I wanted something special, something that no one else could have, and, according to several children’s books and cartoons, an imaginary friend was the perfect, unique accessory. I thought up several.
The first one was a vampiress that lived in my closet. Her name was Roxie and she was dark and angry. She was approximately twenty when she had died and she terrified me, or at least that’s what I told myself. Her dark voice would hiss suggestions from under my bed and from the darkest shadows of my summer forts, trying to taunt me into doing things I shouldn’t. Ultimately, I grew tired of imagining what she looked like and what she wanted; also, I was pretty sure that my parents and teachers would begin to worry in that adult, serious way that signaled the end of childhood freedom if I told them about her. Even at five, I knew that believing (or trying to believe) in a blood sucking ghoul who pushed you to be naughty would raise an alarm. And what was the point of having an imaginary friend if no one knew you had one? So I gave her up, a bit sorry that she hadn’t been more convincing and promising myself I would do better in the future.
A year later, my best friend Perry and I came up with a whole slew of imaginary creatures. They were fantastical things, some small enough to fit in our pockets, and one large enough that we could ride him around the playground, causing us to whoop and leap across the frosty grass. But the true purpose for their creation was to try and convince the other kids that they were real. They were real and only the two of us could see them. The problem was that we both could see them, and my interest in maintaining their existence was quickly exhausted. I convened a meeting, and with the spring sun shining weakly down on the two of us, I informed Perry that I didn’t believe in the creatures we had invented. He expressed a similar sentiment, and we wandered off in pursuit of other games – Perry keeping one hand conspicuously in his pocket.
The following summer, I successfully manipulated my parents into getting me a cat. Not just any cat, but the runt of a litter of five kittens. She was a vibrantly-colored, striped tabby who looked nothing like her spotted siblings or parents. I named her Tiger and she quickly grew to fit the moniker. When I brought her home, she could fit in my cupped hands, but after a single year she had become the biggest cat we ever had before or since. She was an amazing hunter, bringing home mice and hummingbirds alike. She was also fearless, and soon all the neighborhood dogs learned to give her a wide birth.
She was a remarkably unique cat. First of all, she couldn’t make a sound. Her mouth would open, but nothing could come out, though she was able to purr very, very quietly. Also, she hated being laughed at. Laughing, in general, was fine, but direct it at her and she would shoot you a withering glare and stalk out of the room. But best of all, Tiger hated everyone. Everyone but me. She allowed the other members of my family to see her, but never touch her. And she simply disappeared when anyone else was around.
Finally, I had my own imaginary friend. One that curled up in my lap, purring oh-so-softly, her weight comforting against my legs. Yet, poof, she would disappear in the blink of an eye whenever anyone headed our way. She met my need for something dark and dangerous, leaving me gifts of heads and entrails from her kills, making me feel special. She even gave me the opportunity to try and convince my friends she was real, as none had ever seen her. She was a great cat, and I miss her.