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Stephen Hill - Part X
Eingestellt am 29. 01. 2018 23:09

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This is not me.

Jessica was standing in front of the mirror. She was wearing her outfit for the cosplay convention: green rain boots, her father’s old yellow raincoat, the black chino pants, the red stockings and shirt and the transparent bubble dome shape rain umbrella. A few days ago, she had thought that this outfit would do the trick for the cosplay convention. Now, on the verge of leaving the house to go to Philly, she was not so sure.

I look like a dork, she thought, I’ll be the laughing stock of the entire convention. People will take pictures of me, upload them on instagram, facebook or twitter and hashtag them with #cosplayfail. Maybe cosplay simply isn’t my thing. I had better call shoichiyokoi and cancel our date. This is not me.

Despite these thoughts, she sat down to put on the make up. She went to Youtube and typed ‘cosplay make up tutorial’ into the search engine. She scrolled down the list of results and found a tutorial by a user named Jbunzie, a young girl with one million followers that transformed into a character called Vannelloppe von Schweetz from a movie entitled Wreck-it-Ralph. Jessica had never heard of that movie and she was sure it wasn’t Japanese, but the thing that intrigued her was that the character was simply dressed and easy to copy. Therefore she clicked onto the tutorial and followed the instructions: she applied a yellow base foundation all over her face, she went big and bold on the eyebrows, filling them with black eyeliner and she used a concealer around the edges. In short, she followed all the steps of the tutorial and then took a look in the mirror.

This is not me.

No, this was not her, but rather than being disappointed she understood the make up as a mask that concealed her real identity. She was quite sure that even people close to her, but not very close, would have trouble recognizing her face.
And it’s Philly, she thought. Nobody knows me there, I can do what I want. And even if they do take pictures, nobody will know that it is me underneath.
With this freshly sprouting confidence she felt far more comfortable about going to Philly to meet shoichiyokoi.

The next task that lay before her was to leave the house without being noticed by her dad. If he saw her in this outfit, wearing this make-up, he would probably lose his marbles. No, she had to hide from him. The problem was that it was a Saturday and that her father usually stayed inside the house most of the day. The only hope was that sooner or later he would retreat into his study to do some corrections, plan some lectures, watch porn on the Internet or do whatever it was that he was doing in there.

Jessica tiptoed to the door of her room and carefully opened it. When the door was ajar, she put her ear into the gap, once again listening into the apartment. She could hear her father rummaging in the kitchen, probably putting the dishes into the dishwasher. He had possibly just finished his breakfast, which was a good sign, because after breakfast he normally would read the newspaper for like half an hour or so and then, when the dishes were clean again, he would put them back in the cupboard and then go to his study. It was a good sign to Jessica, because it meant that he was sticking to his Saturday morning routine and that, in turn, would make things far more predictable.

Jessica had a little more than an hour before she would definitely have to get going. Her train to Philly was leaving at 11:50 am and it took her about twenty minutes to get to Pennsylvania Station. She had already bought the ticket with her cell phone and she had packed a little bag with something to eat and clothes to change into after the convention. She had agreed to meet shoichiyokoi at 3 pm in front of the east entrance of the Philadelphia convention center. She had also given him her cell phone number in case she ran late or wasn’t able to spot him in the crowd. He had told her that he would be dressed up as Mamoru Chiba aka Tuxedo Mask, one of the famous characters from Sailor Moon, which would make him easy to identify. Unless, of course, someone else had chosen to dress up as that same character. In her imagination, Jessica already saw herself in front of the convention center, staring at a throng of boys dressed up as Tuxedo Mask and herself going to each of them, shouting: shoichiyokoi, is that you in there?

There, it was happening. She could hear it distinctly. Her father was leaving the kitchen, he was walking down the hallway that led to his study. Judging from the sound, he had the newspaper in his hands, which meant that he was not going to read it in the kitchen. Jessica heard him opening the door to his study, entering and closing the door behind him. Then she heard the muffled sounds from inside his study: she heard him grabbing the chair, heard him sitting down and booting his computer. This was her chance.
Hastily, Jessica seized her bag and tiptoed out of her room. She snuck down the hallway, went down the stairs, crossed the living room and slowly moved towards the entrance. She gently opened the front door and closed it carefully behind her. When she heard the sound of the door clicking shut, it felt like a signal. A signal to haul ass, as someone in Jessica’s class had put it once.
Jessica took to her heels and ran down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. She felt relieved and anxious, she felt as if she had managed to escape from a maximum security prison after being sentenced to life. She felt the excitement of the whole thing, of the journey that was about to begin. She felt like someone else living the life she had always wanted. In a nutshell: she felt free.

Of course, this energy did not last very long. As she stepped on to the subway which would take her to Pennsylvania Station, she calmed down and recovered from the run she had just made. She sat down on one of the benches, making sure that there were no creepy grandpas in the vicinity and breathed a sigh of relief. A few passengers were walking by and some of them, mainly tourists though, stopped in their movements as they caught sight of Jessica in her outfit. But somehow, Jessica already felt that these looks were not directed at her, but rather at the character she was portraying. And since no one really seemed shocked enough to be stopped dead in their tracks (it was New York, after all), she felt almost flattered that people who wouldn’t and couldn’t care less if they saw the old, usual Jessica now noticed her and probably would even be able to describe her if someone cared to ask.

This is not me.

The bustling activity at New York’s Pennsylvania Station felt like a protective cloak. Most of the people were way to busy to notice Jessica and her outfit and even if they cast a glance, it was saying ‘Nothing out of the ordinary here, let’s continue’. Jessica had to get to Platform 9 and board an Amtrak train. She had paid 58$ for a window seat and she was lucky enough to find the right wagon right away. She sat down on a bench for two, with the other seat empty. She looked out the window and was waiting for the train to leave Penn Station. When it finally did, the excitement that had died down a little in the meantime, was in full swing again.
It is happening, she thought, it is really happening. I’m going to Philly to see shoichiyokoi. The love of my life, she added, but had to chuckle immediately at the thought of it. Let’s not get carried away, let’s just try to have a good time.
For the remainder of the ride, Jessica stayed glued to her cellphone, rereading her conversations with shoichiyokoi (which she had carefully copied and pasted into one of her offline folders), watching Sailor Moon Youtube videos and cosplay tutorials. Whenever she looked up and someone locked eyes with her, she challenged herself and held the other one’s gaze. Realizing that most of them felt like they had intruded her privacy and consequently averted their eyes within seconds, Jessica grew more and more confident in her disguise. She felt like she was growing bit by bit into this different character and that she had the power to invent the features of the character she would portray. With each look, with each staring contest that she won, she went from strength to strength, and when the train rode into Philly’s 30th Street station, she thought she was Wonder Woman. It was a bit ridiculous, she knew, but she embraced this feeling of power anyway.

She took a cab to the convention center and got out at the main entrance. After paying the taxi driver, she walked to the east entrance. The closer she got, the more anxious she became. She was anticipating the moment when she and shoichyokoi would lock eyes and become aware of one another. Jessica expected to meet her soul mate, nothing less. Of course, if anyone asked her she’d deny it and lie about it, but deep down, she really hoped that shoichiyokoi would be that special one.
As she approached the doors of the east entrance, there was no Tuxedo Mask in sight. There were about thirty people gathered at the entrance, but most of them were girls and the few boys there either didn’t wear any outfit at all or simply wore a different costume. Jessica was just about to leave and walk back to the entrance when someone tipped her on her shoulder.

