When I was seven years old, I was a bad kid. My parents would send me to bed at 8:30, but I’d sneak my mom’s iPad into my room and watch YouTube videos when I was supposed to be sleeping. While the television blared a soccer or basketball game downstairs in the living room, I’d lie under the covers, stealthily watching my favorite shows. As soon as I heard my parents’ footsteps, I’d shove the iPad under my pillow and close my eyes.
I loved different types of videos, like cooking videos and pranks. My favorite ones depicted dogs protecting their owners. There was this one Doberman that ran full speed, jumped, and knocked the “intruder” down. One day, I clicked on “recommended” and began watching a video of a girl and her friend walking down a street. Then a stranger approached. The girl, defending her friend, stuck her hands out in front of her. The man suddenly flew backwards through the air to the wall. She catapulted him with her bare hands! Everyone around them screamed. It was an energy force! I replayed the video several times, pausing to look for ropes or pulleys. I even enlarged the video, but I saw only the man flying through the air.
Afterward, I Googled, “What is the force that lets you move things with your mind?” The answer was “Telekinesis.” I’d watched Wonder Woman and seen her put her wrists together and push things away, but I didn’t know what it was called. Google said, “If you try your best, you can feel that energy and use your mind to move objects, but you must practice.”
The rest of the day, I watched YouTube tutorials on how to practice telekinesis. All day, I tried to move a piece of paper with my mind. From that day on, I practiced whenever I had time, focusing my eyes directly on the paper, not letting anything or anyone distract me. Scared of mosquitos at the time, I didn’t even let one bother me because I made a deal to myself: if I moved the piece of paper, I would allow myself to swat it. The paper stayed still. I even used my breath and blew the paper, pretending I exceeded my goal. Sometimes my breath didn’t even work. I never realized that a piece of paper could be so heavy!
At age seven, I was about three foot nine inches tall and weighed about 50 pounds. I had no muscle mass and couldn’t even open a bag of chips. Forget the pickle jars and bottles of Coke and Gatorade. In physical education class, I couldn’t catch a dodgeball. And I couldn’t run very far. My legs were like twigs. I was only good at swimming because I could float. Every time I walked into a classroom, no one would turn their heads. At lunch, I could start a conversation about a book I read over the weekend and talk about all the exciting characters and scenes, but my classmates would be talking to one another, playing board games, and looking at their phones, like they couldn’t hear me at all. They didn’t even lift their heads up to look at me. I was there, but people couldn’t see me. It was as if I weren’t an actual human being. It made me lose my confidence. I was like a neglected puppy; I desperately wanted attention and friends, but no one noticed or cared.
So, at school one day, I told my friends, “I have to tell you guys something. In private!” I made a dramatic face as if this announcement were terribly important. In the bathroom, my three friends gathered around me. (They were more like acquaintances who let me eat lunch at their table, and I often gave them gummy worms and chocolates.) In the brightly-lit tiled bathroom, they gaped at me, waiting.
I said, “Guess what? I have something I never told you about. I have one power. I can move things with my mind!”
As soon as they heard it, their faces lit up, eyes wide and stretched. I could tell that they were shocked, but they remained calm as if they didn’t believe me.
“That’s not possible, Vicky. If you were telling the truth, you would have shown us,” my best friend Christie said.
“Not right now. I can’t let anyone know, or else I’ll get caught. If I get caught, I’ll get in trouble. Besides, the principal will get mad if I tear up the bathroom.”
It worked. I captured their attention.
I wasn’t sure if they believed me, or if I simply intrigued them, but after the announcement in the bathroom, people started treating me differently, as if I were a mythical creature.
Kids I didn’t even know would stare at me across the playground, and even the teachers looked at me, no doubt wondering why students were surrounding me. Kids would argue over who got to hang out with me.
“Let go of her! She promised to hang out with me today!”
“Shut up, Jenna! She’s not even your friend! She’s MY friend.”
There were always two or more students holding my hands, pulling me along as if I were a doll they wanted to keep. They took me to climb the spider web with them. They dragged me to sit on the bench in the garden. They towed me along to ride the swings or play in the sandbox. Sometimes I was being pulled back and forth, left and right in opposite directions. They gave me chocolate, fruit candies, cookies, and sandwiches. They made me feel like a celebrity. Perhaps, I should have felt guilty. I was a con artist, but I was so focused on my new life that I didn’t even care.
From then on, I received many birthday invitations—some from kids I didn’t even know. When I attended these parties, I was always the only kid who got presents from the birthday kid, like nail polish, nail stickers, or even makeup for kids. Only special kids got these fantastic gifts. Everyone else just got smiley-face stickers and a piece of cake.
Second grade was the best year of my life.
Occasionally, kids pulled me aside and secretly asked, “Can you show me? Please? I really want to see you do it.” My powers were like a spark in their lives that kept them from losing hope.
“You have to come to my house to see it, but my mom has to agree first.” But every time they asked to come to my house, I would shrug and say, “No, it’s not a good time.”
Second grade passed by like time does when I’m watching Netflix. Maybe because I’d wished enough that I wouldn’t get caught, my wish came true. That summer, my parents transferred me to a new school. I didn’t see any of my friends or classmates from the old school again. So all the burden of my lies floated away.
There, among the taller twelve-year-olds, I also grew taller and stronger. I could do pushups and a handstand. I could catch two dodgeballs at the same time. I could open bags of potato chips. I made many more friends in my new school without any lies or fake talents. We’d hang out at the library studying in study rooms, sitting on couches, doing group projects. I realized that if I showed people my kindness and interest in them, they would treat me the same way.
One Sunday, I was at the mall with my dad. There, the marble floors, golden staircases, elevators, and Gucci brands made me feel poor. My dad stopped to investigate the map to find a shop we could afford. I was quietly standing beside him. In the sunlight through the ceiling, I could see a familiar face strolling through the mall.
Then it hit me. It all clicked. Second grade, when everyone was crowding around me all because of a tiny lie about my “powers.”
Shoot, I thought. I lifted my hoodie up, covering half my face, and begged my dad to take me home. Instead, we made our way to McDonald’s, where we ate burgers in the back corner.
As I ate, I thought about the lie.
My parents have always said, “You can’t do wrong and feel right.” Still, it had been nice to have an entire year of being the focus of attention, like being in a movie. A part of me missed that life and wanted to go back. But a part of me was proud that I no longer needed to lie to make friends.
As I ate my burger, the flavor wasn’t as full as I remembered it. When I finished, I stared intently at the wrapper. With all my mental focus, I willed it to move. I wasn’t quite willing to give up on the idea that I might have just a little bit of magic.
Vicky Sang is a ninth-grade student who lives in Shanghai. She loves to write about her fictional pets and scary dolls who lurk in the shadows. She is determined to someday write her own Dear Abby Column.