chapter 4 ; [ATIS]
I saved Mondays and Thursdays for Shannon because she loved the idea of type differences, their weaknesses, their strengths. One day, she said, all of her pokémon would have two types. I saved Tuesdays for Joey. Items fascinated him, man-made or not. Fridays were for Jason, since he got so discouraged when he lost a battle. Every Wednesday varied. Saturdays were for Earl–every other day wore him out. I saved one day of the week for me, and that was just to make sure that I was still alive.
I tried to remain optimistic. As a pokémon who didn’t care for pokémon training yet was a classroom pet for a pokémon training school, I didn’t need more than one day of the week. There was no need to indulge myself in information that I didn’t care for, and I didn’t like attention anyway. It was better to focus on someone who wanted to be given attention so that they could learn, someone who enjoyed the subject and would make use of it someday.
It wasn’t that I hated pokémon. I hated peoples’ love for pokémon. It was consuming and overwhelming and encouraged far too much. It seemed to be the only reason for people to wake up in the morning, the only thing that made life worth living. Everything else was forgotten—reading, writing, school for jobs that made food and buildings, school for jobs that helped the sick... There had to be something else to life that not enough people were seeing.
But there was nothing I could do. The kids couldn’t understand me, Earl seemed just as consumed, and I wouldn’t have known what to do out in the world if I left—because despite all of the time that I had spent in a school, I had learned next to nothing.
“Why don’t you teach them something that doesn’t have to do specifically with pokémon?” I asked Earl one day. It was a Friday and the kids had just been let out for the day. We were cleaning up and getting ready to go home. I picked up the garbage on the ground while Earl sorted out papers and straightened out the desks that had been moved in result of the children’s excitement when they were told that they could battle. The excitement was always present. I thought that they got louder each week, and that they caused more messes every week when they tried to run and pile out the door all at once. Now, it was quiet, and I wanted to take advantage of it.
“What you want me to teach them?” Earl asked, not even bothering to look at me. He twirled over to the side of the room to close the windows, as if no one could hear what I was about to say.
“I don’t know…” I faltered, suddenly embarrassed for asking. I didn’t particularly like attention, and I had just blatantly asked for it when I could have stayed invisible. During the day, it was impossible, since the children’s fascination with pokémon automatically turned into a fascination of me
, the only pokémon that was allowed out in the classroom. I simply made an effort to say only what needed to be said, and to never leave the corner in front of the classroom unless I really needed to.
“Maybe teach them how to light fires…” I continued, trying to get over my embarrassment. This did
need to be said, after all, so I couldn’t back down now. I kept hoping that Earl wouldn’t look at me, and I too refused to look at him and distracted myself by picking up more lost paper and pencils on the ground, though they were bitter reminders of why I was bringing this topic up in the first place.
“Want to teach is a fire? Teach kids fire-types, yes,” Earl replied as he finished closing the windows. I imagined him nodding his head eagerly and intensely. This would have been a good thing if he had understood what I said.
“No… Fires for their journey. To keep warm.” Perhaps, I thought, trying something else that couldn’t be directly related to pokémon would help. “Teach them how to budget their money. How to choose and save food.”
“No, no, no. Kids learn to do that on own time,” Earl said earnestly. And that was the end of that.
What could I say to make him understand? He taught the subject of pokémon all day, and he taught it almost every day. It was ingrained in his mind, probably permanently. He had no desire to teach about the dangers of the world or the possibilities of being something greater. He had told me many times while smiling from ear to ear that this had been his dream since he was a boy, and he was so glad to be here…
Doesn’t it ever get boring? Don’t you ever wonder what holds the world together outside of this school? I wanted to ask, but didn’t.
And I was his pokémon. He certainly took care of me. He kept me fed and rested, didn’t make me battle often anymore since I didn’t like the attention, and he boasted about his oh so special hitmontop every chance he got, even if it was in fragmented English. There was no doubt that I was his, but I just couldn’t think the same way.
On Monday, things went by as they normally did. Water beats fire, grass beats water, and fire beats grass. Electric beats flying, and flying beats grass. “Beats” would be a term used loosely, as factors such as experience and strategy also had a huge effect on the outcome.
Shannon eventually called me over. As usual, she made some statement that was similar to what was just taught, and I would nod my head or shake my head depending on whether her answer was right or wrong.
“Ghost can beat psychic, right?” she said, fidgeting in her seat restlessly and looking at me expectantly.
I nodded and wondered how many questions she would ask me today.
“And psychic can beat poison.”
I nodded at the statement and grinned despite myself.
“Psychic can’t do anything to dark-types, though. I always forget...”
! Fighting-types can beat dark-types! You could beat a dark-type with no problem, right?” I would have nodded, albeit reluctantly, but she didn’t give me enough time as she added, “Dark-types seem evil. You could beat all the evil in the world, huh? So cool!”
“I wish,” I said quietly, but all she heard—if she heard me at all—was my name.
She decided that she was done after that. She jumped out of her seat and moved on to show off her newfound knowledge to her friends, and I went back into my corner. I was already exhausted from the conversation and was ready for the day to be over.
On Tuesday, the class got a new student.
He was obviously a bit older than the rest of the kids, and I wondered why he was here. He probably should have been on his journey for at least a few years already. But Earl welcomed him with open arms.
“This is Sai! Sai is new student,” he said after rushing the boy to the front of the classroom. His eyes were closed and he was smiling broadly while the boy only looked to the ground, not bothering to introduce himself. I felt instantly connected to him just for that. My first impression was that he was clearly the outcast and that he didn’t like attention, either. “He will learn lots, yes? Yes. Take a seat now, boy.” And the boy listened. He took a seat in the back of the room, the only place available.
