I have always had imaginary friends. The first one’s name was Clementina. She had chin length orange hair, smooth and straight, and when she came to visit the first thing she would do was stretch out alongside me on our bedroom floor and help me design blueprints for future department buildings.
I picked my most recent imaginary friend out of a catalog, and now he lives within me. Instead of coming and going at will like that childhood friend who only visited every other week, he is ever-present and exists in what feels like a thick rope wrapped around my spinal cord.
He runs the flat palm of his hand over my upper arm even though I have never told anyone that is the only part of me that feels empty. He whispers answers into my ear before any of the thousands of questions I want to ask have been formulated, or when in my apartment I am kept awake by the sound of floorboards creaking under the weight of dreams I haven’t had yet.
The structure of his thoughts is very different from mine (his ancestral, labyrinth-like, horizontal, elaborate; mine recent, smooth, simple, vertical) and yet his heart and mine pulse so similarly it’s hard to tell them apart.
In the early morning, when I can’t sleep, he repeats in that rhythmical way of his, always out loud, everything I try to hide, like a mantra, like an affirmation, like a lone witness to this new person I am becoming.
And this is how I know for certain I need nothing beyond the strength his presence brings me - clear, saline and invisible.