When I was young, like many ‘90s children, I had an obsession with Pokémon. It first started with my obsession with the video game. I didn’t even have it yet, I just saw the few, lucky kids playing it on the school yard and I was instantly hooked. I watched the show every Saturday morning and I got the Pokémon cards. I even read the light novels.
A few months later, it was my seventh birthday and my entire family was huddled around the dining room table. After the excessive amount of cake and ice cream, I was handed a present from my aunt. It wasn’t very big, but it sure was a dense-feeling box. I eagerly unwrapped the box to find a purple, Gameboy Color and a copy of Pokémon Red. I felt like I was going to explode from the excitement. I swiftly opened up the packaging and slid the crisp, new cartridge in to the back of the Gameboy. That classic Gameboy ding echoed in my ears and the iconic start up screen was playing.
As I watched, my mother politefully nagged at me, “Honey, you have one last present from me”. I reluctantly averted my gaze from the screen to see her expectantly holding up an oddly-shaped item. I opened it with one hand and slowly revealed the yellow cloth underneath. It was a Pikachu doll. Once again, my eyes lit up as I finally had someone to share my video game with. I had no siblings or friends to share these experiences with. My parents had absolutely no interest in such things, so Pikachu would become my best friend. Instantly I knew I would name him Sparky, after a Pikachu from the show. I slept with him and played Pokémon Red with him. I would watch the show with him and when I went to school I would hide him in my backpack.
This went on for many years as I slowly accumulated more and more Pokémon merchandise. More games, more books, more cards, everything except dolls. Nothing could replace Sparky. But like a lot of my items, I lost him. I lost Sparky! I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find him. I lost my Gameboy for almost a year, only to find it underneath the couch cushion once, so losing things wasn’t new to me. For weeks I was heartbroken, but I moved on.
Then I came home one day to find a rough, dirty Pikachu doll on the kitchen island. I asked my dad where it came from and he said he found it at work. He worked at a scrapyard and he saw this Pikachu in the back of a car that was about to be crushed. I picked up the Pikachu with a slight grimace, trying not to touch the soiled spots all over it. I looked at the tag on his foot to see the name, Sparky, scribbled with red ink. I found the red ink bizarre, but I assumed it was to make it stand out from the black-lettered label. It was a well-known nickname for Pikachu, so I wasn’t all too surprised. Its tail was torn and the seams started to show the potential of tearing soon, but otherwise it was in average condition I suppose for a 13-year-old doll.
“What a grotesque little Pikachu you are”, I muttered slightly aloud. As I gazed into its soul-less eyes I began to feel trapped. I continued peering further and further into the abyss, for no apparent reason. They were the only unsoiled part of this Pikachu. They were jet-black, yet they release no reflection. It was such a bizarre feeling. It must be some weird coating they put on them.
“Hey, so you did take a likin’ to the little guy”, my father said abruptly, startling me immensely. Gasping, I dropped the Pikachu harshly to the floor. I hastily picked them up and set Sparky back onto the island.
“Yeah, it reminds me of the one I used to have. I still have to wash it a bit, but after that I hope it should look almost as good as ol’ Sparky. Do you have any idea where he went?”
“Haven’t a clue, that was your mother’s department and she probably remembers less now than she did then. We searched the entire house, remember? Must be at your old school or sumthin'”.
The dull bitterness of the loss returned to me slightly, but only fleetingly as I returned my eyes to the new Sparky. I ambled off to ask my mother what would be the best way to clean this thing. I found her knitting in her bedroom when she returns a slightly odd look at Sparky and I.
“Hey, what would be the best way to clean this thing?”
“Probably just detergent and water, but I don’t know why you would bother cleaning that ratty, old thing.”
Her curtness bothered me, but I learned not to bother pressing her for information when she’s purposefully ambiguous. I just walk away to the laundry room- thinking along the way about Pokémon-related things.
