...when searching for inspiration, look no further than through the eyes of our youth. You'd be amazed at what lies inside...
She's been staying with us since last winter's thaw. