For the final project of my MFA program's first summer session, we were required to create a death story based on a defining moment in a character's life. We created the character, Althea Capizola, and my defining moment was "first love." I created an animatic with a series of ink drawings.

Defining Moment: FIRST LOVE, 1987

Althea Capizola remembers when she first moved to Berlin from Evanston, Illinois in eighth grade. It was the first in a series of many moves, both scary and exciting. At the American International School of Berlin, everyone spoke English, but they were from all over the world. A classmate named Steven was assigned to show her around the school for the first week-- he showed her how to use her locker (which had different locks than the ones in Evanston), and he helped her get to her classes on time (there were no bells!) He introduced her to all his cool friends who listened to music by German DJs, spoke multiple languages and went hiking on the weekends to the nearby hills.

One weekend, they invited Althea to go hiking with them. Althea had never been hiking--her parents worked in offices all day, and their idea of relaxation was kicking back and relaxing on the beach with a good novel. But Althea wanted to try it, and besides, she didn’t have any other friends.

When her dad dropped her off outside the grocery store where everyone was meeting, she felt insecure wearing sneakers and sweatpants, while everyone else wore dry-fit t-shirts, top-notch hiking boots and sipped water out of camelbacks. But everything changed when they started hiking. The further they climbed the hills, the more exhilarated she felt, surrounded by nature. When they reached the top, Althea’s heart was pounding and sweat drenched her cotton t-shirt, but she felt like she was flying. She was radiating with energy.

She sat next to Steven on a rock overlooking the valley. When the others set out to find a higher viewpoint, she told them she’d catch up, but Steven stayed with her. He took her sweaty palm in his and they had their first kiss. It was awkward and sloppy. Steven shoved his tongue down her throat and saliva rolled down her chin. She leaned forward and banged her forehead against his nose. He accidentally stepped on her foot. He put his arm around her, and when the others came back 10 minutes later, they embarked on their descent. She took one last look at the quiet landscape before her, sad to leave that perch on top of the world.

Meanwhile, at sea level, Steven was much less interesting.