When I was little, I created a girl named Willow. She was a figment of my imagination and I loved her. She was petite and slender with red hair, green eyes, and creamy white skin. She was soft-spoken with an echo-y voice and laughter that sounded like it spilled from the lips of a faerie. She was beautiful and kind, and she was all mine to love.
I used to pretend that she was my best friend. I would sometimes reach out and close my fist like I was holding her hand. I would pretend that she sat by me when the seat next to me was empty. I would sometimes even talk to her during recess when my friends were preoccupied, absent, or busy with each other. Before going to sleep, I would hold some pillows to me and pretend I was cuddling her. I would whisper to her until I fell asleep and imagine her responses.
I was always afraid that if I told someone, they would laugh at me for having an imaginary friend. They would think that I thought Willow was real, but I always knew that she wasn't. I hated to admit it to myself, but Willow didn't exist. She was too pretty, too sweet, too perfect to exist, but I desperately wanted her to.
When I had a secret about someone, I would pretend to brush her fiery hair away from her ear and whisper it to her. She would stare at me, wide-eyed, always responding with the perfect reaction.
When I was angry or sad, I would throw myself on my bed and tell her what bothered me. She would brush my cheek with her little fingers and tell me that it was never as bad as it seemed and reply with the best advice that my own mind could conjure.
Willow was my conscience, my imagination, and my own sense personified. I was unable to work out my thoughts in my own head, so I created another person to do it for me. She was my outlet, the one I could vent to without fearing that I would lose her friendship. How could I lose a friendship that didn't truly exist?
I could never be angry with her. She could never make me sad. She could only inspire me and stir up positive emotions inside of me. Why? Because I controlled her. She was mine. I could never understand why adults thought it was so unhealthy and strange to have an imaginary friend. Willow made me happy and I loved her.
I remember the day that I stopped believing in her. I was sitting at lunch pretending that she was sitting beside me when one of my friends sat in Willow's seat. Our table was never usually crowded, so we usually didn't sit directly next to each other. This time, I looked at my friend, almost confused. I had forgotten that I was the only one who knew about Willow. Sometimes she felt so real to me that I forgot that she was imaginary.
I ate lunch and laughed with my friends like normal, but when I got home and talked to her I did not hear a reply. My mind was beginning to accept that she was nothing but a projection of my own thoughts. I was now conscious of answering for her. It was like realizing that the eyes in your doll's head are nothing more than glass or plastic. They cannot see you because, as much as you hate to admit it, they are not real. The magic was gone.
In a way, I suppose I released Willow from my imagination that day. I realized that it was a childish fantasy. I wanted to grow up. I wanted to be older and rational. I never thought I would need a friend other than Willow, but I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to see her. When I reached out to hold her hand, my fingers would close around thin air. When I held her at night, I was holding nothing more than a pillow. When I talked to her, I was only talking to myself. Her advice was my own conscience and her words were only my thoughts.
Willow did not exist.
Now that I am older (not quite grown up, not quite a child), I wish more than anything that I could be content with talking to someone who is not there. I wish that I could still believe in my imaginary friend. I feel like Willow is sitting somewhere in another world waiting for me to bring her back. Perhaps that world is concealed only by a thin veil of logic and reason, but that veil is not easily lifted. My childhood innocence is gone and I can no longer see Willow as my best friend.
I still daydream, imagine, and create new worlds and characters in my head, but I am forced to accept that they are not real. They never will be. As I grow older, reality will close in and eventually attempt to suffocate my imaginary world. My greatest fear is that I will accept reality for what it is and stop trying to see something beyond it. A simple object can be magical, a simple word can be twisted in infinite ways, and a simple thought can transform into a beautiful story.
I have memories of Willow to remind me just how wonderful a fantasy can be. I do not regret creating her, nor do I regret releasing her. I am simply glad that there was a time when my imagination ran wild and I was not afraid to run with it.