The human mind truly is the scariest thing ever created. What else starts lives and ends them with such ease, such intense frequency?
The start of my life began with one big, bright smile. From that magical day forward, smiles were my favorite- the buttons that make the coat, if you will. But this was to change. My decline also began with a smile. My body blossomed like a flower that day and my only memory was the piece of paradise that was the sunshine on my new best friend’s face. Max named me Sam and gave me a brother named Wes. We were so happy playing together, just the three of us and eventually more and more boys like Max and like me. Then it all got ruined.
Another smile came along. This one, Max and I agreed, was nothing like we’d ever seen before. It wasn’t one of us- it was a different creature entirely. With long hair and a face that was round and smooth like a pearl. Max was never the same after the day her sneakers hit our park. And nor was I, for I was soon to learn that dogs are forever changed when they meet a cat.
I was fading. I was a building of glass and a pane dropped to blacktop every time he looked at his new friend, Amber. This wasn’t something I let faze me until the day I began to lose my face. Wes looked over at me and shook his head; he was practically invisible these days, even to me. I fixed my gaze on Max in a panic, he could save Wes. The only problem was he wasn’t paying attention; Amber was whispering in his ear and his giggling little brain was soaking up her every word like a sponge being fed its first water droplets.
I had noticed that my sweater was patchy and the colors had shriveled, giving way to ash gray and cement gray. Our matching sweaters had been so important to us, a gift from our shared mom; now mine was ruined beyond recognition and his was on a hanger in the back of his closet- no man’s land. It seemed to all but me that Max himself was no man’s land, not even mine. I followed him to the mirror and it shook me to my increasingly brittle core that day. His face had changed; its angles were more defined and his hair hung differently. His smile no longer seemed quite as warm or friendly now that he was ready to stand on his own as it was when he couldn’t stand at all. My face was nearly transparent. Behind me, a photo of Max and Amber was more solid than ever on its new wall spot. The frame matched the lampshade, but I didn’t match my best friend anymore. The whole world was collapsing and going wrong.
The next day, Max and I were having our snack. It was carrots with hummus, which apparently Amber liked, so now he did too and I was left to chew bitterly. It tasted like I was eating a credit card smothered in expired mayonnaise mixed with spoiled milk curds.
But my decline was a long and slow process. Going from a glacier to an ice cube would’ve been faster and comparably painless. But we don’t choose how we get hurt, only who we let in. Wes took to telling me every day that it was time for us to split, find the conditioner to our shampoo. None of that made sense to me.
“It’s time for us to go, man.”
“I have to stay with Max.”
“He’s forgetting you, can’t you see it?”
“He’ll never forget me, we’re best friends.”
“But you aren’t anymore. Amber is his new best friend. Can’t you see- you’re a CD and she’s an iPhone.”
“Put a cork in it, would you? Max won’t let some pink balloon with a bow replace me!”
“You’ve got to give up on him. He’s not like us.”
“I’m going to keep fighting. Because that’s what you do for your friends; you fight for them and never give up, even if you know it’s a battle designed to be lost. So I’m staying with Max and I’m fighting for him.”
Thanks for reading this short story about an imaginary friend growing up. If you enjoyed it, you’ll love these and more recently published stories.
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