A World of His Own
On Japanese Pseudonyms, Fake Worlds and Parental Disputes.
December 12th, 2010
"You encourage him," Todd whispered in an accusatory tone to his wife.
His wife, Emma, sighed indignantly and looked up from where she had been emptying the coffee pot into the kitchen sink. Her hazel eyes narrowed and she asked too quietly, "Encourage what exactly?"
Leaning his slight frame against the kitchen counter, Todd gestured to his 12-year-old son, Daniel, who had been firmly planted on the living room couch for four hours, typing away fervently on his laptop. Some days, Todd wondered whether the machine was permanently attached to his son's body. Danny was staring intently at the screen. His long, black hair draping over his eyes and blanketing him from the rest of the world, he seemed to notice nothing else.
"You're encouraging his anti-social behaviour. He should be in school, meeting kids his age, not hung up on the computer all day."
"It's the weekend, Todd. The schools aren't open anyway." Emma ran her fingers through her curly, brown hair, crossing her arms and bracing herself for the argument they had at least once a day.
She almost had it memorized. Her husband would bring up their son's disorder and the imaginary world he had created. He'd suggest a normative activity that Danny should be participating in. She'd disagree. They'd yell. They'd stop yelling and do the whole thing over again the next day. It was tiring.
"That's not the point, Emma! You really think all this talk about gold coins and crypto-whatsits is helping his condition?" Todd furrowed his brow, his chest constricting under the weight of his sudden irritation, the vein at the side of his temple pulsating.
"His condition? He's autistic, Todd. Not terminally ill."
"No, no!" Emma exclaimed, her voice rising an octave, her nosy crinkling the way it always did when she was frustrated, "I don't want to hear it! What is so wrong that he's found something that makes him feel happy even for a moment?"
"He's living in a fantasy land of fake money and Japanese men and nonsensical mumbo jumbo! And you are his disgusting enabler!" Todd bit back, relishing in the hurt that crossed his wife's delicate features.
Emma recoiled a bit, struck by her husband's words. She replied quietly, "It's normal that boys his age have hobbies. It's normal that-"
"HE'S NOT NORMAL!"
Todd's eyes widened, shame enveloping him as he realized what he had just said. He walked slowly towards his shellshocked wife and reached out his arms. "Em, I-"
Daniel vaguely registered the sound of his parents arguing in the background. About him? Probably. He knew they thought he was weird, that they worried about him and wanted him to be like the other kids from school. He knew that his dad loved him but was also embarrassed by his son who had problems maintaining eye contact and doing things boys his age did like going to the waterpark or playing football. He knew that his mom loved him but often didn't know how to relate to his odd behaviour. He knew these things but had no clue how to let them know that he knew or make it better.
His life changed a few years ago when Grandpa Eli gifted him a computer for Christmas. He'd spent hours and hours looking it over from every angle, working to understand every nook and cranny of the machine. How it operated and what made it tick. Then he started thinking.
Two years ago, he created a world where paper money didn't matter and called it Bitcoin. His imagination had let loose, unfolding and expanding in a multitude of ways. In this world, he was Satoshi Nakamoto because if his cartoons had taught him anything, it was that Japanese people had the coolest action scenes and the best food. He wasn't just the oddball kid from New Hampshire anymore. Satoshi Nakamoto was an international man of mystery, a super genius and a creator of something truly great. His experience of Bitcoin had brought him into close contact with many friends who wanted to expand the world. They had worked tirelessly on it together, bouncing ideas back and forth, solving problems and bringing others into the fold. It was time to give it up though. There was nothing left for him here and he suspected that his continued reliance on Bitcoin would eventually lead to his parents' divorce. All because of him. He couldn't even imagine what-
"HE'S NOT NORMAL!"
His dad's voice derailed his train of thought. The living room came back into focus. Taking a deep breath, he pressed "Send" and heard the familiar whooshing sound, transmitting his final message: a technical solution and a hidden farewell. Looking up and flicking his hair out of the way, he said quietly but clearly, "Mom, Dad. I'm done."
Ravished by the throes of their ongoing argument, his parents both glanced at him. His dad's face was laden with guilt, sadness clouding the sea-green eyes they both shared, "Danny, I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of that. I was angry and I-"
"It's okay, Dad," Daniel said earnestly, "All that Bitcoin stuff is done. Pinky promise. I'll be normal."
Solemnly, he shut the laptop and smiled shyly.