For years now, Alan Roque, 17, has been known to most of his classmates at Harrison County High School for his undying love of Charizard, a dragon-like Pokémon character.
Alan is a joyous, smiling teen, his happiness fueled and sustained by his obsession with Charizard, a flying lizard with an orange body, teal wings and blue flames shooting from his mouth and the tip of his tail.
Charizard is "strong and popular," Alan says. "I am Charizard."
Quickly going through crayons and filling up pencil sharpeners, Alan draws dozens of pictures of Charizard every day. He likes to give them to his classmates or teachers as "homework assignments,” adding specific color-by-number instructions, and he expects those assignments back in a timely manner.
Each completed picture is posted in the school's designated Charizard hallway, joining hundreds of others. Alan is often off to the side of the crowd, drawing pictures of the character or hanging them up in the Charizard gallery.
“I know it makes him happy,” says his in-school instructional assistant, Stephanie Maybrier. "That’s what he cares about. That’s who he relates to.”
Alan’s relationships at school aren't always complex to an outside viewer, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful to him. He likes to help out the lunch ladies in the cafeteria, all of whom he calls his close friends, and the janitor, Stephen Northcutt.
Alan spends two periods every school day alongside Stephen, intermittently collecting and taking out the trash. Alan takes pride as the protector of the cooler next to the trashcans, he says, because “sometimes people will throw trash in it."
Alan assures everyone that he is never upset or angry, and he wants to make sure other people feel the same way.
"Oh boy," he'll sometimes say, just to make people laugh. And to change things up he'll sometimes say, "Oh, Charizard."