Same Difference

It was at the dinner of my eighteenth birthday. I should’ve known something was up when my parents invited me out to dinner with them. Sure, it was my birthday, but they’ve never invited me out on my birthday before. Usually, my mother just says, “Hurry, blow out the candles, your father and I have to go.” Then she gives me a quick peck on the forehead along with a warning about not cutting myself with the knife because no one’s with me to call for help and I’ll faint and bleed out all over her always-polished kitchen floor.

But that didn’t happen, not tonight. I should’ve known something was up.

The very moment we were ready for dessert, my mother motioned to the well-groomed waiter across the prim and proper expensive restaurant; a signal to get my cake. As the waiter brought the cake to our table, with eighteen rainbow-colored candles strewn about the block of white frosting with fancy red swirls along the sides, my parents began singing Happy Birthday, the waiter joining in as he closed in on us.

As the waiter gently placed the cake in front of me, the glow of the eighteen lit candles disrupted my eyesight for a moment. But as my eyes adjusted to the strong glow, I could see a message spelled across the cake where the words ‘Happy Birthday, Matt’ should’ve resided. Instead, the message read, ‘Sorry, but you’re really a human from a planet called Earth.’

Upon reading the message, I suddenly looked up at my mother. Just as suddenly, she hopped out of her seat, saying, “Hurry, blow out the candles, your father and I have to go.” She then gave me a quick peck on the forehead along with a warning about not cutting myself with the knife because no one’s with me to call for help and I’ll faint and bleed out all over the fancy restaurant floor. I guess she didn’t develop too much faith in our waiter, who kept insisting my parents pay the check as they were rushing out the door.

The next day – yes, I was able to find a ride home from the restaurant – I went to school wondering how people would react to a human from the planet Earth. Then again, it’s not like they never could tell something was… different… about me.

So, unsurprisingly, the day went all business-as-usual. My curly-haired friend, Jenna, greeted me the moment I arrived, as usual, and even walked with me to class, like always.

Classes weren’t abnormal. English was fine. Gym was okay. Sure, I was the first to get thrown out in dodgethis, but that’s not odd. Science class wasn’t any different with the teacher offering his normal ‘cut open this animal and please refrain from laughing when I ask you to point out the penis’ speech. And math class… ehh, fuck math.

After school, I walked with another friend, a wannabe athlete named Josh; we typically hang out near the parking lot, waiting for our rides. As our rides arrived simultaneously, which still wasn’t out of the ordinary, we said our goodbyes and exchanged a, “See ya tormorrow,” as we parted ways.

While pulling out of the parking lot, my mom asked the question she always asked when picking me up. “How was your day?”

“Normal.”

“Yup,” she said, “just another normal day.” She placed a soft, webbed hand on my knee, giving it a half-hearted jiggle as she quickly glanced at me, offering a quick smile.

Glancing at my non-webbed hands, it finally dawned on me that she and I may have a few slight physical differences between us.

But how could I not really notice until now?

Maybe I did notice and just didn’t care. I’ve always known our hands weren’t the same, I’ve always seen it, but it never occurred to me that it was a terribly big deal, that it meant something. And no one ever told me it was strange or even wrong for me to not have webbed hands. Nobody ever told me my pupils were too small or that my ears were too big. Or that my skin tone was too dark. Or that I had guyfriends instead of girlfriends. No one at school ever made me feel like I didn’t belong. I just always felt… normal.

Is that why this slipped by me for all of these years? But then, why did my parents apologize for not telling me until last night?

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I hesitantly asked.

“Your father and I never felt like it was necessary,” she said as she slowly pulled the hover-transport over to the side of the road. “We always felt awful, like we were hiding something from you.”

As the setting sun blazed into my eyes, I asked, “So why did you do it?”

Reaching out, she gently stroked my face. “When you’re among people who accept you just as you are and you accept them as they are, it’s difficult to… mess with that.”

“Where are my Earth parents?” I held up a finger, adding, “Don’t say, ‘On Earth,’ because I’m expecting that.”

With a somber tone, she said, “Your Earth parents aren’t alive. Your father rescued you from a sinking boat while on a routine marine life counting mission. Both of your parents had already gone under, but you were still floating.” A tear rolled down her cheek as she managed a hesitantly reminiscing smile. “The way your father puts it, it was as if your Earth parents were holding you above water, asking him to take you so that you may live.”

As she turned her eyes back to the road and started the hover-transport, she continued, “He brought you here and we raised you as one of us.”

The only thing I could feel was shock. Seriously, when someone lays something like that on you, something completely life-changing, and so much all at one time, all you can do is wonder how you feel about it; or wonder if you feel anything.

But still, there was one thought that creeped into my mind at that very moment of uncertainty. “You know,” I said to my mother, “if I’m so different here on this planet, and everyone treats me so well, just imagine how amazing everyone would be to me back on Earth, where I’m human like everyone else.”

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