On Embracing Your Inner NPC

We’re often told to romanticize our lives. That we’re the Main Character in the story and the rest are just extras. We are told to find our light and to shine brightly. And that makes a ton of sense…if you are a raging sociopath who doesn’t care about others. It’s easy to say that we’re the main characters of our own stories but the truth is we just can’t be the main character to everyone’s story. 

I am a comic book character. I live a bombastic life with larger than life stories and a healthy and unhealthy amount of trauma to go with it. To those close to me I seem extroverted, charismatic and am eager to bring my friends along with me on my many desired adventures. I am a shonen leading man complete with dead parents and trauma-induced mental illness. And while I am enamored with the idea of being the main character in even the stories of my dear friends I am also keenly aware of the fact that every opera can only have one prima donna and I don’t realistically want to be the main character of any of my friend’s or anyone else’s narrative. To many people from my best friend, to the lady at the bank, to the guy at the sandwich shop or my coworkers and those I pay to make me feel pretty: I am an NPC. 

An NPC is a non-playable character and in video games they fill in several roles. NPCs can either give you items or goods, be merchants or those that have items, they can help you as members of your party or they can just be truly background characters; static and never moving from their assigned spots. 

Think about a game like Legend of Zelda which is full of annoying charming NPCs who have a myriad of items for you and are there to help you, the main character, survive your death quest to fix the world’s evil or something. Some of them have items, some are just there, some may even help you along the way. 

It may just be the part of my brain that tries to romanticize my own life that makes me nearly obsessively concerned about my impact on other people. It isn’t an entirely altruistic thing; it’s more of a morbid curiosity and nearly paralyzing fear. I am worried that I have left a bad taste in someone’s mouth or that I was the one bad interaction someone had that put them over the edge or something. I am very aware that I am one of possibly thousands of interactions any given person has in a day so I do my best to not just be pleasant but to be overly-accommodating at times because even if to them I am an NPC, I’d like that memory not to be a miserable one. 


I’ve been listening to Nujabes since the mid 2000s with their many hits off the Samurai Champloo OST and was immediately struck by the not just lyrical genius behind many of the songs but the flow and how they could instantly make me feel like I was part of a movie or video game. It was easy to fall into the world of Samurai Champloo in part because it has such an amazing soundtrack that leads you on a journey with the characters and one that is as fluid and hip-hop inspired as the fictional Edo the series is set in. 

I noticed particularly how much I liked their music when I had some of the most aesthetic songs pop up during my commute home from work. It just felt utterly right to be driving (at a responsible speed) down the highway with the stereo on and feeling like I was both my own main character but someone’s NPC. I was at peace with my twoness and the romanticization of my life was not something in conflict with the fact that to many I am an NPC but it was at harmonious one with it. I am the main character of my own story and to my friends, I’m trusted companion, to those I meet I am a seller, confidant, advisor or person crying in a Starbucks. 

My story is still ongoing and told from many different perspectives and I am not the most reliable of narrators. You may be asking why I mentioned Nujabes earlier and outside of it just being amazing music, it’s also helped me realize this duality due to the simple fact that every romanticized character should have an amazing soundtrack. 

So here it is: my OST. Let’s jam.

Walk Cycle
Nujabes – Tsurugi No Mai

Character Theme
Feather

Triumvirate (Me, Ricky & Carlos)
Samurai Champloo – Hiji Zuru Style [Impression OST]

Battle Theme

World’s end Rhapsody

Background Music
Nujabes – Aruarian Dance (Samurai Champloo OST) . Track 03

My Father’s Cult

It’s a memory that has been locked in the back of my mind for a while now, the church my father used to go to. Faith Christian Fellowship, FCF, a large church on the outside of the county line that was a trek every Sunday to go to. We were one of the few black families in a predominately white church and the earliest memories I have of it was that it was radically different from the Catholic church I went to with my grandfather and aunts. It was always loud and rambunctious but personable and welcoming. It didn’t feel like the clinical ritual of the Catholic church but something expressive and bright. I thought things were fine and I was mostly just glad that it also gave my mother; sick with kidney, heart and lung failure something to do and have faith in. 

That was the beginning. 

Sunday school there was different. We said a pledge not just to the flag of the United States but also to the Christian flag. We only took communion every other service as they said catholics ruined it by taking communion so often. The children there didn’t play video games and didn’t watch TV like I did. They didn’t read the books I did or even lived like I did. They were sheltered and that was coming from a kid who was already excessively sheltered. I made friends, sure, but all the friendships felt surface level, even as a child. 

