By Martin Agee
I’ve always been a loner. When I was young I spent hours playing by myself, and would find my own secret hiding places where I could stay undercover and eavesdrop on my big brother and two little sisters. I liked that they didn’t know me very well but I knew their secrets. You could say I was an introvert, because I spent most of my time observing the world while my brother and sisters spent their time rough-housing. I would sit and think about philosophy and science while my brother would tease us and pick fights all the time. Sometimes the three of us girls would band together to fight back, but he was the biggest and the oldest and before long we decided it wasn’t worth it.
We didn’t have a role model growing up. Our mother wasn’t around much, and we didn’t know our father because he was never home. Some would say that’s sad, but to us it seemed normal. We were just four siblings trying to get by, and we did pretty well on our own, considering.
My big brother was the head of our family. He was strong and athletic, and despite his meanness, my sisters and I looked up to him. As for me, I could run fast and jump like most kids, but I didn’t have much athletic prowess. Still, I admired those who did. My favorite shows to watch on television were sports programs, especially the kind that involved running and jumping. I was always curious about what those track and field stars were thinking about as they sat motionless on the field waiting their turn to sprint and jump as far and as high as they could.
One Saturday I was lying on the sofa watching the Olympics channel and an athlete was being interviewed. He said, “The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battle inside all of us—that’s where it’s at.” I’ve never forgotten those words, and if you asked me to describe myself today I’d say I’m a deep thinker. A philosopher of sorts. I have dreams that one day I’ll have a big impact on the world.
As I think about it, I lied before. My favorite thing to watch on television isn’t sports. What I really love more than anything is nature programming. Turn on any channel that shows movies and other stuff about the natural world, and you’ve got my attention. Birds. My all-time favorite film is March of the Penguins. I watch it over and over. I’m fascinated by birds, especially ones that can’t fly.
There’s a show on PBS called Nature that’s fantastic too. They do specials on plants, animals, birds, insects…you name it. I saw an episode recently that was all about butterflies. They showed striped caterpillars that spin themselves into a cocoon that’s called a chrysalis. It’s part of a process called metamorphosis. The caterpillars hang upside down from the bottom of a leaf for a week or two inside their chrysalis, and then just like a miracle, they emerge as a monarch butterfly. One of the most beautiful and thrilling experiences is watching these fancy creatures flit and fly about on their newly acquired orange and black wings.
I’ve never been lucky enough to see a monarch butterfly in person, but I hope to one day. I imagine chasing her around the back yard and wishing that I had wings of my own. If I did I’d be an owl. There’s an owl that lives somewhere in the trees behind my house. When I’m awake at night I can hear him who-whooing somewhere far off. Owls are really good hunters, and they do it mostly at night. They silently swoop down on mice and snitch them before they know what hit. Deep down I’m jealous of owls.
I love science too. You might even say I’m a bit of a science geek. My brother teased me about that more than anything, because he said a girl can’t be a scientist. That really made me mad and I decided I’ll show him, so I started studying up. The monarch butterfly is known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek literally means “sleepy transformation.” I love, love, love that concept. Franz Kafka wrote a story about it. About going to sleep and then waking up to find oneself transformed into a totally different creature.
I imagine one day taking my afternoon catnap and then waking up to find that my fur is gone, I walk upright on two legs, and call myself Homo sapiens. At long last I’ll be ready to set into motion my secret aspiration to take over the world.