Alter’s source work, author and character: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, the March Hare Character Journal name:haigha Character Name: Tristan Sable Character Age: 34 Character Played By: Jack White Alter Played By: Mary Louise Parker
Character History and Personality:
Tristan's life started with someone leaving, and it has continued to be formed by people leaving. Over three decades of it. It began with his mother, still a teenager herself and obsessed with taking up a nomad’s exploration of the world. She named him with a whisper into his tiny pink ear of her fake French vowels (Tree-stan Sab-luh), before laying him in a crib for her mother, his grandmother, to find. She slipped out of their lives with only a note that read that she was “leaving to find herself”, abandoning them to create their own little family of two, as she never told her mother who Tristan's father was. She likely hadn’t even known herself.
His grandmother, Marjorie, swiftly made him her own child, raising him as Tristan Johnson, and the rest of his childhood was fairly uneventful. He was average in school, showing only a preference for art and music, and he was the quiet boy at the back of any classroom. His hours were filled with daydreams and teasing from his classmates, but he was always able to escape at home, where his grandmother supported everything he chose to be.
He was well on his way to a normal path of junior high, high school, and college, when Marjorie began to fall ill. It began with little signs, too many days taken off from work because she wasn't feeling well. But then it accelerated rapidly, landing her in the hospital within weeks, and gone only a short while after that. She was the second one to leave him.
He showed up at his first foster home when he was 13, carrying some clothes, a few of his sketchbooks, and a stack of music books. The death of Marjorie had shaken him badly, causing him to become even quieter. He began to throw himself into his daydreams more than he ever had before, hiding behind pages filled with fantastical creations - creatures and worlds that no one had ever thought of before. They were often sad and dark, causing his teachers to worry when they came across the drawings in school. The rest of his school work was still enough for him to get by, though.
Too strange with his daydreams and too old to be truly desirable to an adoptive family, Tristan was passed from one foster family to another, each with its own collection of siblings. And while he grew close to one or two, he was never able to open up to the rest, and they were ignored as thoroughly as anyone else. When he was 18, Tristan was finally able to receive his inheritance from Marjorie's death, and with it, moved himself into a small apartment. With the move, he lost the few siblings he’d grown close to, but he was somehow growing used to the constant loss. Or at least teaching himself how to shield over it until it didn’t hurt quite as much.
He took back the name his mother had given him, Sable again instead of Johnson (though he never pronounces it like that faint echo from his past). He found jobs as a musician in slummy little clubs, and spent his days drawing and painting. He's tried to fill the holes in his life with a string of failed relationships, each one almost worse than the last. He still hasn't learned how to truly open up to another person, forever worrying about being hurt when they leave. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, his reluctance to really engage with another person drives them away, leaving him even more bitter and reluctant to love.
In his 20s, with his meager money fading fast and uncertain of what else to do, he followed a lead for new jobs and an art community that might have room for his strange paintings, and moved to Seattle. While there, almost against his will, he met a handful of people that would twist his life around and then (unsurprisingly, in his mind) leave. A girl named Wren that was barely old enough to take care of herself, who worked on the streets and was sweet enough to slide her way into his life. An older, wealthy business-woman who declared herself his patron and then left him a kingly percentage of her wealth when she died. And a boy who quietly danced ballet, but who was brash and loud enough offstage to insist on his own place in Tristan’s life.
And then they were all gone. Moved on or passed away, and it shifted Tristan’s world again. Taking the money he had been left, he began traveling. Across the country and across the world, with a financial advisor taking care of things “back home”. Used to living on nearly nothing, his expenses shifted to art supplies, places to live whose only requirements were ceilings tall enough to accommodate soaring, oversized canvases, and (every now and then) a paid-for “friend”. His life is filled with painting, an occasional burst of piano playing, and coffee-fueled insomnia.
He’s refused to grow close to anyone in the five years since leaving Seattle, though even he needs human contact from time to time. When the need grows too great, his money buys him a night of companionship. In any number of cities, his name is discreetly found among the records of gentlemen that prefer paid companions to the hassle of going out into the world to forge connections. The proprietors of the organizations that provide such services know that their employees (usually women, but not always) can expect a quiet dinner, sex that isn’t too rough or questionable, and a payday well above their normal rate. He isn’t sweet, isn’t friendly, but he is kind enough in his own way and always, always respectful. Only one or two have gotten him to talk past cool, polite pleasantries after a drink or two, and those few have learned about the girl he once knew. The sentimental reason that he always overpays.
His painting has continued, but not under his own name. There is a gulf of separation between Tristan Sable (eccentric, cranky, wealthy hermit) and TJ Black (eccentric, talented, artistic hermit). TJ has found a following in certain corners of the art world, being asked to exhibit at high-end galleries and a few select museums. He never makes public appearances and all requests and communication must go through his agent. The pieces he creates are on unframed, unbraced canvas, often hung from a single piece of wood on the ceiling, draping down along walls and puddling on the floor. In between are great expanses of color and texture, unfocused fogs of dreamscapes that are filled with faces and bodies and fantastical creatures. They sell for thousands, and have been purchased by collectors in multiple countries.
