Objects in the Mirror
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
Im not human. I may not like it, but I have to see it. That doesnt mean Im not a person.
I keep telling myself that. It doesnt help. Or maybe its too soon, maybe I have to let it all work in before I can start to make any sense out of it. Right now its still too new to be anything but crazy.
Like me, maybe.
Things are mostly back to normal at home and at the Magic Box, at least up top where you can see whats happening. Buffy and the others are still a little careful around me, but that doesnt leave me all POd the way it did when I knew they were hiding something from me but didnt know what. Mom alternates between Wherever did my baby girl go? and doing a complete freak if I wait five measly minutes before I take the laundry out of the dryer. Nobody says much about THE SUBJECT, but the things they do say well, its kinda obvious theyre more weirded out by how I acted, the first day or so, than by all the primal-energy, mystical-Key, six-month-old teenager deal. Theyre afraid Ill go off the deep end again, theyre trying to keep my spirits up and behave naturally and reassure me that nothings changed.
That means something, right? They wouldnt care about my feelings if they didnt care for me. Right?
Spike is the only one who doesnt treat me any different, and the only one wholl talk about it without being pushed into a corner. For him its all, Okay, so you were born October past. Fine, just dont block the sodding telly. Doesnt dodge it, doesnt make a big deal out of it, doesnt act like Im this delicate fragile flower whos also stupid and annoying. Angel was never really comfortable around me sister issues, I guess but Spike has always been just the coolest.
Not that he was much help when I first found out. Hes really considerate most of the time (and gets insulted if I say anything about it), but hes never exactly been Mister Empathy, and that first night he was so I dont know, I guess intrigued is the right word, even though at the time it looked like he thought it was funny anyway, he was so caught up in working through what it all meant, he never noticed what it meant to me. Course, I wasnt really showing much reaction on the way back from the shop, I was still too rocked for it to really soak all the way in. Wasnt till after I got home that I started the big dramatic meltdown.
Im still mad. At Buffy, Giles, all the others who hid the truth from me. Im not a child, I dont want to be protected like that. So I really am mad and at the same time, I cant help feeling guilty over how worried they were when I did my vanishing act the next night. I was so messed up, I dont even remember how I wound up at the hospital (and my little chat with the guys in the psycho ward is something Id rather forget), but from what I hear, its a miracle I managed to slip through the Slayer/ Scooby APB. Which, toward the last, put me in a first-class position for brainsucking, but they found me in the nick of time, just like always. (Well, it feels like always. Actually, it was only the sixth time in four years Ive needed rescuing no, Im forgetting, only the last six months count, so that would make it the second time but the memories make me who I am, even if theyre not real, so maybe I should count them after all never mind.)
What does count is, they were there when I needed them. There because I needed them. Buffys little speech about Summers blood helped wrap it up for me, but none of that would have mattered if they hadnt cared enough to hit the streets the moment they knew Id gone missing.
Ive seen them fight before, including some times they didnt know I was watching, but usually it was either one-on-one, Buffy and the icksoid of the week, or a crowd scene with all the Scoobies facing off against a gang of vampires or hell-hounds or henchmen. This was the whole group against Glory, and it was way obvious that she had them seriously outnumbered.
I understand now why Buffy let that crazy skank lip off at her in our own house. If shed fought her then, there wouldnt be any house left, probably, and maybe not any Buffy or any me or any entire-block-we-live-on. I know how strong Buffy is, Ive seen her bench-press cars, and Spike is almost as strong as she is and twice as nasty. And they had help, Giles firing from the sidelines and Xander distracting Glory with a crowbar, while Buffy unloaded everything she had on the frizzy hellbitch. Nothing did any good.
No surprise that it was Willow who saved the day. The way she and Tara work together is so awesome, Tara is this beautiful gentle spirit but she knows things, just by being there she makes Willow able to channel enough power to light up half the West Coast. Willow is the smartest person I know, and one of the most loving, but Tara with love is like Willow with computers, its as natural to her as breathing. (Although Willows not so much with the hacking lately, I cant remember the last time I saw her do anything more complicated than key in a report for one of her classes.) They zapped Glory off to who-knows-where, and after that it was all tears and hugs and hot fudge sundaes.
They care about me. No getting around that. They care, and they worry, and they want everything to be normal again.
I must have been in worse shape than I knew, because I cant think why else Id have so much trouble remembering my talk with Ben. He is just so gorgeous, and so calm and nice and understanding. He didnt have a clue what my real problem was, he couldnt have, but I know he tried to make me feel better even though we hardly know each other. I could have this total major crush on him
except, whats the point? Its easy to see hes already been marked with the super-potent blonde-big-sister mojo, just like Xander was before Anya got her hooks into him. If Buffy doesnt actually have him in her sights yet, its only because shes been busy. Give it time.
Maybe thats a good thing. Maybe its what she needs.
Maybe shell marry him. And then when Im older Ill have this hot, passionate affair with him, and shell find out and be all crushed and outraged, itll be this whole big intense Jerry-Springer-cubed deal, and then whos the special one?
Okay, even I know that kind of thinking is nuts. Are these things buzzing through my mind because Im hormonally fourteen years old, or because Im just an imitation person? Plus, lets not forget about the crazy.
I guess I should stop using that word, because I dont really believe it. Crazy is when youre totally out of touch with reality or totally out of control, maybe both. I wasnt either one, not even when I was so far off in the way-out-there its a wonder I didnt snap off and fall into some bottomless pit. I knew the truth of things that was the problem and I knew what I was doing and why. I cut my arm to see if I would bleed. I burned my journals because they werent real: you could see them, touch them, believe in them, but they were just lies turned solid, like me. I left the house because it wasnt my home at all.
