My childhood friends always took my weirdness in stride, even going so far as to read manga with me. They liked to play JRPGs and watch dubbed anime, and we bonded over our shared interests.
With this new wave exposure to anime subculture brought about by the popularity of shows like Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, and Fairy Tail, and the increasing popularity of anime conventions and cosplay, my childhood friends realized that maybe I wasn't so weird after all. They knew exactly who they could talk to about the latest episode of whatever series they were watching.
Right before I left for the Philippines, one of my friends greeted me with a hug before asking the same question I'd heard from him for the past six months. "Have you seen One Punch Man?" He knew I hadn't gotten around to watching it, but this time, he remembered and gave me an apologetic smile before eagerly turning to my brother to talk about the show.
Some time later, he turns to me again and says, "Hey, who do you think I should cosplay?"
Very few of my childhood friends expressed an interest in the one hobby that sets us apart. A few of them have dressed up with me to go to a con, but none of them expressed the same level of enthusiasm that I do. At the time, I was shocked, but I gave him an honest answer.
"You could cosplay anybody," I said. "Especially pretty boy main characters. You are perfect for that."
He gave me a wide, happy smile, excited by the idea. "I want to go to a con and cosplay with you! Will you help me?"
We briefly talked about going to Tokyo in Tulsa, my hometown convention, this summer before joining a discussion on anime with some other people we were with.
This morning, my mother asked me to sit down. I desperately wish this was a nightmare, but it's not. Daniel is gone. He won't ever wake up again and light up the world with his infectious smile. He'll never greet us with a tight hug again. He'll never tell me with an earnest smile that he believes in me and can't wait to see my aspirations take wing. Daniel is gone but his memory, his hopes and wishes, still lingers behind.
My mom and I talked about the future the other day, about what we need to do in order to prepare for the days ahead. She tells me I need to have another plan, to get my CLS license in case I don't get into med school this next year. It's always good to have a contingency plan but in the wake of this tragedy, I can feel that determination welling up inside me. I have to honor his memory by becoming the best person I can be, the person Daniel always said I would become.
Daniel believed I could do it. I was always the one who thought I couldn't.
Growing up, I was always the weird one. I lived on the West coast before moving to the Midwest and had been exposed to so many different things as a kid than my friends. I read a lot of manga and watched subbed anime. Eventually, I started cosplaying.