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Conversations with Otto -- creative nonfiction by Anita Pan

In the early morning, when the sun is beginning to fringe the edges of the sky heading to school and wasting six hours within the confines of a box is a masochistic idea. But Otto is already awake. He tugs and pulls at my sheets, jumping around, sticking his sweaty, blobby face in front of mine and breathing obnoxiously down my shirt.

I wish I could wake up without Otto for once, and sometimes I do, but when that happens it’s only because he’s a little tired. On those rare, rosy, tranquil mornings without Otto, I get up and look around and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Only the exact moment I’m aware of quiet surroundings is the same time Otto remembers what he’s here for. Then he wakes up and starts existing, and it’s always the same. Otto never shuts up.

He follows me into the bathroom, clamoring for a look in the mirror. He points and laughs when I discover a new pimple—to which I cast him a reproaching glance. It’s pointless to laugh at others, but Otto here doesn’t care. He laughs anyway and he always will.

Unlike depression, for which there is a never-ending excess of grey and muddy content there isn’t much to describe Otto. He exists as a fragment of an overactive imagination, what Psychology Today calls the “opposite of one’s personality”. He’s a collection of “intrusive thoughts”, all of which are supposedly normal parts of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In my sane hours, I agree, but mostly I want to throw Otto out the window and watch him get run over by several heavy trucks. He’s a miserable little shell of a person.

During breakfast, Otto throws a plate and shatters it, spreading pieces strewn about on the rug. He pees in the orange juice and climbs on the table. I say, Otto, please calm down, but he never listens. I eat in silence and try to balance my cutlery. Every time Otto jumps on the table, the dishes rattle and shake nervously and I watch my Froot loops splash around the rims of my bowl.

On the way to school, Otto limps behind me and points out the cars. Each time one comes by he gets all excited and mimes jumping in front of it. He encourages me to do the same, look, it’s fast and painless. No, Otto, you’ve got the wrong idea. I ignore him and keep walking, increasing the volume of my headphones. For once Otto takes the hint and fades away. He follows me limply and hides in my locker through first period.

The next time I see him is second period. I catch Otto climbing on the table, surveying others in lurid detail like some explorer—only he isn’t Christopher Columbus, and he’s not discovering America. Jumping around gleefully, Otto points out the dandruff on one girl’s hair, the acne on another, the clumps of fat on a third. I tell Otto, other people are none of your business. In response Otto starts to peek under their skirts. He beckons me to come over, try it out, yeah, and I feel like crying. My friends come to talk to me and finally Otto goes away.

A few hours pass and I’m eating lunch, twirling spaghetti badly with a fork and knife. Otto sits across me and watches, frowning. His eyes dart to my knife. Oh, I know what he’s doing. Otto grabs it, mimicking several thick slashes along his wrist, fake blood pouring out like a waterfall. Each time he does it, he looks at me hatefully with beady little slits until I feel my own tendons being cut. In response I close my eyes, squeezing them until black dots swirl and dance in little ripples. Thankfully, I open them to see Otto gone.

The rest of the day travels smoothly until Otto acts up in last period when we’re learning about the Second World War. I’m trying to focus while he’s got his arm at a forty-five-degree angle. It takes every bit of willpower not to invent an atomic bomb and drop it on the little bastard. The clock releases me and I hurry to walk home. Otto trails behind me, chuckling.

The rest of the day passes uneventfully, as Otto tires out. I do things and say things and read things, with minimal interference. Once or twice he starts to grow red-hot and I see his fat head attempt to come up with some horrid thing to say, but nothing reaches a boiling point. A while later Otto sits in a corner and throws middle fingers at me while I write my homework.

At night as always, I close the windows and draw up my bed. Otto sticks himself to the ceiling and dangles down at me, leering wide and pervy while watching me sleep. See you in the morning, he croons.

I would say I want to cry, but I don’t even know what to do at this point because I know he’s right. Otto will never leave.


Anita Pan is a sophomore at York House School, Vancouver BC. Her work has been published in The Milking Cat and The Greyhound Journal, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. She is currently seething over the ending of The Old Man and The Sea. It’s so unfair!

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