After a few minutes of vigorously scrubbing every inch of Sparky, I finally cleaned him up. Only a faint spot remained on the underside of its tail. I set him atop the washing machine and headed to my friend’s house, which I was late for because of Sparky. Luckily, my friend only lived a few houses down from mine.
Although my friend was a bit off put by my latency, we still had fun playing random N64 games. We spent most of the time playing Pokémon Stadium, to which we would randomly defeat one another in battles and mini games. This went on for hours until I decided to return home. I had school the next day, so it was prudent to swiftly head to bed after getting home.
I suddenly remembered the comforting feelings of sleeping with my old Pikachu doll, so I went to obtain Sparky from the Laundry room, but to no avail. It wasn’t anywhere inside that room. I thoroughly searched for it and gave up to go to sleep, only to find that Sparky was already on my bed.
“I wish mom wouldn’t touch my stuff,” I thought to myself as I drifted slowly in sleep. With the soft fabric of Sparky resting gently within my arms and the faint smell of soap floating softly upon the cold, night air.
I abruptly sprung up from my slumber when I awoke that morning. I quizzically look around my room as I tried to decipher why I was so startled. I couldn’t remember any dreams or startling stimuli. As I repeatedly scan the room I notice Sparky sitting up-right across the room under my desk.
“What are the odds of that,” I mutter aloud, “that he’d land like that when I tossed him when I awoke. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.”
Anyways, it was time for me to be getting ready for school, so I hurriedly tossed on my clothes, slightly wrinkled from lying on the floor, and headed to the washroom. Morning ablutions and breakfast proceeded next with the only break in my routine being that I returned to my room to secretly stash Pikachu in my backpack. School felt so much more nostalgic with this Pikachu in my backpack. While everyone else had abandoned their Gameboys and Pokémon I had cherished them all along.
As I approached my locker I realized that I was going to have to awkwardly pull Pikachu out of my backpack so that I could access my binders and textbooks. While I loved Pokémon I was not comfortable about other people knowing about it. Whenever anything even remotely related to the subject I would fain disinterest or having no memory of it. A little piece of me would always feel disgusted by hiding it. I opened my locker door to shield half of the hallway from the sight of my Pikachu, but the hallway leading to the entrance was still open and crowded as ever. I tried tipping my backpack towards into my locker and sliding Sparky out, but had no success. I decided to just give up the façade and be as swift about it as possible. I reached in, firmly grabbing hold of Sparky’s plush head, and yanked him out into the locker. I peered to my left to double-check that no one saw when I noticed two husky fellows in baggy pants and bulky sweaters shuffled towards me.
‘Hey, what was that doll you just had there?” they ask intimidatingly. As they drew nearer their shadows and greasy stench cast over me.
“Was that a Pikachu?” the shorter one asks, now leaning up against the locker adjacent to mine.
I quickly and nervously rebutted, “N-no, it was just an art project for well, art obviously.” I stared at them nervously gauging their reactions. Trying to predict the odds of them believing me were. They still seemed interested. One of them pushed me to the right, slamming my locker door open and the other pawing into my locker. As I scrambled back to my feet as I felt a sense of slight horror as a flash of yellow proceeded from my locker. Their eyes nearly exploded as they both saw it too.
“I knew it! It was a freaking Pikachu. What a fag,” the taller one exclaimed.
“Let’s see what the fag does when we throw Pikachu into the garbage, where he belongs,” the shorter one responded as they both motioned towards the beige garbage bin hanging from the nearby wall. I rushed towards it, in too late of fashion, as Pikachu is shoved carelessly into its vile opening. They walked away laughing, muttering degrading, generic remarks towards Sparky and I. I sourly removed the lid of the garbage bin and pluck Pikachu out of it. The faint smell of refuse disappeared as I hastily returned it to my locker.
“freaking greasers! I hate them all, I hate everyone at this school…” my voice trailed off as I realized the daunting proceeding thoughts.
