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. 


About My Pocket Watch

If you catch me on a day when I am blessed enough to have pockets on my pants (damn you, patriarchy, for refusing me the dignity of pockets) you may see a silver chain that hangs from my belt loop to my pocket. It’s a watch. A pocket watch. And while I would love to tell you it’s a family heirloom, it simply is not. It’s from a television show and longtime readers may know exactly what I mean. Let me tell you all a little story. Pull up a chair. Sit down. Let me tell you about the time I became a State Alchemist.

When I was in high school, I started an anime club. I argued for the club for days and finally when we were approved, I became my alma mater’s nerd prince. I had many nicknames then, mostly characters that I particularly related to. Kakashi-sensei was a common one because I was often caught walking through the halls reading light novels. Yuki-san was another because of my love of a certain blonde Cool Beauty and the one that really stuck was Colonel Roy Mustang.

I took over my college anime club  in a glorious coup d’etat. The club began years before I started school by two of my senpais and fell into the hands of a girl that I did not like and who pointedly did not like me. When I started college, I wanted to have scholarly discussions about anime: it was what I was passionate about. There’s two camps when it comes to what an anime club does. Many see it as merely a social club: sit around, talk smack, watch cartoons. Others tend to treat it more like a culture club: talk about Japanese culture, discuss themes and do actual things with actual people. I was an English major then and made some of the best friends I could possibly have by having loud and vocal serious talks about anime. So it didn’t sit well with me that the club my senpais founded were now doing nothing but sitting around and watching cartoons. I spoke with the club’s advisor and he agreed: the club should not be just a bunch of young adults watching cartoons. By my side I had my at the time best friend, Travis. Travis was a giant of a man. We were quite the pair. I was small and somewhat commanding and beside me was my most loyal enforcer. He was with me during every step of the way. From taking over the club by filing a complaint with the Student Union, to re-writing the club’s constitution, we even changed the club’s name. We worked hard to make the club we wanted to be part of. And it took time, effort, money and many late nights. Travis was my rock during that time and thus, I earned a nickname that had seemed to reemerge from my earlier days in costume.

You all have heard me gush about Fullmetal Alchemist. You all have heard me talk about how important the series was to me formatively as a fan and as a person. But while you’ve heard me gush about the main protagonist, Edward Elric, there’s one character who has always echoed as a close second to favorite for the entire series: Colonel Roy Mustang. Mustang is a complicated man. He comes off as a typical narcissistic military man with a flare for the dramatic, a cool temper despite being the Flame Alchemist and a penchant for miniskirts, stealing Jean Havoc’s girlfriends and seeming to be an omnipresent nearly antagonistic force in Edward’s life. But Mustang’s goal was simple: he wanted to take over the entire State Military. He wanted to be Furher. And yes, problematic term but the series is set in No-Germany-Germany. And his ambition was well-known, during his famous Mini Skirt Declaration he so proudly and openly said he’d run the whole damn place. But Mustang was not alone in his ambition. He was surrounded by people who helped him support his dream. He had Havoc and Hawkeye and Hughes (ah, alliteration) and so many other subordinates that I don’t have time or patience to list. They all supported his dream and they all wanted to support him as he rose to the top. I always related so powerfully to Mustang’s charisma and ability to lead. I always wanted to be like Roy and seeing him grapple with the horrors of PTSD and likely some untreated mental illness (feel free to press me on my Roy Mustang has bipolar theory), he was supported by his friends. I remember spending most of high school answering so readily to “Colonel Mustang” and doing so with a smile and a salute as my anime clubbers greeted me.

There’s a funny thing in FMA. A pocket watch. One is given to each issued State Alchemist. Each one is unique, special and important: they’re expensive and amplify the alchemical abilities of those who have the distinct honor and privilege of wearing one. Which is why for Christmas after Travis and I founded our club, the gift he gave me made me smile and merely say “Thank you, Hughes.”

Maes Hughes is a character in FMA that if you are familiar with the series, you are likely already crying. He’s easily one of Mustang’s closest friends and one of his most loyal subordinates and one of the most fervent supporter of Mustang’s insane dream.

For years, Travis had been my Hughes. I stood there in meetings, filed paperwork, argued cases and fought for the club I wanted but I never did so alone. And thus Travis was rewarded. When we overtook the club, I was Madame President and he was my Vice President. Roy Mustang had finally reached his goal. He was king and his right hand was by his side.

In that box that Travis gave me was a pocket watch, was the pocket watch. It was Edward’s pocket watch because that was the only sort commercially available. Inside was the famous engraving Edward did on the night he burned down his family home with his little brother after committing the ultimate taboo and even though the watch was not Roy’s, it was the watch of a State Alchemist. It was a gift from a dedicated Hughes to his dedicated Mustang. And I wore that watch with pride.

What is even more powerful is that in this act, it’s much more meaningful than in the show’s canon. In the series, the watch is given by the State. This watch, this honor, this trust was given to me by my friend, my Hughes, my right hand.

Travis and I fell out around the second year of running the club and honestly, when I think about it: the role may have gone to different people but that role is always filled. There has always been someone beside me willing to support my wild dreams. Whether it’s taking the risk of paneling at larger and larger conventions, taking on more and more ambitious costumes or even the radical dreams of moving, changing jobs and doing more; striving for me. There has always been someone there helping me work towards me goal.

I am a proud State Alchemist and would not be so if I did not have the ability to do so.

And that’s why I am so damn proud of my watch. It’s a constant reminder that no matter what, there’s someone who believes in me, believes in my radical dreams and that I will always have their support, their strength, their power to bolster my own.

I am Proudly Colonel Roy Mustang and one day I will be King.

I have the fury, the ambition, the drive and the fire to be more.