this comic was my reason for returning to this book, over and over again. this comic was the reason i avoided this book, sometimes for as much as a month. i’d check it out of the library, bring it home and sit with it open before me on my nun desk, a birch veneer four-drawer acquired from an abbey’s going out of business sale. i didn’t understand. i wouldn’t understand. why did i need to look at this image so much? i animated the story in my mind, telling myself i would create another ending for it, a happier ending; telling myself i would protect the first sphere from the second, or that the first sphere would inspire the second to take a better path. not attack. befriend. ignore, even. i could never do it. every time, the second sphere overpowered the first. every single time.
the month before was the month after i turned thirteen. that day, i didn’t check the book out. that day, i remembered to bring a dime for the library xerox machine. i waited until my mother went on break before i made the copy, then folded it once so i could secret into the back pages of my horrible english book. our district had the privilege of a textbook inventory. each year, in every class, we were issued either a new book or one that had belonged to another student the previous year. as it was still very much near the beginning of the school year, i figured that if i forgot about the comic long enough for someone else to discover it accidentally, i could blame it on the previous owner. how strange, i would say. shake my head. ball it up. throw the awful thing away.
it wasn’t an issue. i did not forget the presence of that copied sheet for a moment. i intentionally left it in the book for a full single school day so i could walk through the halls and classrooms of my middle school knowing it was with me, though i wouldn’t let myself think about why this was important. i didn’t look at it once through that entire day.
not during english class (nobody gives a shit about you, go home and kill yourself, everyone would be happier if you were)
not after gym ([indicating vomit on the floor outside the girl’s locker room] i see you got your period!)
not even on the bus (something so ugly as you would be lucky to get raped)
a curious talisman, my thoughts would shift to it at every small crack, every repeated blow, every don’t sink to their level. when i got home, i took the page out of my english book and put it at the bottom of my top dresser drawer: it had been where my maternal grandmother kept important papers, in fact. i put the folded comic under three cabbage patch kid and one pound puppy adoption certificates, that paper the priest signed after my first confession, the laminated sign from the door of our dorm room at sixth grade overnight camp, a poem i wrote about tacos, a story i wrote about marrying michael j fox, the boxed scapuler from my first communion. i put it at the very bottom and left it, hoping the inanity of that upper layer would maintain the image’s secrecy.
i found it again the summer after tenth grade. i remember leaving it folded on the bed for several minutes, letting it be. i remember turning to unfold it. i do not remember looking at it again or what happened after. i wish i had kept it. i wish i knew the attribution, but i hadn't learned to document such information, yet. i wish i could even remember something else about the book it was in. i always believed i would have access to it. i always believed i would be able to find it again. or i wanted to believed i could decide i didn’t need it, that this story was one i could turn away.