The Past (Part 1)
The dawning of a millennium. A marvelous point in time for the modern world. The transition of old to new. One that people will talk about for ages, but unfortunately, one that me and Mike definitely can’t remember, since we were far too young. Born at the cusp of the 21st Century and the New Millennium, Princess, Gaiya, Mike and I would enter the New World struggle for peace and stability as it were. A rather surprising and heavy task for two people born to a rich country at the peak of modernization, which seemingly just has no end in sight. But hey, we were up for the challenge before we were even aware of it.
“It’s Christmas, guys!” Princess exclaimed a good 40 days after Christmas has already passed and has continued to yell this any time snow above, well, an inch accumulates on our good Philadelphian soil.
“It’s not Christmas anymore, Princess,” I say, dreary eyed and barely awake.
The three of us, Princess, Anthony, and myself, had been sleeping soundly, hunched into a few bunks we installed in the backrooms of the studio.
We were thunderously awoken by Princess, cheery as a child, getting excited as a child would over snowfall, continuously insisting we should go sleigh riding.
“Come on guys! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas!” Princess clasped her hands together prayer-style.
“I’m dreaming to get my shit together,” I moved over from my bunk, watching the snow blanket the ground. I eyeballed all the crosswalks and pathways that were buried.
“Yo Anthony, should we shovel Mrs. Yubaba’s walkway? That woman’s gotta be like 80,” I rubbed my hair as I proceeded to start my daily routine and stepping toward the bathroom. Princess had already been mounting her snowboots on.
“Yubaba? Isn’t that from Spirited Away?” Princess curled her head up.
“Whatever her name is, we could shovel everyone’s sidewalks for the day. Consider it our daily act of charity,” Anthony said, wiping his blond hair down and letting the cold air press against his face.
“Aw,” Princess curled up into a ball, visibly upset, by the other side of the room.
I sighed, walking out of the bathroom with a toothbrush rammed in my mouth, “What is it, Princess?”
“You...didn’t want to go sleigh riding?” she pouted in the most child-like voice she could ever muster. She’s such a great actor.
“Dunno about that. Don’t forget today’s not a day off. We still have to work,” I scratched my head.
“Oh please, we can take another one off. We have enough money!” she said.
“Princess, people who talk like that are the ones who end up broke after a decade...”
In elementary school, I would love to go sleigh riding with my best friend at the time. Every time it snowed we mounted on our snow gear and would run with youthful spurts of energy toward the giant retention basin in our community which served as the perfect arena to absolutely wipe out sledding.
We’d laugh, cry, and enjoy every moment.
Bumping to 2000s music and pretending like I wasn’t getting harassed or bullied at my old school every now and then, to take my mind off it I’d confine myself to my room, legos, toys, whatever; I think my mom had a speaker in her room that would usually blast Jay Sean or whatever the hit at that time may have been. Still, even since then I had my head in the clouds, dancing with airplane arms, believing maybe somehow I’d escape the life I’m in and be part of something so much more.
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my parents. I had a half-sister who I never got to see. I grew up in a normal public school but never had the real sense of belonging I yearned for. It seemed everyone else had that, except for me. I was jealous, envious, spiteful, and as a result, I bullied and insulted the people around me as a stupid attempt to try and be accepted by the people who I thought would change my situation and finally I’d be accepted. It backfired, completely. No one wanted to accept me for being different, and because of how much of an asshole I was, the teachers and faculty saw me the exact same as they did. I was a nobody.
Even my friend who lived in my neighborhood, who I’d go sleigh riding with, it always seemed as if he could see something I never could. Life just came to him naturally, but for me, it was more difficult than anything.
I used to always get driven places by my mom when I was about 7 or 8 or so. She’d drive me to carnivals, to the kid wonderlands with the ballpits and jungle gyms inside them, to expositions and every single food place from Chestnut Hill to Neshaminy.
Sometimes when I’d be in the car listening, all I heard was random political news podcasts my mom occasionally put on when she got tired of the radio playing P!nk or Katy Perry for the 500th time.
