I love creating worlds. I spend hours mapping out the details of the world my friends will explore after school. I am the Dungeon Master. I have control over everything that happens. My friends roll the dice, but I have already planned for all the possible outcomes.
Otherwise, I don’t really understand what’s going on. How do people remember what what class they have next? Why are boys and girls supposed to hold their books differently? And why does President Carter use incorrect grammar? He’s on the radio, saying, “I think if it was passed immediately….” Were! If it were passed immediately. He’s the President; he’s supposed to be setting a good example for kids.
I turn off the radio, afraid of hearing more mistakes. Now I have to fix it by thinking, You say ‘was’ implying that that’s grammatically correct, but that’s not true, that’s not grammatically correct. You should say ‘were’ in that situation. I repeat that sentence four times to make it stick.
I have all sorts of rituals to fix the world’s mistakes. When someone sneezes, I think, You make that sound implying that that’s not unnecessarily rude, but that’s not true, that is unnecessarily rude. You should be nice by not making that sound. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do a ritual, like touching the underside of the counter as I walk by, or swallowing exactly 16 times in a row. I’m keeping things safe somehow.
I hide my rituals from everyone except my dog, Abby, and she clearly puts it into the enormous category of Inexplicable Things Humans Do, like picking up her poop and bringing it home in a plastic bag. Once in elementary school, a friend asked me why I always leaned over to touch the grass during recess. I had a response ready: I’m getting ready like a runner at a race, you know, in case I have to suddenly take off running. He seemed to accept my answer. But I’ve become really good at casually incorporating my rituals into everyday motions, like pretending to tie my shoes when I need to touch the grass. On the one hand, none of it makes rational sense. On the other hand, what if there are other people like me, doing rituals, and it’s all that’s keeping the Earth from exploding?
Yesterday, I was in my room drawing a Spiderman comic where he fights a bad guy that I invented who can turn into water. I got stuck in a ritual where I had to turn back the page and look at a previous drawing. It was like when I read in bed at night and have to re-read the last line on a page over and over before I can turn the page. I got so frustrated, not able to move on to the next Spiderman drawing that I just stopped. I stood back and decided that I could put the ritual on hold and get back to it the next day.
After school today, Abby wasn’t at the bottom of the stairs wagging her tail. My mom told me that she got hit by a car. The driver never stopped. The vet says that if she spits up bile tonight she will die. I’m sleeping with her on the kitchen floor tonight. Did Abby have a happy life? She must have been really sad when we gave away her puppies. She had looked everywhere for them. What if not finishing the ritual is the reason she got hit? I can never risk that happening again. From now on, I have to finish every ritual.
Even though the rituals are annoying and potentially embarrassing, they are part of what makes me me. Of all the things the four billion people of the world are thinking, I know I’m the only one correcting President Carter’s grammar over and over again in my head.
Here’s another world I created: