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L is a space alien conducting research on human behavior for an organization of highly secretive intergalactic watchdogs while trying to be cool about things and blend in with her surroundings. On Earth she greatly enjoys rollercoasters and tiny fried foods, but greatly dislikes humidity and overdraft fees. She has never committed any crimes of any kind.
Dear Oprah 4,
Adulthood is the best. There is so much freedom! All you have to do is fulfill your responsibilities and the rest is basically up to you. Sure there are drawbacks, like cleaning out your own fridge, but that is the small disgusting price you pay for being able to vote, rent a car, and pay for your own square dancing lessons.
Sometimes I feel like a little kid walking around doing grown-up things in grown-up shoes, as if tricking people into believing I’m a human wasn’t enough, so I further tricked them into believing I’m an adult. But the evidence is clear: I can drive to Taco Bell and get nachos at 1am, legally buy fireworks in 16 states, and there is no rollercoaster for which I am too short. The privileges of adulthood are numerous.
The first time I ever felt this kind of freedom was when my human friends and I would go for long bike rides during summer vacation. There were no schedules to stick to and no rules to follow. Our parentals were like, “Here’s a quarter for the pay phone, check in with us in 5 hours, peace,” and off we’d ride. They probably thought we were going on some adorable suburban-kid adventures, like tanning in the park or graffitiing abandoned properties, but no. We had other priorities.
My friends and I didn’t care about anything on Earth except hanging out at Aldo’s Pizzeria, every day, where we would get pizza and discuss the important tween things happening in our lives. Aldo’s was in a strip mall that was sort of like the town hub. If you wanted a Coolatta or a haircut, you went there. There was also a bank, a dry cleaners, a pharmacy, a deli, and a Foodtown. Aldo’s was in the middle of everything, so we would sit outside and people-watch the crap out of everyone’s comings and goings. It was a place to see and be seen, to leisurely sip Coolattas, and to admire the complex gumball machine. But superb ambiance wasn’t the only reason Aldo’s was our preferred destination.
All of the Aldo’s employees were males in their 20s, and they all had tattoos and knew how to toss pizza dough in the air. Everyone who worked there was greasy in the best way. We wanted them to think we were cool so badly. It was with this goal in mind that we set forth upon our bikes each day. While other kids our age foolishly wasted their summers earning paychecks as junior camp counselors, we were heading off to flirting practice.
I’m gonna tell you a story.
It takes place in Earth year 1998. US President Bill Clinton is embroiled in a polarizing national controversy, and so are well-known humans Brandi & Monica. I, your faithful Agent L, am in 8th grade art class sitting next to my nemesis, Eugene.
Eugene didn’t know he was my nemesis. He was too nice to have nemeses. He was nice to everyone, all the time. That was the exact thing about Eugene that made him my nemesis: he was smart, funny, athletic, good at everything and loved by everyone. He was baseball team captain. Science fair finalist 3 years running. Rumors swirled that he had made out with two separate people at two different parties that weekend. Eugene had it all, plus he was one of the special students selected to be in the G.O.A.L. program, which stood for Galaxy of Advanced Learners, for kids who scored higher on aptitude tests, or had some other predisposition toward excellence. To me the name was stupid because I knew that in reality there was no such galaxy. The G.O.A.L. kids got to go to special classes where I assume they learned high-aptitude things, but the rest of us never knew for sure what they were really up to because nobody in G.O.A.L. ever talked about what went on in G.O.A.L. What are they learning that could be so secret and high-aptitude, I wondered, and what makes Eugene qualify but not me?
Dear Oprah 4,
It is summer in my hemisphere, which means everyone is sticky for 3 whole months. The horrible humidity is killing me, Oprah, I hate it so, so much. Probably because my planet of origin is much more cool and dry, like an Earth desert at night, minus an additional hundred Fahrenheits. Our sand is basically just dry snow. We have camel-oid creatures whose natural hair pattern is a full-body parka, and a native cactus that secretes an ice cream-like substance which you can lick off if you’re extra careful to avoid the poison quills.
It is at this time of year that I am filled with an unquenchable longing for my native climate, especially since the Earth is feeling more and more like the violent and sweltering surface of Venus each year. (Yes I’ve been to Venus. It sucks there.)
Speaking of places I’ve been, outer space is full of fascinating destinations. I have floated peacefully in the swirly purple Massage Clouds of the Horsehead Nebula while on a restorative spa getaway with important alien ladyfriends. I’ve slid down all the slides of the famous Underwater Waterpark in the submerged city of Hydropolis like, multiple times. I’ve been to the bottom of the deepest canyon on the orange planet Raak, where I got separated from my guided tour and sought shelter in a derelict outpost when a strange fever overtook me, until I was nursed back to health by indigenous Raakian canyon-dwellers. And then there was the time my twin-sister Beetlejuicia and I hopped an interstellar space rail and rode it all the way to the outskirts of the Circinus Galaxy, where we got jobs harvesting hallucinogenic goldenberries from the fields of Terragold, a planet whose chief exports are gold, stuff made out of gold, and goldenberries. We had such fun and got such great tans until treacherous Bee predictably ruined everything by running off with all my golden terrabits and my Terragoldian lover, Rodrigo.
Greetings, Council Members!
Like many of the (actual) young(ish) humans of Earth, I, L the Alien, constantly swing back and forth between a state of total faith in my own awesomeness and a total lack of faith in my own awesomeness.
Becoming an adult human is a frustrating dance of highs and lows; a strange collage of blind confidence and crippling insecurity. It’s pretty confusing, honestly. One day you’re like, “Hells yea I got this responsibility thing on lock down,” the next day you suddenly remember you forgot to pay a bill while mopping up your own vomit.
The point, Council, is that humans make lots of mistakes. It’s hard not to screw things up unintentionally once in a while, because as we say almost daily here on Earth, shit happens. But what about the mistakes that we consciously make?
Most specifically I’m talking about the stuff we clearly know is not getting us any closer to becoming That-Person-We-Want-to-Be, but that we keep doing anyway, sometimes for many decades of Earth years, without ever really knowing why, and without ever really trying to change.
Logic tells us that we can become That Person whenever we want, by getting our priorities in order and then giving each of them the exact amount of attention they need to yield results while simultaneously stopping behaviors we know are risky or destructive to our goals. Obviously the real process is more gradual and complicated, but if we really wanted to get our act together once and for all, we could just do it, right?
So why don’t we? How come we hold ourselves back from next-level changes that could make a big difference in our lives? Why is it always so hard to take the first step?
Dear Oprah 4,
The Council was like, “So humans are irrational narcissists deeply obsessed with their own interests? Cool, cool. We understand now that the adults are just dark and twisted babyhumans, most interesting.” And I was like, “No, you guys got the wrong idea,” and Pinky Stardust was like “Uh, that’s probably because you suck at explaining things, L,” and I was like, “Sorry, Pinky,” and Pinky was all, “Get it together” and I was like “Fine, I will, geeeeeeze.”
I’m getting the sense that Pinky is a no-nonsense chick, and I’m not sure how we’re going to get along because I like at least some nonsense in my close girlfriend relationships, which is exactly what Pinky is going to be someday: my closest girlfriend ever. She’s never going to see it coming, but I’m going to gradually blindside her into lifelong friendship. She’s going to love me so, so much.
Anyways I say to The Council, “Council, the humans are selfish, I cannot deny it, but that is not the only thing that defines them.”
And The Council was like, “Prove it.”
Greetings ISA Council!
As I was saying before my battery died last transmission, interacting with humans is not as easy as one might think.
Council Members, let us pretend for the moment that you are humans. You would probably find that you and your fellow humans are often very busy trying to figure out what is going on inside the heads of other humans instead of focusing on more important things, like collectively stopping all your icebergs from melting.
As a young human, this imagining yourself in someone else’s feetshoes is a good thing, because it helps you develop the Empathy Feeling. But it is also a bad thing, because it’s easy to get distracted by trying to guess what other people think about the most important thing in all of space-time: you.
Greetings once again from Earth, esteemed colleagues! Greetings most especially to you, Madame Chairwoman.
Was that creepy of me to say it like that? I hope it wasn’t creepy.
Let me just start by saying thank you (thank you!) for letting me stick around so I can continue my quest for knowledge, AKA my quest to avoid Space Prison. I solemnly vow on the life-force of my own mother-being that I will not let you guys down again.
Council Members, you seem like nice, law-abiding public servants, living the squeaky-clean, upper-middle class alien lifestyle. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that none of you have ever been banished to another galaxy because of an unprecedented judicial oversight like I have. So let me be the one to tell you that it’s not easy adjusting to life on a new planet.
Because getting hyper-transported directly from Space Court to Earth isn’t disorienting enough, the tiny, squishy essence-of-being, containing all of my previously acquired memories, beliefs, and unquantifiable me-ness, had to be supplanted into the brainparts of a freshly-born babyhuman. My self-awareness remained intact, but an understanding of my environment had to be developed along with motor skills and the ability to communicate. The process took years, and was basically really confusing and inconvenient. There were tears, public meltdowns, and lots of sitting around in my own poop, which is super-demoralizing when you’re self-aware.
Dear Oprah 4,
Wonderful news today!
The Council has deemed the research I conducted on humans during my 20s a sparkling success, and they were more than impressed by my babyhuman-themed transmission! They loved me so, so much Oprah, like elderly people love well-known human Shirley Temple. They were so, so appreciative of all my hard work. I mean, they didn’t say this exactly, but I could tell from looking into their super-reflective eyes that was how they felt. Their admiration and pride did not require words to be communicated.
What they did say with words was this:
“Agent USL04, we think you did an OK job so we’re going let you stay on Earth to continue your research, and we are trusting that you are now self-motivated enough to keep this thing on track. We want you to continue to build the identity of your human avatar, gain the trust of as many humans as possible, and gradually unlock their behavioral patterns and most tantalizing secrets. Be as sneaky as you need to be.
You are to proceed into your next decade in this manner, and we will heretofore expect one transmission from you every full lunar cycle, forever, until your earth body expires, which means you have a great deal of work ahead of you unless you get hit by a bus or something. Understand this: you can no longer be lazy about stuff. We know from prior research that the humans often experience great angst about why they’re even on Earth in the first place; What does it all mean, What is my true purpose, etc. Well, L, in case you were wondering this also, we’re telling you straight up that spying on humans is literally your purpose in life, ok? Mystery solved.
Please remember that as scientists we deal strictly in factual information. Therefore, you must constantly try to maintain a balance between living the true human experience and getting so caught up in it that you forget why you’re there, like you did with Transmissions #1 and #2, which were both terrible. This is not a game, dammit! The information you are extracting is being put to very important use! A lot is riding on the efficiency of our ISA agents, and we need you to stay absolutely focused. You are not typically focused even slightly, which is why I’m pointing this out specifically.
I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that no one, under any circumstances, can know of your extraterrestrial origins. No matter how emotionally connected you may become to the humans, or how badly you want them to all pay attention to you at happy hour, you must never divulge the truth.
Dear Oprah 4,
Weeks have gone by since my transmission to the ISA Council on human activity and still no word on whether I may continue my research on planet Earth or will be forced to go to Space Prison, a gloomy fate for which I am not cut out one bit.
As my journal, you obviously already know all my important thoughts and feelings on Space Prison. I’m way too eager to please to ever make it in the clink! I’ll fall in with the wrong crowd, have to go through some horrible initiation process, finally start to build trust among my fellow convicts, and then get shivved in the end anyway for accidentally betraying my gang leader, all because I wanted one of the other gang leaders to like me.
