit things and wear black dresses. That’s how I avoid these messes you people get yourselves into, I keep my life simple.”