I let myself warm up to Ben because hes new. I only met him in the last few months, so every time he saw me, spoke to me, smiled at me, it actually happened. Whatever history we have is real, not made up.
The others they cant understand what that feels like, no matter how much they try. They look at everything they can remember about me, and know its just the result of some spell, and they have to rewrite this four-year chunk of their lives. For me, it is my life. And I could deal with that, really I could, youre supposed to be working out all these identity problems when youre fourteen, I could pretend I was in a new place with amnesia and just tell myself that this was where my life begins, everything thats Me starts now.
Doing it for myself, I could handle that. It would be a lot harder to do it for the rest of them. I wonder if any of them have thought out that part of it? Im not into philosophy yet, I wont have to take any of that stuff till Im in college, but everybody knows the old, I think, therefore I am. Well, yeah, but Im not what I think I am or thought I was because everything I thought I was, was invented by some doofy old monks. And its as true for the others as it is for me.
More for them, maybe. I get to start over, clean slate. Weird, and it hurts, but still pretty simple. For Buffy and the rest, it gets a lot more tangled. Theyre real, theyre human, they always have been but theyre not who they think they are. My memories are just this giant block of bogus, and I can toss them all out and say Screw em. All the others, they have to look through everything they remember from the last four years more for Buffy, less for Tara and Spike and Anya (like anybody cares about Anya, her human life is just as phony as mine but with cheaper workmanship) and wonder whats real and whats not.
To me, to all of us, Xander is the guy who faced down Angel-when-he-was-evil. Stood up to him, half-bluff and all guts, and made him give up on his little plan to send my liver to Buffy as a get-well present while she was in the hospital. Thats the Xander we know. Except, he never did that, he couldnt have if I didnt exist (in a human body) before last year. So the Xander we know, isnt.
Willow and Tara didnt come to love each other they way they remember, during the big dreamquest, because I wasnt there to get them wondering about how Buffy was acting when it was really Faith, wearing her body. Giles didnt kick the snot out of Ethan during Halloween, cause there was no eleven-year-old Me to insist he make Buffy take me to the cool new costume shop with the nice owner who talks just like you do. (That also means I never actually turned into a four-foot dragon, which is kind of a gyp.) Without me to let it slip about Buffy sending the ring to Angel, Spike wouldnt have had any reason to look for the Gem of Amarra in L.A., which means he didnt get chipped when he thinks he did. I never planted the breeding pair of rabbits in Anyas apartment, so the whole chain of events that ended up with her kissing Riley (gag, choke, barf) and Buffy finding out about the Initiative, just plain didnt happen.
If its our memories that make us who we are, then every one of them has a who am I really? problem that makes mine look like a skit on Sesame Street.
None of them has said anything about that, so I dont know if theyve thought about it. I have, because well, what else is there for me to do? But, like I said, I can deal. I can play the same history-begins-now routine for them that I have to do for myself. I mean, thats really what you do anytime you meet someone new, right? So I just expand it a little, get myself some positive imaging tapes, and Maintain.
Yeah, nice if it was that simple. Its not, though. On one side I have all these memories that go back years, and I have to work through them not being real. But, on the other hand, there are things I wish werent true, only they are. All the good things go away, and this is whats left:
Buffy, so scared shes practically attacking me. Buffy crying on the deck out back. Buffy shredding napkins in the waiting room. She tried so hard, she did everything she could to put on a brave front, but she thought Mom was going to die. I knew it was possible, but I never believed in it, not really, not till I saw Buffy hug the surgeon so hard I thought hed pop like an overnuked chimichanga. Thats when I realized: shes seen so much stupid, pointless death, so many people lost for no good reason, she knows it can happen anywhere. To Mom, to us. No matter how special you are, nobodys safe.
That was before I knew I was really just this big green glow-y whatever, but for a second there I was outside my head and in Buffys. I dont mean telepathy or mystical communion or anything like that, I just knew how she felt because I was able to put myself in her place. Shes nineteen years old (then), been battling all the gross ugly howly things since she was practically my age, and shes about to lose her mother. Ghosts, vamps, demons, sorcerers, she can fight all that but not this, here shes helpless. One bad break, one blood vessel growing in the wrong direction and its all over, she had a mother but now theres nothing left but memories
Memories. Mom used to sing that while she was doing the dishes, sing it till I thought Id go bughouse: Memries / of the path we left behind / misty watercolor memries / of the way we were Only we werent, because there was no We, I wasnt there.
The rest of them, I can learn all over again. Xander may not have stood up to Angel, but he did fight to protect me from Harmony, and Glory. Anya cheats at Life. Willow keeps learning new things, and Tara is proud and pleased and at the same time trying to stop her from getting too far ahead of herself. Giles got himself a midlifecrisismobile to replace the Citröen Xander wrecked. Spike has this Juliet Mills fixation. Buffy keeps Angels jacket even though shell never talk about him.
History starts now. I have time, for them. But Mom
If Mom died, Buffy would hold onto all she could remember, try to keep it alive, because she wouldnt have anything else. And I wouldnt even have that, all my memories are phony, a scrapbook full of shitty fakes like some PhotoShop nerd pasting himself into a mambo scene with Angelina Jolie.
Im not human. So my nose isnt running, and my throat doesnt hurt, and these arent tears.
[ Note: Duncan (Dpjrugby@aol.com) was inspired by the reference to Dawn at Halloween to produce this drawing. Send him your comments! ]
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