As Jessica turned around, she caught eye of an Asian boy’s face. He was wearing black trousers, black shiny shoes, a white shirt with a white vest, a black coat and the typical black cloak with a satin red inner lining. In his hand, he was holding a black top hat. His costume was the Tuxedo Mask costume alright, but his face had no make-up on it which destroyed the illusion to some extent. Plus, he wore glasses, which the real Tuxedo Mask didn’t. But he was by no means ugly, at first glance he looked even a little too smart for this cosplay thing. He was neither fat nor skinny, he looked quite sporty, as a matter of fact. As he smiled at her, Jessica instantly knew that she was not disappointed, not in the least. He seemed nice.
“Not today”, he said proudly, “today, I’m Tuxedo Mask!”.
“Okay, Tuxedo Mask”, Jessica laughed. “Do you know who I am?”
Tuxedo Mask looked at her for a moment.
“I have no idea”, he confessed.
“Well”, Jessica said. “My name is Vannelloppe von Schweetz.”
“Okay, Vannelloppe. Nice to meet you!”
Jessica smiled back at him. What now? she asked herself.
“Shall we go inside, Tux?”
“Not yet, I’m actually waiting for two friends who’d like to join us”, Tuxedo Mask said, breaking out of character.
“Oh, Okay”, Jessica replied, incapable of hiding her disappointment. She had hoped that she would have shoichiyokoi to herself, but now it seemed as if she was just a fifth wheel. At the same time, she was quite relieved, too, because it meant that he had friends, and it also meant that he was not a sexual predator or someone who would harass her as soon as they were alone.

Five minutes later, two Asian girls in, believe it or not, school uniforms came along. In their outfits they looked like twins from a Hentai movie and they were giggling away like the stereotypes you’d expect. Jessica couldn’t quite decide if this was part of the act or if they really behaved that way, but she enjoyed the confusion.
“I’m Aika”, the one said, all giggly.
“And I’m Ainu”, the other one said, all cute and cuddly.
“Hi, I’m Vannelloppe. Like Penelope, but with a V.”
The two girls giggled at that lame attempt of a joke as if there was no tomorrow.
“Shall we enter?”, Tux interjected.
“Yes, let’s”, Jessica replied.

As they entered the building, Jessica hoped to step into another world. She was expecting to feel like Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the entrance to the convention center was supposed to be the wardrobe, a portal into a world of myths and legends. But as they walked into the lobby of the building, she still felt very ordinary. First off, there was a lot of staff that destroyed the illusion: people handing out flyers, people doing promotion for various companies, security that was suspiciously checking everyone who entered and people who welcomed the guests and told them where to go to buy the tickets for admission. Tux, Ainu, Aika and herself had to stand in line first in order to have their bags and backpacks checked by security and then had to pay 30$ each to be able to enter. It was quite disappointing, even ridiculous to stand in line with guys dressed up as Jedi, as warriors from WoW, as Super Mario, as Derek Zoolander, as Edward Scissorhands or as He-Man. It was even more ludicrous to listen to their conversations that were so ordinary and run-of-the-mill that they desecrated the characters they were dressed up as. But Jessica was still in a good mood and all to ready to ignore this.
After paying for admission and after placing their stuff into the lockers at the checkroom, they went up a flight and took a long elevator that would lead them into the inner sanctum of the Convention center. They were headed for the Terrace Ball Room, since this was the place where, according to Tux (aka shichiyokoi), “it was at”. All four of them didn’t talk much on the way there. Jessica was a little taken aback by the surrounding characters and also felt like the outsider. She imagined Tux, Ainu and Aika having been to many cosplay conventions before this one and she perceived them as a closed club that was not sure whether they were accepting new members at this point in time. But none of the three of them was actually giving her that feeling, instead they just smiled at her and probably were as unsure about the situation as she was.
The Terrace Ball Room was a gargantuan open space and it had more of a station hall than of a ball room. It was crowded with fantasy figures from every sci-fi or Manga movie or TV-series ever made. It was in this room that Jessica ended up buying the illusion. From this moment on, all the fantasy creatures came alive and the photographers and journalists were travellers from an outside world, tourists that had come to their world in order to experience it. The decisive moment was when a young kid of probably six years came up to them.
“Excuse me, Vannellope, can I take a picture of you?”
Jessica was enthralled that this young boy had recognized her as the character that she was made up as and she was even more enthralled that he would call her by that name and wanted to take a picture of her. Tux, Ainu and Aika gave her an affirmative, reassuring look and Jessica was delighted to pose for this young boy. She stepped away from her three companions and went to stand in front of a wallpaper that was probably there for photo-ops like hers. It was a scene from World of Warcraft, a bewitched forest of sorts, and it didn’t have anything to do with her character or the movie she was from, but it did the trick for the boy and that was all that mattered. Elated by the boy’s request, Jessica even knelt down to the little boy and blew him a little kiss. The expression on this boy’s face was worth a million dollars. To him, she was not Jessica, the ordinary girl from Queens, New York, no, she was Vannelloppe von Schweetz from Wreck-it-Ralph. And, what’s more, to this boy, she was a star. And that, in turn, made her feel like a star.