Dad blended in perfectly into the community of mostly older white men, something most black men simply didn’t do. Mom was welcomed in with open arms as as a unit we were accepted but I wasn’t accepted. I was quirky and strange thanks to unseen turbulent home life and due to the restrictive nature of children around me. I liked all the things they were told not to like but that friction didn’t stay in place for long. 

Faith Christian Fellowship was an anti-science church. They thrived off of faith healing and creationism and showed videos that explained that Genesis was a real factual account of how the world began and that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time and had “proof” of it in the form of footprints and ammonites and pseudo-science and it was there that I began to fall in line. I was a lover of dinosaurs and paleontology and a naturally curious child so being able to see this as a giant puzzle that was some secret conspiracy that others did not want us to know was tantalizing to my little mind. I was able to make friends that way though I never gave up Pokemon and Harry Potter

I was willing to tell my Catholic aunts that they were wrong and that they took communion too often and I found my the church that I was baptized in and received my sacraments in boring and stuffy and wanted the cheap thrills of Christan Rock and pseudoscience and speaking in tongues and people just falling out after being touched by The Holy Spirit. I rejected Catholicism with my mother and we fell deeper and deeper into the church. 

Tithing was also incredibly important to the congregation as was just general monetary support. Pastors Force sold CDs, books, Bibles, all kinds of things and 10% of a tithe was the bare minimum accepted. We were told that the more we gave, the more we’d receive and as Pastor Force flaunted nice suits and nice watches and nice shoes my parents ignored bills and medicine to keep up with the Joneses and continue to pay the church. Pastor Force always made it sound like the church was one dollar away from closing despite the fancy earthly pleasures he had and that was enough to keep my parents engrossed and giving along with the rest of the congregation. 

There was a dove hunt one year that I never understood. I am still shocked by how many evangelical churches that have dove hunts. Aren’t doves God’s messengers? Why are they being shot, wrapped in bacon and grilled for the congregation to eat?

I spent many a formative Sunday at Faith Christian Fellowship with my parents learning and unlearning things and one thing that actually popped into my mind not too long ago: a latent memory that made me realize something that I had known all along but dared not to say. 

My father was in a cult.

Rapture Drills. There were Rapture Drills. We were preparing for the Rapture. You know, the event where God just decides He’s done with it all and yoinks up all the humans on Earth that are good and leaves those that are bad on Earth to suffer. Think the Left Behind series but somehow worse. We would prepare for the Rapture by praying and climbing under a chair for safety. 

A chair. 

That is what was meant to protect us from Divine Intervention and Rapture. A chair. 

I’m not sure why we needed protection from the Rapture; in theory, we were supposed to go up to Heaven, too. I think it was meant to protect us from earthly debris but we regularly held these drills. They were at random, of course, because we never knew when this would happen and they happened often enough to form a memory of them that remained locked in my mind for over a decade. 

My father died while we were at that church and the church quickly flocked around me and my mom. The church supported my mother even as she gave up her child, dated a drug dealer and told me that I was to be obedient to my mother even though she was willing to risk her safety and mine for the sake of tainted love. 

The church did eventually abandon my mother as she fell away from really all organized religion as her agoraphobia grew. I had also fallen out of love with most organized religion, mostly burned from the experience in my father’s cult and still disillusioned from what I knew about Catholicism. I made a choice to bury my mother Catholic as she was baptized, married and had her other sacraments within the Catholic church. I found much more solace and peace burying her within the church she was married in than I ever did at even the thought of dragging my family into FCF. 

I don’t think I’m a cult survivor or anything grand; it actually didn’t take long for me to either bury the memories of this place with maladaptive means and frankly just suppressed those memories. It wasn’t until recently that they started to become unlocked that I realized the gravity of the situation I was in. And to be clear I’m not some kind of anti-religious person; I don’t think Christianity or even Evangelical faiths are inherently cultish; just saying that if it acts like a duck and quacks like a duck and flies like a duck; you may be in a cult. 

Chasing Toi

A few birthdays ago, I received a moon cactus. I named him Toi after an anime I had invested too much emotion in and he overtook my entire life and I have not been able to replace him in my heart.

Let’s talk about it. 