Luckily, I was close to invisible at the school, so no one else in the hallway seemed to notice my Pikachu or the rest of the incident. I sniffed Pikachu one last time before retrieving my school supplies and locking the door- hiding Sparky from this cruel world. The rest of the day was uneventful, like most school days. I’d be the first to arrive at my classes because I had no one to talk to during the short, five minute breaks between classes. I’d sit at the back of every class, paying attention and diligently trying to complete as much work as possible because I absolutely abhorred the idea of homework. During the breaks I did grant myself the luxury of seeing Sparky, cuddled up with my gym shoes at the bottom of my locker. You’ve never felt nostalgia like that before, I can assure you.
After a monotonous day of school, I eagerly return home with Pikachu secretly waiting in my bag. I pulled him out as soon as the bus chugged down the street to a distance far enough that the passengers would no longer be able to distinguish Sparky as I walked down my long, barren driveway. “I bet you couldn’t wait to get out of there, could you? I hope you’re better from earlier. Don’t worry, Sparky, people like that always get what they deserve. Be it from justice or vengeance”. I tried to reassure myself more so than Sparky.
I set my things sloppily on the front bench and approached my room. Those 45 minutes that I could enjoy alone before my siblings arrived home from their school were my most cherished moments of my day. I had an insatiable desire to play Pokémon Yellow. I even had Pokémon Stadium hooked up to my TV, so I could play it on a bigger screen with acceleration for grinding. A year after I had acquired Red, I had acquired Yellow when it was released. It remains my favourite Pokémon game to this day. How could it not, with Pikachu being the starter? I then enjoyed some Pokémon Yellow with Pikachu at my side. Playing for what turned out to be hours. The only reason I stopped was because my mother called me to dinner in her shrill voice that can pierce even the deafest of ears.
The rest of the night followed the same path, where I played more Yellow until I grew tired enough to sleep. Once again I was accompanied to bed with Sparky. This time I set him at the foot of my bed though because of the faint smell of garbage. The next morning I woke up much more calmly, but still had no recollection of any dreams. It was odd because I could always remember my dreams no matter how faint or insignificant they were. I glanced to my feet to see it empty there, where Sparky should have been. Instead, I saw him under my desk again up-right.
“What a coincidence you should happen to fall outta my bed and land up-right two nights in a row, Sparky,” I once again mumbled out loud to an inanimate object. I slithered out of bed and retrieved Sparky into my grasp. I almost recoiled when I felt a damp spot on Sparky’s right leg. It was another stain very similar to the ones it had before. “Whoa! How did I miss a garbage stain from yesterday? I’m sorry little buddy, I’ll try to clean it up after school today.”
Learning from my mistakes I decided to leave Sparky at home, perched on top of my desk. I arrived at school to see the shorter bully from the day prior shuffling about alone. I heard a group of students clamour amongst the din of the school in front of the entrance. I tuned it out until I heard the word Pokémon mentioned and I stopped momentarily to listen. I hear them all spewing ignorant remarks.
“… Yeah, Pokémon was just another one of those shitty fads all those losers had back in elementary school,” one, by the name of Chris Fallon, said.
Another interrupted, “Totally, if you’re gunna play video games you should be playin’ games like COD and Battlefield or sumthin’”.
“All this ignorance! I can’t take this. I freaking hate everyone at this school. I wish people like Chris Fallon would all die,” I wanted to shout, but thought instead.
I stewed over the stupidity that was teenagers’ opinions for most of the day. I waited for school to end so that I wouldn’t have to spend another moment within earshot of such words being spoken again for at least that day. I arrived home and rush to my room to retreat to the realm of video games. I picked up Sparky from off of my desk chair and set him beside me.
Looking over at him, I noticed another spot on his left paw. I hadn’t realized he had gotten so stained from inside that garbage bin. I also forgot to clean him when I got home, so I erected myself and cleaned sparky in the laundry room again. Using the same techniques as before, I removed all the spots until they vanished.
