Last night I started reading Hyperbole and a Half…And finished it. You know that feeling when a book is so great that you are torn between wanting to devour it in one sitting and wanting to savour it piece by piece over a few days? Yeah. I ended up devouring it (“Just one more chapter…”) and now I’m sad that it’s over. Both the book and her blog are based on her life experiences, as told by hilarious cartoons mixed with prose. It’s genius. I highly recommend it.
After I finished reading, I began to reflect on some the crazier incidents of my childhood. I started telling my mum about them, forcing her to remember all the horrible things she had done to me as a child (I say that with love…I actually had a brilliant childhood :3) It made me want to write a few down for when I’m old and decrepit and can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, let alone the things that happened when I was a kid. And so, without further ado, I present to you…The Toxic Girl With Words.
When I was seven years old, I watched a (horrifying) movie called ‘The Toxic Crusader’. If you haven’t seen it (and don’t, because it’s horrifying), it’s about a typical nerd-like character (described as a ‘98lb weakling’) who is falls into a vat of toxic waste after being harassed and chased by a gang of bullies. The toxic waste turns him into this huge muscley (but grossly disfigured…I mean his face was melting) crime fighting machine. That’s pretty much all I remember about the movie because I have deliberately blacked out the rest. I mean…Who thought this was a good movie for seven year olds??
On the surface, this movie probably doesn’t sound too bad. After all, it is pretty much the basic premise of almost every superhero movie ever. Person falls into toxic waste/gets bitten by radioactive spider/is experimented on/some science experiment goes horribly wrong and they gain super powers which they use to fight crime and make the world a safer place. In fact I spent a lot of my childhood actively hoping to fall into a vat of toxic waste because I obsessed with the TV series The Secret World Of Alex Mack (She also fell into toxic waste and gained superpowers, but her face was intact. Also her superpowers were way cooler). So what made the Toxic Crusader different? So traumatic? Well. Let me tell you a little story about my darling mother.
In my childhood home, the mirror in the bathroom was above the vanity and too high for me to see into. If I wanted to look at myself I had to get a chair or a stool and even then, I could only really see the top of my head. However, when I was seven years old, I experienced a growth spurt practically overnight that allowed me to see myself in the mirror without the assistance of a chair for the very first time. UNFORTUNATELY, this was around the time that I had been subjected to watching ‘The Toxic Crusader’. Now, unbeknownst to me at the time, I have always had a darker patch of skin on my back. It’s quite big, covering roughly half of my back and some of my right shoulder. My mum calls it a birthmark, but it does have a technical name which escapes me right now. Given that I couldn’t see in the mirror without assistance, it had never occurred to me to look at my back. However once I was free to look whenever I wanted, I wanted to see all of me. So, one night before my shower, I decided to see what my back looked like. I’d never seen it before, after all…What if I had wings?? (I really wanted wings as a kid. In fact I still really want wings. Why can’t I have wings??) So I took off my t-shirt and…Words cannot describe the pure panic and terror I felt when I spun around to find a huge thing creeping over my back. It’s important to note that this patch does not have clear edges – it kind of just fades into my normal skin tone – so I imaged that it was spreading. In fact I could almost swear that it was growing while I watched. Twitching. Spreading. Consuming what was left of my ‘normal’ back. I practically sprinted out of the bathroom to show my mum, expecting shock, horror, and maybe an ambulance or two. However, despite my frantic rambling and hand gestures, she didn’t seem concerned in the slightest. Instead she very calmly informed me that I was turning into The Toxic Crusader.
She said it so calmly, like, “Oh, didn’t you know?? You’re going to be The Toxic Crusader in a few days.”
Now, I don’t know why my darling mother did this (honestly, who knows why she does half the things she does), but she said it with such conviction that I totally believed her. And I panicked. I panicked A LOT. I can’t remember if she saw any evidence of my panic (let’s pretend she didn’t, okay? :p), but I DO remember spending at least 30 minutes in the shower that night, frantically scrubbing my back in the hope that I could wash away the dark patch. It was eerily like the scene in The Toxic Crusader where he tried to wash away the toxic sludge, but thankfully, my skin wasn’t melting under the soap (oh gross I hate that movie I hate it hate it hate it). After an unsuccessful attempt to scrub away my own skin, I tried to resign myself to the fact that I was going to wake up one day and my face would be melted off. I turned off the taps, put on my pyjamas, and slunk off to bed.
In the morning, the first thing I did was run into the bathroom and check if I still looked like a human. I did. I also tried to lift up the bathroom cabinet to see if I had super strength. I didn’t. Not yet, anyway…I tried to console myself with the thought that if my brothers ever pissed me off again, I could flatten them with ease. I also tried to imagine myself lifting cars off babies (why there would be cars on babies is anyone’s guess) and reminded myself that The Toxic Crusader was a hero. A scary, horrible one that plagued my nightmares, but a hero nonetheless. I went to school attempting to feel smug about my impending super powers, but really, all I could feel was fear.
When I came home later that day, I tried to catch my mum off guard. She was cooking and doing a million things at once, so I thought if I asked her a question, she’d be too busy to trick me. My mum is known trickster you see, so I held onto a glimmer of hope that maybe, maybe, she was just tricking me. The conversation went something like this:
“At school today I painted a picture of a dog.”
“Mrs Leishman said it was the best dog I’ve ever painted.”
“That’s wonderful. Can I see it?”
“No…It’s still at school. Is The Marshmallow Man* real?”
“Is Batman real?”
(Without missing a beat) “Yes.”
So that was it. I was doomed. I resigned myself to becoming a mutant and tried not to be scared. After all, a hero wouldn’t be scared, right??
I don’t actually remember exactly how I discovered that I was not, in fact, becoming a mutant, but I like to believe it went something like this: Soon after that, new boy started at my school and he was in my class. His name was Patrick, and he had a mark very similar to mine across his face. I like to believe that I told him that he too would turn into The Toxic Crusader, traumatising him and forcing the school to call my mum and make her admit her li…Errrr, tricks. I know that’s not what happened, but I tell myself it is because it’s nice to imagine that my mum got her comeuppance. Tehe :3
*From ‘GhostBusters’. I was terrified of that damn marshmallow.
NOTE: My mum is actually all kinds of awesome. Don’t let this (or the stories to come) convince you otherwise :p
ANOTHER NOTE: As always, my mum proofread this for me. She CLAIMS that when she saw I was scared she told me the truth, but I think that’s a li…Errrr, trick.