Once upon a time, there was a girl. “Sometimes,” she said, “I feel like I’ve been somehow torn out of a surrealist painting.”
Normal is relative, she knew. What is normal for one person is not for another– however, she concluded that we can all agree that there are some things that there is a sort of agreed upon definition of.
This girl feels she is taken from a surrealist painting because her perceptions, compared with others, are abnormal. This girl’s normal is made up of giraffes on fire.
What brought all this on for her was seemingly innocuous: her class was discussing birthdays as a child what they entailed culturally. She followed everything they said at first, knowing what “should” happen: There’s cake, a party, everyone gives you presents… but then she nearly laughed out loud at another condition that is supposed to be in place that seemed absurd to her mind.
“It’s almost impossible to get in trouble on your birthday, isn’t it?”
Everyone around her nodded and agreed. Her laughter quickly died, and she slid down in her chair.
This was not an isolated incident for the girl. Another one, brought up by a web comic one evening:
“Hey… your parents go through a few different names before they remember yours, right?”
The confused expression said it all. It was confirmed by the response of the girl’s new shrink.
“Occasionally my parents, who are in their 70s, will call me my brother’s name, but it’s always followed by ‘Oh! I’m sorry, Scott.'” He said.
“So it’s not normal to go through your mother’s name, your sister’s name, and whatever before they get to yours fairly regularly.”
“No.” Not in the way described.
“Okay, well… when you talk to me, you have to tell me that shit isn’t normal. I don’t know.”
The Burning Giraffe doesn’t stop there.
She watched a youtube video of a director throwing a fit on set, guided there by an article on the insanity of the film industry. Most people watched it and laughed at absurdity of the reaction: it’s a grown man throwing a temper tantrum like a five year old. She was amused and disappointed in humanity, just like every other viewer, at first. However, she also had the addition of a knee jerk reaction of sick terror at the point where the director comes back into the set, through a side door and seemingly out of nowhere to resume his tirade. She honestly and truly felt, for a split second, someone was coming through her bedroom door to do the same to her. And this was in her room, in her house a city away from where this could have happened. She had to wrestle that stupid fear to the ground with logic before the sickness would leave, and even then, a lesser form lingered.
That disturbed her. She didn’t mind being unusual, that was her common state. Perhaps her family is just a little strange. Auto-immunity on your birthday not existing and almost no physical contact can’t be that unusual. Not all families are huggy. Not all parents will let you get away with setting the couch on fire just because you happened to be born that day, expecting the same standard of behavior they always expect. That seemed reasonable.
What doesn’t seem reasonable is a grown woman, in her own house an hour away from her parents’ house, terrified her father is going to come through the door and start screaming, complete with exactly what the director said at the end of that youtube video.
“I DIDN’T FUCKING YELL AT YOU.”
… off runs the burning giraffe. It’s normal to the giraffe to be on fire, and it’s normal that it is running around a desolate setting with strange people without faces.
It’s normal for the giraffe to be on fire here. Most giraffes would be grazing or chilling at the waterhole. Now, what is truly normal: to be on fire, or to be going about life?
She never used to know it was abnormal to live in this world of zoo animals aflame. She used to say “Well, my home life sucks, but so does everyone’s.” Apparently it doesn’t. Apparently other people’s birthday memories don’t include hysterically sobbing on the couch while being screamed at as a teenager and not being allowed to move or leave until their older sister forcibly rescued them. Apparently other people don’t have the recollection of being spanked so hard as a kid a handprint stayed there for the rest of the day, possibly longer, they just can’t remember, and are terribly frustrated that interferes with the comforting lie that “Well, at least they never hit me.” Apparently other people don’t rationalize away that pesky, interfering fact and say to themselves, “everyone was spanked when they were little,” leaving out the fact that other people don’t have stories like that one (or have problems with anyone touching their ass with an open palm to this day.) Apparently other people never had to deal with their clothes being yanked on, or inappropriate comments about their body. Apparently most people don’t have the disturbing realization that some of the shit that has been said to them falls under the definition of sexual harassment. Apparently, none of this was normal, and no one bothered to tell her.
Normal people probably don’t worry about libel when talking about their lives, she knew. She knew names in true stories were often changed to protect the innocent, but that wasn’t what would occur should she tell someone. It would be to protect the guilty. Having a strong sense of what is just, that made her sick. Angry.
So, instead of writing it herself, she asked her friend if she would tell her story on her blog. Looking at the words there in print, identity hidden, she felt better. No one had to know, but the process of it being written down made her heart lighter, even if it did make her cry a couple times in the process. She asked her friend to add a last note as to why she wanted her story told.
“Some people don’t know what normal love is. Or what normal life is. Be patient with them.” She paused a moment in her dictation. “And don’t feel sorry for me. That’s not what I want. If anything seems weird in your friends’ or families lives, if they seem not to know what a normal family is, reach out to them. Adopt them into yours. Help them find someone to talk to that will help them realize that even after years and years of not normal, things can be okay.” She lost her voice for a moment, then continued: “Tell them they don’t deserve this.” She turned away and it took her a few moments before she could finally say the last, most important part of all her tale: “Please-” her chest jerked, forcing a pause, “please tell them it’s not their fault.”
And with that final statement, she wept.
Sort of a PSA, but not really, considering it’s true. If you know who the girl is, please don’t mention it in your comments or responses. She’d really rather not have her parents find this and sue her ass for libel, no matter how unlikely that scenario is. Leave responses or well wishes to her below if you want, but if you really wanna help, go talk to that person you know whose life sucks balls. They’ll appreciate it.
*ahem* Now, if this sounds like you, or someone you know, call 555-…