1 Andreas Napoleon D. Kpacota, a.k.a Pan

A ten-year-old boy is watching Naruto Shippuden. He has a forehead protector tied loosely at the back of his head. He jumps from couch to couch and lands unstable on the floor posing like a ninja. He has this cardboard-cut shuriken and kunai on his hand. In between the television and the couches, a dog stood before him wiggling its tail, willing to catch something he wants to throw.

The boy turned his head side to side with a desperate facial expression. He faced the dog and pulled something from his pocket. It seems he is in a difficult situation. He is probably cornered by his imaginary enemies. He inhales deeply and courageously throws a crumpled paper labeled 'smoke bomb' as a sign of retreat. The dog tried to catch it with its mouth and dashed unto him.

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"Akamaru, don't eat it. It's for us to escape away from the enemies!" he told the dog.

"Aw..aw..aw.." the dog just barked and wiggled its tail.

There wasn't any smoke. Instead, it was powdery, white and dusty sort of like flour scattered in the air.

And he played that kind of child play the whole day. That was always a part of his childhood. All the ninjas, the shuriken and the kunai, the Hubble-like Byakugan, the hand signs that create jutsus and the elements.

....

A child's mind is like an endless array of animation. You cannot help but think and run your imagination even if it is beyond everyone's limit of comprehension. And this was a big chunk of my childhood memories. I guess it will be always a part of my long-term memories. This is hardly forgotten-- adamantly etch in the walls of my memories.

Now I am no longer a messy kid. I stopped thinking I had the prowess of the Byakugan, though sometimes I think I want to have it whenever I want to see Claude. I stopped tossing the cards to summon power as Card Captor Sakura did using her staff. I stopped imagining I am a legendary strong-fisted Sanin who can master the 100 Healings Jutsu. I am not thinking I am a re-incarnation of Sakura or Hinata anymore, yet I still imagine myself coloring my hair pink. But I guess my grandmother would kill me from madness and from being unconventional.

For those who've been thinking I am a girl, you are wrong! 'Girl' isn't the term. In my grammarian point of view, 'girlish' can be a good adjective to describe me. I bet you already know 'what' I am.

Hi, my name is Pan. My full first name is Andreas Napoléon. My family calls me Pan and I like that way. Calling me Andreas Napoléon is one of my pet peeves. Well my greatest, maybe. It annoys me when people call me Napoléon because they sounded like I am a general.

What I narrated was about 8 to 10 years ago. I'm grown up now and turning 19 this year. I don't want to go and bathe with the sun for a whole day. I just lie idly looking at the memories flashing back in the ceiling of my room.

The knocking sound from outside turned me back to my senses. Mama, my grandmother, entered my room. I call her Mama with a bit of a Mexican accent.

"Pan, done packing your things?"

My grandmother's traditional soft-spoken tone is the first voice I hear every day aside from the crows of the roosters at the break of dawn.

She found me lying and looking at the ceiling again.

"The ceiling is not a huge theater!" she cracked. "People don't watch films facing on the ceiling." She patted my right leg and reminded me to continue packing. She volunteered to fold my clothes in a way it will save spaces inside my luggage. While folding, her mouth is talking and my eyes wandered through the wideness of the white ceiling. She reminded me to do this and that...and... those...and...these.

She reminded me a lot. I felt sleepy listening to her.

#1: I should put my backpack in front of me and hold it tight with my left hand. Pick pocketers and thieves plague in the cities.

#2. Never skip breakfast and always have fish in my diet. Omega-3 is very good for the heart.

#3. Never drink water from the tap. It is dirty according to her. Better to buy water from the convenience store or from a refilling station. Or to ensure safety, boil the water from the refilling station before drinking.

#4. Never use undies when it's left outside hanging. The nightcrawlers, supernatural creatures that like to smell underwear, are active at night. They sometimes collect underwear at night so if you forgot to get your underwear from outside and it's lost without any trace, the nightcrawlers likely stole them. That was according to my grandmother. If you smell something sour on your undies, it is likely that the nightcrawlers sniffed it and left its scent on the fabric. My grandmother said nightcrawlers smell like a strong scent of vinegar.

#5. Eat healthily. Not too salty. Not too oily. Oh My! I often crave for fried chicken.

#6. Relationships are a distraction. Pre-marital sex is a big NO. Even a kiss is a part of abstinence. Gee!!! I even don't have a Boyfriend!...

#7. Bars and clubs are barred. These, according to Mama are nasty places. But I do not think so sometimes they are good places if you want to find peace with the 'spirits'.

#8. And Many More...

Mama often reminded me of those things. She said it is good for me. Papa, my grandfather, has this opposite point of view. He is kinda insisting I should do what modern young adults do. They always argue about that. I mediated them in the middle. It is like authoritarian versus democratic parties meet to argue in my room.

"Trying and exploring is interesting, but knowing your limit is one thing." Papa insisted.

Papa, by the way, is a retired Professor at a university. He is keen and cheerful. I can say he is traditionally modern. He is democratic and a believer in the Existentialist philosophy. That is why he likes me to explore but, fundamentally, I should know my limits as well.

I know that my grandparents have a strong sense of my orientation, about the real me. I know that they wanted to talk about it but I think they tried not to. I, too, have some reservations that drive me to back out whenever good opportunities open the way. I have a strong feeling that they know. Of course, grandparents know! They are both observant and my actions speak louder than the words I say. I tried one time but my grandmother is very traditional and religious. I know it would be very disappointing for both of them. So, I keep it.

The idea of coming out to my friends is my escape. My friends know about this. I had crushes in my high school but I realized they were now a bunch of not so good-looking lads than they were in high school. I had celebrity crushes. I had crushes in the neighborhood. They all have tan skin with bodies like lifeguards strolling in the shoreline. Soon, I realized that everything is just a burst of infatuation! Just crush! Just crush! But I am still tripped to them and foolishly fall.

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