I didn’t think that having Sai here would change anything, but it still felt nice to be a little bit closer to someone. I started to wonder about my first impression, however, when he saw me for the first time. He flinched when he saw me, and I couldn’t tell if it was from surprise or from seeing something rather repulsive. But he didn’t look away. His expression was blank as he stayed focused on me. He seemed to struggle when trying to pay attention to both Earl’s lesson and me, even though I wasn’t doing anything but standing in the corner.
I actually tried leaving the corner to walk in between the desks so I could get out of his sight a few times, but his eyes always seemed to follow me. I even stayed with Jason longer than normal, and tried to stay focused on what he was saying and asking. But Sai was always looking, and I knew it. When you don’t like attention, you always know when someone is looking at you. Someone is always looking at you, no matter how illogical the idea is. The idea consumes your mind. I was used to this since the other kids often recognized my presence, but the anxiety was never this intense with them. Probably because their attention wasn’t constant, and they gave me attention with enthusiasm rather than apathy.
I wished that he would look away. He was here to learn about pokémon, after all, and I was here to pass time until something… anything… happened.
Look away from me. Look away. If you don’t like such attention, why am I getting it? I cannot and do not want to help you.
On Wednesday, I didn’t have anyone to focus on in order to distract myself from Sai. No one seemed to need my help, and there was nothing else for me to do until everyone left. I considered simply leaving the school and hoping no one noticed, but the new boy would definitely have noticed. He was still staring at me. And I still didn’t know what to do about it.
When all the kids were doing an activity with one partner, Sai didn’t have a partner. He hadn’t talked to anyone and everyone was set in their ways by choosing the same partner every time. Earl, with all his good intentions, told me to go be Sai’s partner. The new student spending time with a pokémon in a pokémon school would be good, after all. I didn’t have the energy to protest, and I didn’t want to risk causing a scene, so I reluctantly went to the boy. Up close, his blue eyes seemed soft and intense at the same time. Still unnerved and holding on to silence, I tried to smile as best as I could.
Admittedly, I had no idea what the activity was, so I didn’t know what to do next. He must have known the assignment, but all he said was, “You made it possible for me to be here, so thanks.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. Shifting around uncomfortably, I wanted to say that I just a classroom pet, nothing more. I figured that I should have been grateful he didn’t want to talk about just pokémon, but somehow, I wasn’t. The topic was at least comfortable and familiar, even if I despised it.
“I’m not supposed to take the time to be here,” Sai explained, and I wondered if he caught on to my confusion. “But since you’re here, it’s okay now.”
At this point, I was beyond confused. I was nervous and tired and I wanted this boy to go away. We connected on the wrong level, I decided. My first impression didn’t mean anything good for me.
“Well, you should start the assignment,” I said, trying to say words that would make him stop talking and would make me sound confident at the same time.
“I’m not interested in the assignment,” Sai said, suddenly frowning. He looked back and forth between the paper on his desk and me, and eventually, he settled on staring at me. I was about to open my mouth again to speak when I realized that he had understood me. I hadn’t pointed to the paper or picked up a pencil or made any sign that I was talking about the assignment. Had I? In my nervousness, I may have missed my actions completely…
I stared back at him, not so confident anymore. Maybe I never was. Despite Shannon’s words, I couldn’t beat the evil in the world, especially when I could hardly keep my eyes focused on the path in front of me. I always looked down to the ground, and I ignored the present as best as I could. I focused on what I wanted, but never did anything to get what I wanted.
“You’re so shy…” Sai observed, still looking at me. “You don’t seem to like it here.”
This seemed familiar. He said a statement, so I nodded. He was right, anyway.
“Well, you don’t have to worry anymore. I like it here, since I’m learning about pokémon and getting better like I’m supposed to. But I can’t stay here forever. And when I leave this place, I’m taking you with me.”
On Thursday, I didn’t go to the school. I just told Earl that I didn’t want to go, and he was okay with that. I mentally apologized to Shannon for not being there, but I wasn’t really sorry. I needed a day for myself. All I did was sleep, I was so, so tired.
On Friday, I was glad that I had taken that day off. Friday was all about battles, and I hadn’t battled in such a long time. Earl made me battle a lot as a Tyrogue, but once I had evolved after battling the students’ pokémon so much, I was considered too experienced. And Earl caught on to the fact that I didn’t like being on the battlefield so that everyone could watch me and judge me.
I didn’t usually battle, but thanks to Sai, I had to battle on that particular Friday.
The boy said that he had no pokémon to battle with. I thought that Earl was going to have me battle for him, but he didn’t. Again, he said that I was too experienced, and that I may not listen to a beginner like him.
I was vastly relieved—until Sai asked if he could borrow me for the weekend so that I could help him catch his first pokémon.
“Well,” Earl started. No one had ever requested such a thing, and I had no idea how he was going to react. At that moment, that was what scared me most, more than the idea of actually going with him. That quickly changed when Earl said, “Yes, of course! Hitmontop is strong pokémon. He will help catch for you. A good idea it is.”
And then I was scared of everything.
I spent the day watching other kids battle. But I could hardly pay attention to them when they asked me questions, and eventually, they just left me alone, which I was eternally grateful for. Hearing kids yell commands at the top of their lungs made me anxious. Having others point out when a pokémon lost or won made me cringe. I didn’t need this, but it was what I was going to get with Sai, who simply also watched and seemed to be faring much better than I was. He was absorbing it all, I was sure. He was learning. About pokémon. He would spend his life going on a journey, I was sure. He was no better than the rest of them.