Las Vegas was a spur of the moment decision, made while staring at a photograph of the Strip that hangs in a gallery in Dublin. His winter had been full of Northern Europe, and something hot and dry called to him. With a single phonecall, he knew his things would be packed away and moved for him, and he took only a few sketchbooks, his phone, and a single change of clothes before hopping on a flight back across the Atlantic. Uncertain of how long he plans to stay, the person that handles his finances and the more mundane portions of his life has installed him in high-end suite in the city that boasts a high-ceilinged, two-floor living area. Upon checking in, a package was waiting for him with a book and a key.
Once upon a time...
No, this isn’t one of those kinds of tales. Tails? Tales. So we’ll just say that in Wonderland there is a woman. Or is she a hare? A fuzzy bunny with fluffy tale-and-tail? She is all of those things. Sometimes on two legs, sometimes on four, whichever she chooses in the moment, but always she is herself. Sweet at times and vicious at others, predator and prey at the same time, and both with a temper. She loves tea-time and intimate touches, loves running through the woods and playing silly twisty word games with her friends. Those few that she has. And her enemies, as she has some of those as well. And then, of course, there are those that fit somewhere between enemy and friend, and those are maybe the ones she likes the best.
Even in Wonderland, the seasons turn and years pass as years do. Time may not be quite as predictable, but it still moves, and winter will (almost) always turn into spring. And when spring arrives, Hare’s thoughts shift. In the autumn, in the winter, she is (almost) always as calm as any garden rabbit, grazing on what life gives her. She can be (almost) quiet and (almost) meek, friendly and focused. But when spring comes, or when something provokes her, there is another side of her that emerges. There is a reason that March is when hares go mad, following the instinctive imperative to find mates, to find someone or something to ease the heat in her veins. And maybe the back and forth pushes her beyond her Wonderland-grip on sanity at times, not caring who she’s pursuing or what they might gain from her company.
A strange company it is, too. Sometimes hopping and running, but most time spent lounging around tables and pouring tea, passing plates of sandwiches and sweets. That was where she was when the girl appeared and turned everything topsy on its head. Hare had maybe been a slight tipsy or maybe a little mad in those moments, because she doesn’t quite recall more than a rude someone with blonde hair, but she must have been more than that, because everything changed then.
When the girl left Wonderland, it seemed as if everyone had gone with her. Hatter, Mouse, Cat... they’d all disappeared. Wonderland grew quieter, but Hare returned to her position in the Queen’s kitchen, cooking and doing her daily duties. But it just wasn’t the same. There wasn’t anyone to take tea with, to talk to, to play with. And it was boring. She knew where they had all gone, followed the girl back to her world. Hare had no idea what the other world held, but wasn’t that the fun of the adventure? And so, what might have been months and might have been years after everyone else had left, she followed.
When she crossed into the girl’s world, she found something so far from Wonderland that she barely knew what to do with herself. Everyone was so tame and normal, and at first she couldn’t even find her old acquaintances. But then, oh then she found where they’d all gone. The girl, the Cat, the Hatter, and even quiet meek Mousie. A place filled with those whose minds wandered closer to Wonderland than to this “reality”, and Hare knew then where she was meant to be in this new world. Who else could take care of such souls better than her? Hare became Nurse Harriet March, and with a little between-the-sheets persuasion managed to convince one of the head doctors at the asylum to give her a position where she could work with such “misguided” patients. And if her guidance perhaps pointed them farther toward Wonderland, that couldn’t be such an awful thing, could it?
So time passed again, and Harriet was happy enough working at the asylum. Sometimes she got to help and sometimes she got to touch and sometimes she got to torment. Most of the times she walked on two feet, but sometimes, when she really wished or when it was really necessary, she went on four. But then her world shifted again and she found herself captive in another’s head. But even that could’ve been worse than it was. The man had a head that was at least full of daydreams and pretty pictures, didn’t mind drinking coffee and tea and lovely stronger things, and didn’t mind finding lovely things with warm skin to touch. He maybe didn’t like it quite as much as she did, but that maybe could change. Or not. It’s all up in the air, isn’t it? What fun.
Journal/Key: The book isn’t especially noteworthy, something bound in a rich blue leather with the initials “H.M.” embossed in gold on the lower corner of the front cover. The key is a tiny key for a tiny (rabbit-sized) door, and it’s attached to a gold keychain that has a charm of a rabbit’s foot formed in metal. Not a real rabbit’s foot! How twisted are you??!
Open: Either past or present. Tristan does not do well in relationships. It can be a past relationship come back to haunt him (or just judge him for his inability to deal with people) or someone who wants to try drawing him out of his shell now.
Open: Tristan fails at taking care of himself. Even with the money. He could probably use someone to pop in and make sure he's still surviving on more than just paint fumes and coffee. Alternatively (or in addition to), someone to watch his money for him.
Open: TJ’s fans? Someone that maybe connects Tristan to “TJ”, someone that follows art trends, someone interested in art in general.