Jessica and her gang spent the rest of the day doing what you usually do at these conventions. They took photos with their cellphones, they had photos taken of themselves, as a group or alone, they went to a few of the panels where guest speakers spoke about their work, they went to see trailers and clips of upcoming Manga movies in one of the four movie theatres on location, they listened to some live music taken from various Fantasy TV-Series or movies in the concert hall, they ate lunch at the food market, they stalked two of their favorite artists that were there, Akira Amano and Yuki Midorikawa, they behaved oddly because behaving oddly seemed at the order of the day, they played tabletop board and console games at the gaming room, they shopped Manga drawings at the souvenir shop and most of all, they simply had a good time together. The longer the day lasted, the more all four of them loosened up and from time to time even elevated small talk to medium and eventually even large talk. Jessica felt like confiding in all three of them and she wouldn’t have had any qualms about telling them about the difficult relationship with her father, if the topic came up, which it didn’t. But Ainu especially, who was into drawing Mangas as well, was the easiest to relate to since she was also trying to cope with the same problems as Jessica when it came to drawing Manga.
“Any “How to Draw Manga” that says you don’t need to know actual anatomy to draw proper anime is lying“, Ainu claimed, „and you should burn it immediately. For any stylized art, you need to know how the real body is put together before you start exaggerating.“
„I agree“, Jessica would reply, „and the most difficult thing to draw for me right now are hands. Most of the time, when I’m drawing a character, I make sure that they have their hands behind their back, because that is so much easier. But I really need to tackle that problem, otherwise I’ll be spending the rest of my life drawing handicapped Manga.”
Ainu chuckled.
“So true, same over here”, she agreed and chuckled.

At 7pm, and a little exhausted, the four of them discussed what to do next.
“We have to be home at 9:30”, Ainu and Aika said.
“How about you?”, Tux asked Jessica.
“Well”, she said, “the last train for New York is leaving at 10, but I had actually planned on taking the one at 9pm.”
“But you can’t”, Tux barged in. “Katsuhiro Omoto is on at 8.”
“Katsuhiro Omoto is here?”, Jessica asked incredulously.
“In the flesh!”, Tux replied proudly, as if it was his personal invitation that had made him come.
Katsuhiro Omoto was a JapaneseManga artist, screenwriter and film director. He was best known as the creator of the manga Akira and its animated film adaptation. He was a true pioneer of Manga, and now, at age 61, he had risen to the pinnacle of fame. He was the Steven Spielberg of Manga.
“Well, I’d like to see him”, Jessica said.
“Well, then join me!”, Tux implored.
“How about you?”, Jessica asked the girls.
“Well, we’ll come, too, but we will probably have to leave right in the middle of it.”
Jessica was hesitant. She was concerned that her dad might worry about her. She took a look at her cellphone and registered that he hadn’t tried to call her yet. This calmed her down and made her angry at the same time. She had just left, she hadn’t told her father where she was going and he obviously hadn’t noticed. Or, which was even worse, he had noticed and couldn’t care less. Either way, it didn’t matter.
“I’m in”, Jessica said.

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