Toi was a gift sprouted from a joke that I needed an emotional support cactus and then a friend who is sweeter than sunshine actually made the joke happen. She mailed me an emotional support cactus. I actually left him in the box for a few days, somewhat paralyized by fear to open it and in denial that I had received a live plant in the mail. Once I took him out of the box and set him in a pot full of soil and began a relationship that was better and more loving than I had with some men I had taken to bed. Toi listened to me, Toi was there for me, Toi gave me something to do. I could dote on Toi, cry to Toi, talk about my very worst secrets to the little cactus who took it all in stride and held it in his spines. 

I identified strongly as a cactus mom, my aunts when they called would ask about Toi and I made videos of me watering him for social media and I was proud to be Toi’s mom. But what many didn’t see behind the videos set to classical music and the tasteful filters and the cute pot and the blooms was that I was deeply mentally unwell. I was in a job that made me hate myself, I was lonely and sad and burnt out and overworked. I had too many hobbies to keep myself from facing the void and I was lying to myself, my friends and my family about my mental health. I was miserable and obsessive over the little cactus who took it all the best he could. 

Moon cacti are strange plants; they thrive on neglect and that was something my brain couldn’t handle. I overwatered Toi, I underwatered Toi. I gave him too much light, I gave him not enough light. I spent one evening up all night waiting pathetically for a UV lamp to arrive for my withering cactus and cried the entire night when the order was pushed back to the next day because I had placed all of my trust and faith in this Amazon order. I felt like if I could fix Toi, I could fix my other problems and that just couldn’t be the case. 

Eventually, Toi died as all things do. Moon cacti rarely live longer than three years and I had Toi for a glorious year in which my emotions waned and waxed like the moon with my little guy. I tried my best to grieve appropriately but there was a hole in my heart where a cactus should go. 

On a whim at the local Lowe’s I picked up 3 more moon cacti. I named them Reo, Mabu and Toi II and I thought I’d be okay. Toi II was almost the same color as my precious boy and he looked very similar and I was so happy that Toi was no longer an only child.

That was the plan; that things would be okay but nothing can stay gold forever. 

Toi II was taken from my porch one day. 

I was walking into my apartment and noticed that there was a space missing where my three boys were lined up. Reo and Mabu were safe but Toi II was missing. He was just gone. My heart broke all over again as I realized that my precious boy was gone again. Reo and Mabu immediately came into the house and stayed under the UV lamp where I could keep them safe from the outside world. Mabu was next to go after I noticed he was lacking color, probably because no matter how much artificial UV light I can provide, I cannot provide the Sun’s rays indoors. Mabu passed away and was buried in the trash rather unceremoniously. Reo held on for a while longer, only recently passing away after a year of life as a strange miserable hybrid of a cactus without his partner and brother to also be tossed into the trash like Mabu. 

None of them have elicited the same emotional response as Toi’s passing has and my relationship to the three cacti sans Toi II all had strained. Far from negligent but I never felt the same call to devoted arms as I had with Toi. Reo and Mabu were no longer surrogates for a child and companion but what they truly were: cacti on the windowsill. 

A few things had changed during the time that I got Reo, Mabu and Toi II from the time that I lost Toi. One of those things was I was put back on a heavy dose of medication for depression and anxiety and the second was that I took a job that was much less stressful than my previous position. Perhaps it was the change in my brain chemistry that got me to finally stop projecting onto a cactus, maybe it was just a sick form of maturation that got me to stop projecting onto a cactus. Maybe I was just a lonely soul who needed a friend and found one in a spiny little phallus that listened to me when I felt like no one else could. 

I haven’t immediately rushed to replace Reo, Mabu and Toi II and I don’t know if I will rush to replace them as none of these spiky little fellows have been able to replace the same space in my life as Toi did.

For now, I continue to try and chase the high Toi gave me, that loving something dearly gave me, the obsession, the madness, the intoxication of wanting and being wanted that came with the little violet cactus that came in the mail. 

I’m still chasing Toi and I may never catch those feelings again. 

The Men and Women At My Side

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt a kinship with Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist. A charismatic and strong-willed leader with dreams of order and change but is often too bogged down by the weight of trauma and past regrets to see those grand plans through. A leader who can rally troops but sometimes can barely manage the strength to get out of bed. I’ve always had men and women at my side, just as Mustang has, that have been a stabilizing force in my chaotic life. While the names have changed, the roles have not, so let’s go over some of the men and women who stand by my side and help me see my mission to its end. 


