As soon as Lisa got home from school she ran up to her room, dumped the contents of her backpack onto her desk, and turned on her laptop. Junior High combined three elementary schools, and that meant that over sixty percent of the kids didn’t know her. After her sleep episode today they would, and her reputation would follow. She thought it was interesting that this morning her homeroom teacher had given the assignment to write a paper answering the question. Who am I?

Lisa sat at her computer and quickly typed out two versions; the first she printed and put into her backpack to take to school. The second, the real answer, she deleted once it was completed. No need for a printed page. Lisa knew exactly who she was.

The first paper described Lisa Longford, a quiet shy girl (everyone knew that), a loner who did not seem to have friends, a good student, an avid reader. It described where she lived, what her parents did for a living, stuff most people knew. She also added that she had a sleep disorder and was known to fall asleep in class and unable to be awakened, sometimes for hours. Again everyone knew this, at least those from her old school. And now her homeroom class did, and probably the whole school.

The deleted version was different.

I am a freak, a noun, a person regarded as strange because of their unusual experience or behavior. I fall asleep in class and can’t be awakened for hours. Most kids don’t use the word, but they treat me like a freak. Also I wear a bracelet so anyone who sees it will know I am not a normal girl. It has inscribed a phone number to call if I have one of these sleep episodes. When they call they will be told to leave me alone, or take me to the school nurse. If I were a normal girl and did not wear this symbol, someone would be concerned and call nine-one-one, and people would come and check on me and drive me to the hospital where doctors would be concerned and do tests to make me better. No one does that any longer. They leave me alone where I am.

I am a freak, a verb, to behave or cause to behave in a wild and irrational way, typically because of the effects of extreme emotion, mental illness (nice word for crazy), or drugs. I don’t use drugs.

Who I am is a person with a great secret. I can’t be awakened from a sleep episode because I have gone into the book I am reading. When a book calls to me I go into the unwritten pages. I can’t enter the story if I am not called. When I come back I remember my adventures in the story; not like a dream all muddled and sketchy. I remember them clearly because I was there. I have wandered through castles listening to servants and cooks talk and gossip. I have wandered through a market in China looking at strange fruits and wonderful colorful silks.

I am wherever the the story takes me, places the author knew about but didn’t choose to put in the pages of his book. The book opens the door and lets me come in and wander among the unwritten pages. When I was young I tried to tell my parents and doctors, back when they cared and wanted to help me. They all said I had a wonderful imagination. My father said I should become a writer. Of course he would say that since he is the Dean of the English Department at the University.

We are book people, my family. We have a large library in our house, my father has more books in his study, my mother has books in her study. I am allowed to buy as many as I wish, and I do. My father is having our basement remodeled so he can store his rare books in special protective cases. Soon there will be more room for my books in the library. We are book people. I think that is why the books invite me to come in.

Who am I? I am Lisa. I can go into a story when a book calls me. I am Lisa. I am a freak. I am Lisa and I like who I am.

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