A Charizard dream come true

Alan Roque rides the bus home from school on the afternoon of Halloween 2019, peeking over the top of the seat at his peers. From the security of his Charizard costume, Alan socializes with his peers, who know him for his fascination with the character.

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."

Alan puts up one of his finished, colored drawings on the hall of Charizard fame in a designated hallway next to the cafeteria in Harrison County High School. Walking down the hall, Alan says, "Oh boy, I think it's a dream come true of Charizard's. I think it's a dream come true for everybody."
Alan lets out a Charizard roar in the cafeteria at Harrison County High School. Many students of Harrison County have known Alan for years, and are now unfazed by his personification of Charizard. Alan has never given them a reason to be upset with him. "I know it makes him happy," Alan's instructional assistant, Stephanie Maybrier, says. "That's what he cares about, that's who he relates to. The school is really supportive of that."
Surrounded by Pokémon figurines, plushies and his plethora of collected Charizard items, Alan stands tall and confident in his room. "That's his life, that's really what it revolves around," says Stephanie Maybrier and Alan is content with that.
Pip, Alan's cat, often gets Alan's undivided attention, even if Alan is in the middle of making a Charizard video. If Alan isn't showing off Charizard drawings at school, he's asking teachers if they've seen the photos of Pip that he's sent to them.
Alan, always joyful and excited, spends his lunch periods relatively alone though still buzzing around the cafeteria saying hi to people he knows. When asked who his best friends are, Alan says, "I have no idea. I think everybody."
Alan looks through a box of colored pencils in art class to continue coloring one of his Charizard drawings. Anna McFarland, Alan's art teacher, has been encouraging him to draw things other than Charizard but Alan simply finishes those with enough time to draw more Charizards at the end of class.
Gunner Cole, left, and McKinley Fain, center, learn how to draw Charizard, line by line, from Alan. Gunner and McKinley have to keep telling Alan to slow down, because he typically draws the pictures in roughly two minutes.
Alan performs Charizard's stomp that he does before he fights as he walks through the hallway to class on Halloween. "Charizard is strong and popular. I am Charizard," Alan says.
Alan stays busy during his two lunch periods by intermittently taking the trash out of the cafeteria and auditorium, assisting Stephen Northcutt (not pictured), the janitor at Harrison County High School — a mentor to Alan. The kindness of the staff in the cafeteria has been important to Alan, and he considers himself very close to them all. He even spent his Christmas money on making Charizard shirts for them all.