This is just one example of how my inevitable prison slaughter might go down.
Because the outcome of my transmission is still unknown for some stupid reason, my nerves are frayed to the max. I am unable to go into full sleep mode. I can’t think about anything else. Will all the hard work I did preparing for my presentation pay off? Will I get to stay here on Earth, where I have spent years learning to fit in among my human subjects? Where I’ve made the best of my unfortunate and most unjust exile? Where they make tacos?! Because trust me, Oprah, if you were an alien who found a planet that made tacos you’d want to stay too. But you’re a journal, and you have no mouthparts, so I don’t really expect you to understand.
I keep going over and over it in my mind. Should I have sent a thank-you note? A fruit basket filled with delightful Earth fruits some of which have been partially dipped in chocolate? Did I come across confident? Knowledgeable? Likeable? I tried my best on all accounts.
But… what if my best wasn’t good enough?
Greetings, Council Members, members of the Junior Council, and Franky, the transmissions operator. I hope this transmission finds you all in a state of gelatinous comfort.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my secret alien observations about humans with you today. I understand the consequence of delivering insubstantial information will result in my being sent to Space Prison for the commencement of my shoplifting sentence regarding which I wholeheartedly maintain my innocence.
EARTH…. It’s blue, green, round, and chaotic. There are rocks and plants, and oceans, and kangaroos. It is a place where many strange and interesting things happen. There are a lot of creatures co-existing, with some creatures trying a lot harder than others. The human species in particular encapsulates a broad spectrum of different cultures, values, and personalities. A single human may feel the Angry, the Happy, and the Sad Emotions all within the same earth day. In fact, they are subject to so many thoughts and feelings it is no wonder they have trouble living in harmony with one another. They’re often not even in harmony with themselves.
I can now say with some authority that it’s not easy being a human. It’s not.
Council Members, it’s tricky business.
First of all there is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of shit you need to stay on top of.
I am an alien from outer space. I was banished here by the rulers of my home planet for a perceived misdeed, to observe life on earth while disguised as a human female. I am called L.
It all started a while back, when I got pinched for intergalactic shoplifting.
I was just minding my own business one day, doing a little light shopping, when out of nowhere The Intergalactic Criminal Police Organization, also known as Space INTERPOL, also known as SPINTERPOL, apprehended me and took me to Space Court. They were like, “She’s guilty!” and I was like, “No I’m not!” and they were like, “Yea you are, we have you on film at multiple Trader Yoda’s locations throughout the Local Cluster, your face is clearly visible in every instance, blah, blah, blah.”
Look, obviously I am innocent of these charges. Obviously, a being with my level of integrity would never do a thing like this. Obviously those surveillance videos were totally fraudulent because I was obviously framed.
But the jury didn’t see it that way. Instead of sending me to Space Prison, however, they decided to hand me over to the Council of Interdimensional Species Activity, so I could work off my alleged debt to society. That is how I came to be exiled on Earth. I was sentenced here to do research.
It’s hard being a space alien living inside of a person. There are still so many things I can’t get right! How not to act weird at funerals, for example. Remembering to send cards to people, for another. There are a ton of rules to keep track of: eat, sleep, brush teeth, obey social cues, avoid creepy eye contact! It’s taken me a long time to get used to how things work within the confines of society, and it’s hard to balance it all while trying to stay focused on my mission.
Every 10 Earth Years I am required to beam a transmission back home and report my findings to the ISA Council. The Council reviews my performance and determines the effectiveness of my research here. If the review is good, I get to stay and continue my work. If it’s bad, I get booted from the program, leave the Earth, and serve my full term in Space Prison, where I’ll no doubt face unspeakable horrors.
Unfortunately, my transmissions have a history of not going very smoothly.
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