The podcasts would usually detail the U.S.’s involvement with Iraq and Afghanistan which was a heavily pressing issue at the time and had the investment of the entire nation behind it only a few years after the 9/11 attacks. I was about 5 years old by that time, but now that I was 8 and developing, you know, a conscious, I started getting curious.
About the time one of the broadcasters began screaming about where our tax dollars were going when it became apparent Al-Qaeda was not slowing down and that these wars would continue for the rest of Bush’s tenure, my mom switched the station to a CD of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” playlist from the early hits from Hoobastank and Vanessa Carlton.
“Mom, what were they talking about?” I asked her from the backseat.
“It’s nothing, just politics. They’ll say anything they want just for ratings.”
The curiosity never left me.
As a boy I only ever wanted to live a normal life. I was denied that by my father who was hell-bent on the family name being among the most noble and impressive of the American heritage. For years he got me into politics. Our family had what was known as a ‘blood history’. Including himself, every single man of the household in our ancestry fought in an American war.
To prevent the cycle from continuing, my father desperately tried to get me to become a politician and I was forced to study American history every day for as long as I could remember.
I always hated when it snowed. Every one of my middle school friends asked me to come out and play with them and have snowball fights. My answer was always I’m too busy, I have to study history and government.
I was jealous of their lives. It only came worse come high school when everyone would participate in community activities, part-time jobs that they actually enjoyed and got to spend on what they wanted. Me? Well I only worked government-paid jobs. The DMV, voter booths, the post office, you name it, and all my paychecks when to the Gaiyan family, because my father promised our family would be recognized some day by the great American bureaucracy.
They say I was the offspring from some old Dutch lineage during the revolutions of 1848, but I have no birth records and they can’t prove anything. Being Dutch makes sense, since everyone around me tells me my accent has always sounded European, like Dutch or Belgian.
I was an orphan found by my grandpa, Wilbur. He discovered me when I was about 4 years old and named me Victoria, because I would be ‘victorious’ in my life some day. He had high appraise for me, always believing I was meant for something great.
Wilbur was the owner of a Virginian shipbuilding company, which our state was known for. His signature family crest was imprinted on every single export, making his family name worth a fortune. But he had no heirs since his wife and kids had all been lost to illness or accidents. He always wondered what he would do for the rest of his life, but when he found me, he considered that his new purpose and gave his all toward raising me.
He was deeply religious, always buying Easter snacks like apricot macaroons or Nilla wafers, and always played the piano in the living room for me to the tune of old hymns, and was always amazed by how well I could sing. I had natural perfect pitch, and my range was already as wide as most professional singers. I never realized how good it actually was until later.
I loved the snow. Every winter in Virginia felt magical because of all the grass hills and dying plants we had slowly became mystical once blanketed by snow white flakes. I was always by myself because I was home schooled and didn’t have any friends, but that didn’t stop me from making snow angels and diving head first into a snow mound.
In the darkness, somebody snapped their fingers loudly. Mike rapidly snapped back into focus after dazing out. He was sitting at iHeart getting ready for another day at work. He had a lack of sleep after phone-calling men he was recruiting just about all night long. Cody had been the one jolting him awake, getting his attention. “We’re behind schedule for Jingle Ball. DJ Earworm is unavailable so we’ll need a replacement, plus extra studio sets now. His soundboard was unbeatable honestly, so replacing it in this short time’s a hard task.”
Mike was forcing his head to stay straight by holding his palm underneath it, leaning on it and barely able to keep focus.
“I can wire a set probably,” Mike said, half-assed.
“Wire a set like his? Please...” Cody didn’t believe him.
“Hey!” Mike felt offended for no reason. “You saying I can’t do it?”
“Uhm yeah, it’d be a difficult thing for anyone to do.”
“Well I’m not just anyone.”
“Mike, Mike, let’s just focus on organizational propositions for now. So, we made sure our outlet sent out at least 5 different reminders on our media networks about Jingle Ball, correct? Executives just wanted to clarify,” Cody explained, heads nodded, “Make sure Chio In The Morning makes a couple announcements too so we can get things rolling.”
Mike felt himself gradually fall back into a daze, remembering the life he used to know.