When they met, sparks flew.
He was her best friend, until she accidentally blew him up.
They call it crossing over, dying. The thing about death is, once you’ve crossed over, it’s difficult to tell the people on the other side that it’ll be alright. It’s like trying to talk through a long tunnel, and if you listen you can hear a faint echo of those calling out to you. When you feel downtrodden by life, one that you love may be shouting, “Live! Just live!”
It’s an easy thing to do, forgetting to live. It happens when you least expect it, standing in line for coffee, or to obtain a form at the motor vehicle administration. That’s why it's easier for children to see us, as they live in the moment. They live in the real world, as they are not bogged down by mortgages and broken hearts. These children see me.
What most people would never guess about the afterlife is that you have a choice. You can choose to service humanity if you want to, or not. It’s up to you. For me, the decision was easy. My life before is just a collection of scattered memories, but I do recall being passionate about my work as a pediatric oncologist. So, why would I not choose a relative occupation in the afterlife? In fact, the very first one to see me after I died was one of my patients.
I remember that her name was Cassie and that she had a celestial of freckles across her face. The cancer could not take that from her. What I remember most about Cassie, before, was that she loved caramels. It was a ritual for me to hand her a metallic foiled candy whenever I examined her. We passed over together, she and I. I died in a car wreck on my way home from work, simultaneously when her heart gave out. So, we walked out of this life together, hand in hand.
Cassie is very happy these days and we keep in touch. She is fulfilling her dream of travelling across the world. Travelling was something that started to preoccupy her at age six, mesmerized by the light up globe that decorated her hospital room. Last I heard, she was somewhere in the Amazon, flying with exotic birds. She was an imaginary friend for a short stint. Cassie used to play tea party with this little girl, but then she wanted to discover the world and the universe. I understood that. What I don’t understand is humanity now.
Being an imaginary friend is not easy. I get mostly the tough cases, the kids who truly need me. I walk in, sometimes, when everyone in their life has walked out. When they are just a burden and can feel it. They get lost in a sea of legs, in a crowd, then panic that they will be lost forever among a land of giants. These strange, tall beings belong to a world as strange to them as Mars.
One of my latest assignments was named Amelia. Amelia stubbornly cut her own hair, which appalled her teacher, but no one else. By occupation, her father was a child psychologist. He brushed me off as a passing phase every time Amelia put out an extra plate for me at dinner. I found it highly considerate. Her father found it highly irritating. He treated Amelia as if she were an imaginary child. It was too painful for him to even truly look at. Her honey brown eyes and the way she scowled when she was frustrated reminded him too much of her mother. That woman haunted his dreams every night and he refused to face her. He was a man emotionally on the run. Amelia noticed this about him. Children notice more than you will ever give them credit for.
“Mrs. Green got mad at me today.” Amelia said. She was sitting on her bed, while wearing a pink ballet skirt, her red cowboy boots, and her handmade alien mask.
“What made that old grumpy frumpy mad today?”
“I kept coloring outside of the lines, then Luke told me my pig I drew was ugly like me, so I squirted glue all over his picture.”
“I say keep coloring outside of the lines. And this Luke better watch out, or we will put him in a rocket and banish him to Meanatopia”. Meanatopia was a mythical planet where we sent mean people, who could be mean to their hearts content in their society of meanies.”
She giggled and then said with a sudden sigh, “I lost a tooth and put it under my pillow. Katie said there’s no such thing as a tooth fairy. Guess she’s right. The tooth fairy didn’t come.”
“I’m on pretty good terms with the tooth fairy and she told me to let you know that she got lost in a meteor shower, but she hasn’t forgotten about you. The very next rainbow you see, well, that will be one that she sent just for you. So keep your eyes peeled. It will be when you least expect it. When you see it, just remember that it was put there just for you.”
She smiled and then paused to say, “Well, can I share it with you?”
It was at this moment that I felt angry at all the adults around her, who didn’t see how special she was. These children do not need to be conformed to adult’s standards. The adults around them should learn from them. These forgotten children are special and they are the reason I choose the occupation of imaginary friend.
I visited Amelia a few times as she got older, even though she couldn’t see me. I just wanted to make sure that she was doing alright. One time, when she was sixteen, she wasn’t. Amelia never knew that it was my voice that called her gently away from that ledge, as tears streamed down her face. This was after she was raped the night of her junior prom. I wished that I could erase her pain and that horrific experience, but I couldn’t. Instead I whispered in her ear. I think she heard me, because she stepped away from the ledge.
I whispered, “Don’t forget who you are. Stay strong. Please know that I’m here. Go out there and be the hero of your own life. Be a hero just like in the stories we used to read and act out together. You can do it. I believe in you.”
The thing about imaginary friends is that even once you stop believing in us, we never stop believing in you. Amelia had outgrown her habit of reading books in trees, but after that day she started reading again. She devoured book after book with an insatiable hunger. These books helped shape the wonderful adult she was to become.
Amelia had children of her own one day and she encouraged in them a sense of wonder and exploration, with a great deal of love and affection. I am so proud of her. One day, as she was holding her youngest close, she looked out the window. She saw a rainbow and in remembrance she smiled.