By Kierah Jenkins
I saw my first episode of South Park when I was in eighth grade.
To be honest, it was for a girl. I was twelve-going-on-thirteen and had nothing better to do but follow a girl around hopelessly for the entire year with hearts in my eyes but with no confidence to back it up. It was at our math table when she’d mentioned that it was her very favorite show of all time and promised me that I “hadn’t lived” until I’d seen at least one episode. So, with the intention of impressing her, when I got home I opted to ignore my homework for the evening and instead parked myself in front of the TV to see just what I was missing out on. I had heard a few things about it, mainly that it was offensive and as I grew through personalities in middle school soon this would become a defining one. She had recommended to me a few of her favorite episodes, with lovely titles such as Starvin’ Marvin and Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. I settled on one with a cool title: Scott Tenorman Must Die. It was about Cartman getting tricked out of sixteen dollars by a ninth grader named Scott Tenorman, and so Cartman got him back in um… let’s say the worst way possible. I remember being floored but too wrapped up in my own laughter to even process what had happened. The next day, after school, I offered to watch the first season with her.
We dated for a year and a half.
Looking back on it, it was about as mediocre as all young relationships are, but we were both happy and we both liked each other, and that was all that mattered. While I no longer love that girl (in fact we hardly speak) I take a piece of her—a chunk of her life she broke off for me—everywhere I go. Despite our distance I haven’t missed a new episode of South Park since that time to this day. I curl my fingers strangely on the guitar when I play “Can’t Help Falling in Love” because that’s how she taught me to play it. There are little aspects of her that I keep in a satin bag, on a shelf with her name I keep beside my heart. It beats shallowly, sometimes faintly and sometimes none at all, but the shelf will remain standing and will continue to collect heirlooms until I’m old enough not to remember them and instead they have become instinctual. I think of her, often, when I watch some of the older South Park episodes. They were always her favorites.
When I clean my stuffed animals I scrub behind their ears, even as a teenager, because my dad did it when I was little and I never shook the habit. He taught me the most efficient ways to get the stuff from the top shelf or to get into the cabinets way above my head because he’s been short like me even longer than I’ve been short. I tie all my shoes like a pair of wrestling shoes because that’s how I saw him do it. I love my mother, but I am my father’s daughter; we are similar down to the food we eat, the kinds of people we surround ourselves with, the drinks we drink and the songs we sing. I adore my father and the things he’s passed onto me, the small quirks and habits I keep with. I pour seltzer from the can holding it directly upside down because he told me it takes away the fizz. I watch Die Hard every Christmas, despite it not being a Christmas movie. I don’t walk beneath a ladder or pick up pennies face down. Looking at me is like looking at my father, just through a different colored lens. My father is quiet, with a square face and body and eyes, who enjoys the simple things in life. He doesn’t do much but work and relax (in that order). Sometimes, when we eat dinner, he sits and thinks for a long time. He stays until after we’ve all left. I can get lost in thought like that sometimes, too, but I am not quiet. However, we have learned to live with each other’s differences since we’re so similar to one another. My father’s ideals are in a book on a shelf that beats just above my heart, and every superstition and helpful tip he’s ever given me is written in fine print on the front cover.
As a person, I’ve done the “person” thing and met many many people, some who’ve impacted my life in craters and others in small dents. As I’ve continued to grow, and still do, I have become an amalgamation of the people I’ve loved and the people I’ve hated, those I’ve hardly spoken to and those I see every day, my family. In one quick passing glance, I’m a snapshot of someone else’s life. I try to say hello to everyone I can, even strangers, because my grandmother used to do that with me on walks when I was young. When I type my smiley faces on text I habitually do them backwards (: because I had a friend who did his normally 🙂 and he wanted them to look at each other. I take very, very good care of all of my books because a librarian I looked up to as a child told me that books should always be preserved. I keep the laces of my favorite shoes before getting rid of them because an old, old friend told me that I should cherish my shoes, as they’ve taken me to millions of places and seen so many things that I can’t just get rid of them. When I really want to get rid of things I burn them because an old friend had a firepit we used to throw things we hated in. When I’m particularly sad I listen to “Mr. Loverman” by Ricky Montgomery, as it makes me think of an old friend who’s moved far from me, and when I’m particularly happy I listen to “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and Papas because it’s my current best friend’s favorite song. “DONTTRUSTME” by 3OH!3 makes me think of my aunt’s wedding. “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled makes me think of 2017 summer when we stayed in Toms River for a weekend and my brother played it non-stop. Down to the music I listen to, I am a ball of other people’s habits and quirks but somehow it all comes together to make me still unique. I quote cartoons like it’s a second language to me but people still think I’m funny. My personality is a large mishmash of millions of little things that I’ve always done and things I’ve picked up on, but they mesh well together to make a (relatively) alright person. Aka me!
All people are like this, I think. I have a philosophy that you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite book or their favorite song. People pick up things from other people that become their own thing that others pick up and so on and so forth. It’s very interesting to think about other people’s lives, and their quirks, and where they come from. People-watching is one of my favorite things to do, as each human being is so diverse from one another that no matter where you look there’s someone new to focus on for a while. It’s a lovely sort of wonder.
Categories: Lit Magazine