Someone Else, Something Else

The friction between the rough ground and the soles of my flip flops heats up my body as I move forward with every step, speeding my way to our house after school. Usually I walk home wearing black leather shoes that match my school uniform, but as today is Thursday, I need to walk faster; I need to use my slippers instead. If I walk at this pace wearing my leather shoes, I might separate the soles from the uppers. Leather shoes also drag my feet, like rolling a boulder that grows heavier with each step.  I walk as fast as I can wearing my slippers, feeling electrified by the heat of a million suns, paving through the sunburnt pathway as the straps of my jostling bookbag bite into my shoulders.

While I usually stroll this pathway with a friend, on Thursdays I’m not patient enough to walk at his leisured pace, so on Thursdays he walks by himself.  No reason for pity—he understands, and is surely used to it by now, and, anyway, we have five days of school per week, and I only leave him behind this one.

Soon after, I’m finally home, finally in my room. I keep my school uniform on since there’s no time to waste. Sweat drips from my shiny hair, pools through the pores of my chest and back, sopping both my inner shirt and school uniform, dampening my slacks.  So goes walking so far and fast under the blazing sun when the weather is hot and humid.  My legs burn sore under the dissipating rush of adrenaline, and I feel a slight buzz as I catch my breath. It’s Thursday, I’m in my room, the moment has finally come around.  Arrow.

Thursdays from 16:00 to 19:00 are reserved for the new episode of Arrow. While an average episode lasts only 42 minutes, I’m on my laptop for three hours straight. Alongside watching the new episode, I complete the experience with some tasty bread from the bakery nearby, an iced tea I just freshly blended, and the pirated video with accompanied subtitled file acquired from not-so-legal sites. With no one else to share the house for the next three hours, speakers will be cranked-up a hundred percent and no one will be bothered.

Why three hours to watch a 42-minute episode?  Many things justified my need for that time frame. I rewound or paused a scene often and for two reasons: one, I really loved some of the lines and hearing them again fed a few shots of dopamine to my brain; and two, as shameful as it is to admit, my English skills were not good at all. I often needed to pause, read, and internalize again and again before understanding what the characters’ words meant, which is why I grew up streaming from home instead of going to cinemas: in my room I can rewind, pause, and change the speed of the film however I see fit.

The characters will throw in deep words that I won’t understand, prompting me to always pause and Google-search those foreign words. Terms like vendetta and crucible never made sense even in context, not until I searched out their definitions. I typed all those intricate words on a notepad in a file named “Arrow Vocabulary” that I continually studied then updated every week when another episode aired. Next to that file lay a document dedicated to all the quotes from the show that inspired me. I named it “Arrow Quotes.”

In the mornings I would take a shower using a bucket, or as we call it, “timba,” and its partner “tabo,” a dipper, to lather water over my body. With muted action music playing in my head and imaginary criminals engaging in a fight against me, I would often say common catchphrases used by the main character. Doing my best attempt at emulating his tone, accent, and brooding facial expression, I shouted “You have failed this city!” as I drew back my bow. There was always a reason I had to wake up early every morning.  I wanted to look and sound exactly like Oliver Queen. Without performing my impression of Oliver Queen in the shower, mornings would not be the same for me.

This same Thursday after-school routine went on for some years while I was still living in the Philippines. My Thursday afternoon ritual was habitual, solitary, but very enjoyable, a small respite through the eyes of my fourteen-year-old self. Each week, an episode, every memory, eternal.

And here I am six years later.

I am now a college student living in the United States and working on his physics degree. I enjoy telling stories and writing various pieces on the side. I feel a need to share my stories, inspired by the storytellers who taught me.

I also live here with my family. When my mom accepted a job here, my family all decided to move to a small town in Arizona named Kingman. People are often surprised whenever they learn that English was not my first language. They usually find out that I am not from a small town in Arizona due to a lot of humor and slang I fail to understand. Maybe I will understand more of it soon. Maybe I won’t. Time works in a funny way.

Looking back, I was blind to see that the lessons can be found right in front of my screen. Why Arrow?  The reason Arrow made such a huge impact on me was that he’s a weapon that was not created in an instant. He was never gifted with any powers; instead, he needed consistent and intense training. He managed his own personal vendetta. He had to start from being the famous billionaire playboy before becoming worthy of being called a “hero.” In the first season he always said he would pursue saving his city alone and that saving it requires him to be a killer. But before the series ended, he saved the whole multiverse, and not by himself but alongside companions who he trusts to have his back in crucial moments. I was living a similar life where I believed having friends would only delay me and my goals. But now that I am in my second year of college, not only did I learn that friends play an important part in my life, but I also made friends who I know will have my back as I have theirs.

Oliver’s story was a constant reminder that any character can grow and change over the course of time if he or she possesses the dedication for change. Every introduction of an episode he would always say that he must be someone else; he must be something else. And it’s true: he is now someone else; he is now something else.

Arrow was not only my best English teacher, but was also one of the best teachers I had who taught me how to live and view life.

For the entirety of my teenage years, I lived alone in my room. I taught myself how to speak English in my room. I learned how to type fast in my room. I would open my laptop, sit on my bed, and, because I finished all my homework at the time, I would download an episode of Arrow and start watching in my room. I would sit, watch, and type in my room for so long that my legs would feel tingling jolts of electricity and my back would feel pain. One day I will feel comfortable enough in my skills to tell my perfect story: with a non-fiction version of Arrow, mirroring the character development of someone I will always admire, that maybe in the future will have an autobiographical television adaptation acted out by someone else. How will I ever tell that story? I have no idea, but my future feels certain: it will be done in my room. Lucky for me I still have my own room and all the time in my life to tell my own story.

Arrow premiered back in October 2012 and concluded recently on January 28, 2020. Eight amazing years in the making that left me with endless stories, lessons, and truths. Arrow spent eight amazing years in the high heats of a crucible to finish its story. It sparked various superhero shows that are currently working on their own stories. Now it is my turn to begin one.

We are now both someone else, but unlike him, I am still working on becoming something else.