My Right Hand, Hughes

At this moment, it’s Carlos, my best friend and co-panelist. It’s been others before in the past but I want to talk about Carlos for a bit. Like Hughes while he can seem all over the place and even dismissive, he’s far from. He’s remarkably attentive and always trying to make sure I eat something (even when it’s something sweet). I’ve always needed someone who can drag me out of darkness, someone who listens and understands but also can challenge my negative thoughts in a way that I can process and Carlos has learned remarkably quickly how to speak to me in a language that I understand. And while we don’t always agree, I’m blessed to have such a dedicated and trusting person by my side to push me forward. 

My Cheerleader, Havoc

Again, a role filled by many before but right now it’s filled by Ricky. This man will cheer me on no matter what I’m doing. I could be plotting world domination (and let’s be honest, I am) and he’d support me with an enthusiasm and genuine care that I think rarely exists on Earth. I’m fortunate, really, that I have someone who can support me no matter how grand or small my endeavors are. 

My Shield, Hawkeye

Despite my earlier brushes with misogyny, I have many women that I now consider close friends now that I am removed from the need to see them as competition for a mate (also known as highschool in America under a patriarchal society). Right now, a few women get to hold this role: Amanda, Victoria, Amber; all of them willing to support me during my darkest days . Not just as protectors but those willing to tell me when I need to be better. My trauma and illnesses are not an excuse but are context; it is not a pass to be a terrible person; it’s just a brief explanation as to why sometimes I do what I do. This is why I appreciate these women so much; they’re not just passive shieldmaidens, they are just as active in the fight as the rest of them. 

Those No Longer Ranked

It’s hard staying friends with a miniature tyrant bent on world domination. I’m the first to acknowledge that it isn’t easy being my friend but I try to be empathetic and understanding. Needly to say, some just don’t maintain their ranks. I normally spend years agonizing over those I’ve lost along the way but thanks to a lot of medication and even more therapy, I’m coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, people are bad. Obviously, out of respect and an abundance of caution, I have no reason to name names and more importantly, despite the hurt I carry with me, I don’t wish these people ill. I genuinely hope all of them are doing well and are getting what they need that they clearly could not get from me. The bow can not always hold, things fall apart, friendships don’t last forever and people can be cruel; they don’t always mean to be but that’s just how it happens. The problem with friends that also have trauma is that we all have these horrid burdens within us, these maladaptive skills that we’ve honed our whole lives to cope with untenable situations. But because we’ve been honing these horrible coping skills for years, we tend to use them on those closest to us, oftentimes blissfully unaware that we have become no better than those who have abused us in the past. 

Friend breakups are their own special kind of hell, having to remove those once close from your existence, divide up mutuals like you’re going through a divorce, cut every picture in half, burn all of their gifts in a kiln, slice open your hand to reverse the blood pact you made with them…

It’s strange timing considering that as of writing this post, I’m going through another friend breakup that is going about as well as anyone can expect. I feel nauseous if that person even appears on my timeline even though I’ve blocked them nearly everywhere, the thought of this person makes me cry and I still feel the hollow sting of pain in my heart when I think of the betrayal butI’m stronger for it and here because of the men and women at my side who are strong for me when I cannot be. 

They have supported me, comforted me, provided me with sage council when I wanted to be rash and irresponsible. They gave me safe harbor to rest my tired sails and anchored me when my heart was nothing but battered against the rocks.


I’m told I’m a generous person, always offering my friends help, always baking for people, always going above and beyond but to me, it’s still an act of supreme selfishness. I give because I know how much I take. I give because I know that once I need to cash in those cached chips of good will, I will need to. I will need these treasured few more than ever. I don’t give because I’m a saint, I give because I’m a sinner.

I’m so grateful to the men and women by my side. Many of them bonded with me through shared secrets, shared heartbreak and most importantly shared healing and understanding. 

At ease, troops. You’ve earned a break. 

A Return to Form

I started writing fanfic when I was 12. I don’t really know why; I always had an overactive imagination and a strong desire to escape the world I was in. It started, shockingly, with To Kill a Mockingbird because I guess I had some feelings to work out about a Southern boy and I quickly found myself inserting shades of myself into various narratives, mostly anime. The characters I created then were hollow; overpowered fantasies that were all beautiful, lily white and strong and always paired with whatever character I had some feelings about; that or they were some kind of estranged secret sister that never came up until now. We see these kinds of writings now and mock them but for formative youths, it was almost necessary to have a way to escape daily life. 

I did my school work and came home to write, then mostly on paper with pencil so I could always fix a mistake and I shared my work with almost no one. I was proud of my work but in the sort of way anyone is proud of a secret. It was something that I could keep to myself; a place that only I knew. 