Then, back to Pokémon Yellow. I had already beaten half the game doing a solo run with my Pikachu in the game, which was aptly nicknamed Sparky of course. Once I beat Brock with Pikachu, which took a profuse amount of time, the game became fairly easy, like most solo runs. While playing I started talking to Sparky beside me. I decided to try telling him about my day, since I had no one else to say it to. I proceeded to tell him about Chris Fallon and my teachers and my hatred of the other students of the school. I spoke about more and more inane things as the time passed on. Until my mother burst in the door with a stack of my clothing, teetering violently within her trembling arms.
She begun to speak, “Here’s your clothes honey. You really should try go outside, the weather’s so lovely and you’re just wasting away in here.” She seems to be glaring at Sparky when saying that, but it could have just been her avoidance of eye contact. “Anyways, would you like to clean your Pikachu there? I noticed it was getting dirty this morning”.
“How did she know he was dirty this morning?” I thought; my eyes still fixated on the glaring TV screen, “Was that why he fell onto the chair today? “. I then replied, “No, I already cleaned him. You know I don’t like people touching my things.”
With that she frowned and somberly exited out the door. “I wish she’d close the damn door,” I said mumbled to myself. She left the door open, which forced me to get up and close it. I stumble towards it and nudged it closed with my foot. Turning around I see Sparky sitting there with another stain on his stomach.
“Aaaaaaah guh uh!” My mother shrieks from down the hall.
I swiftly spun around and threw the door open. I nearly skated upon the smooth hardwood floor as I headed down the hall to the stairway. As I pass the stairway to my left, I saw my mother lying upon the bottom of the stairs with a contorted body like a crumpled piece of paper. I carefully traversed the steps down to her side, but her neck was bent strangely and I couldn’t hear any sounds from her. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to save her. My father had now entered the room briefly to which we exchanged panicked glances. He realized he had to call an ambulance as I tried my best to care for my mother. I gently cradled her without moving her, for I remembered that you should not move people with spinal cord injuries.
My vision blurred from the tears and I could feel her heat dissipate until the ambulance came. I was shoved aside as they solemnly strapped her to a gurney and taxied her off to the hospital. They declared her dead at the scene. The rest of the night was blurred together amongst the tears and emotions. My father and I were asked some questions about the event, but it was apparent that there was no foul play.
I returned to school days later. I couldn’t do anything for days; curled up on my bed with Sparky. He kept getting spots on him, but perhaps this time they were my tears which stained him. I arrived at school as anonymously as ever, no one wiser to my mother’s death. I felt SLIGHTLY relaxed by that. I don’t think I could have survived the awkward conversations that would have transpired if they spent too much on me.
I walked into the school to see a group of people huddled, wearing mournful faces and black. I shuffled through the crowd to see the glow of candlelight and picture frames on a table. It was a shrine in the foyer. The pictures were of students. The only one I recognized was of Chris Fallon. Confused, I ask a bystander about it, “H-hey, what happened?”
He quickly mumbled the words, “Chris Fallon and a group of his friends died two days ago.” His transparent, stoic face told me that I shouldn’t ask him anything more about it.
“So that’s why no one noticed about my mother’s death. Or perhaps nobody cared about it!” I clenched my teeth in anger. “How could those vapid teenagers mean more to people than my caring mother?” I felt jealous rage like no other that day. Correct or not, I wanted those children to suffer. “These fucking teenagers. . .” Rage consumed my thoughts that I couldn’t think clearly. I stewed in my hidden rage that day. I walked like a rigid statue and glared, but everyone was too consumed by their ‘tragic loss’ to notice once again. Perhaps I was egotistical, perhaps I should have been said about the children’s deaths as well, but that’s all in the past now.
When I returned my father was still unapproachable. He was crushed more than I was, so instead I just confided in Sparky once again. “So the kids at school don’t care about my mother. . .” My voice trailed off once again. I didn’t know what words I was going to speak next. Or perhaps I knew the words that I was going to speak, but was too afraid to say them. I felt like Sparky understood very clearly what I wanted. I had grown to despise everyone in the world. All I needed was Sparky to be happy. . .
The next morning I depleted the entire bottle of laundry soap to clean the stains off of Sparky.