I didn’t start sharing my work until I was 14 both physically with friends by sliding folders full of my unfettered musings between classes and on lunch breaks and later in the year online on sites like Quizilla and Xanga. I grew fairly popular because I was attached to a ship that was popular (mostly slash pairings with Envy from FMA and the occasional InuYasha piece). Typing made my work so much easier and I could spend hours in Notepad writing out my deepest desires for characters now in hindsight would start to shape nearly every part of me and my sexuality and orientation. Looking back, I had no idea what I was going; especially as I began to write out sex scene and explicit material. I was mimicking what others were writing; most of us also underage and hadn’t seen the anatomy of the other biological sex. We were all the blind being led by the blind but I don’t think we cared. We continued on as writers with the foundation we built together, as a community, and were prepared to go out into the sea with our headcanons, ships and shipping manifestos. 

I was 15 when I started my longest running fic, a Gravitation series I used to help work through some angst about my sexuality and gender and more importantly helped continue to hone in who I would become as a writer. Unreliable narrators, first person limited, lots of commentary from your main character and occasionally out of character behaviors but always rationalized and rooted with the canon lore of the series. This was also when I started writing to music, letting the beat and rhythm of each song carry my fingers along and focus the many noises in my already-filled brain. I’m listening to music now as I write this piece. I kept writing fanfic well through highschool, even writing some original fiction and taking commissions for pieces from friends where I was paid in favors, clout or money to write them a few chapters or scenes with a character they were particularly fond of with a character of their choosing either canon and original. I liked providing that for others, giving them an outlet, too, as I had given myself. 

When I graduated highschool, I gave up a lot of my anime and manga, assuming that I would grow out of this “phase” that had occupied nearly a decade of my life by then as my aunts had hoped. I didn’t. Within a year, I was back to writing and added roleplay to the mix. I thrived in large roleplay forums and with many partners in many series with OCs perfectly tailored for every situation. Again, this taught me a new skill: completing actions. RPs were based on making sure actions were closed and completed; if you left a door open within the RP, that open space could be used by anyone. You’ll notice that in my fiction that anytime a door is opened, someone closes it; if a product is brought into the scene, it is set down somewhere solid, rooms have depth and proportion and items because rooms aren’t blank slates and to this day I still draw out room layouts and home layouts for various works. 

I had a dedicated RP partner when I was in my third year of college; she was the most formative to my works and my continued dive into fanfiction. She was my muse, my everything. She helped me grow as a writer by giving me a challenge, something I rarely felt like I had. Not that I ever thought my skill was that grand but she was really someone who could keep up with me and could match my energy levels in a way that I could have only ever dreamed of. She continues to be my partner and I am grateful for that. 

I continued to roleplay and that kept me satiated as far as fiction came but it was when my then-girlfriend began to grow interested in my work that I returned to fanfic: picking up my Gravitation series as it was a series that helped bring us together. I would write mostly for her, because of her and at her behest and encouragement. I had a captive audience of one and it was more than enough motivation for me to continue to write. That strategy worked out perfectly until she broke my heart and left me. 

I lost my will to write. I lost my Raison d’être and I couldn’t stomach looking at my work again. While during that time I had another RP partner who kept me entertained from time to time, it was a time I mostly focused on non-fiction and getting this humble little blog up and running. My schedule then didn’t leave me with much time to think about fiction and my day job that also had me writing plenty didn’t leave me with the needed creativity once I returned home from work to want to write much else. 

It was in my late 20s that I decided that I was going to finish my Gravitation series mostly out of spite. I was tired of looking at the unfinished document and tired of feeling sorry for myself and my broken heart: I kept writing, sometimes manically and for hours on end late at night sitting on my bed in my shitty one-room apartment. I finished the series and was triumphant and elated; celebratory in a room to my own and then promptly began working on the sequel knowing that it was unlikely anyone else would see this work ever again. It was too personal, too old, too problematic and too close to my heart to share with others. It was my dirty little secret to be buried with me in death and rot with me for an eternity. 

It took me a long time to decide on posting fanfic publicly again: mostly a desire to reclaim a lost part of my youth and for the most part, my fiction slid under the radar. That was before I started working on a passion project: a MattxMello fic from Death Note that would later balloon to over 50,000 words and 40 chapters. For the first time since my teen years I had an audience, an upload schedule, comments and cliffhangers and fans. 

I had regained part of myself that I had shunned for years and now, it feels even better than ever to be back.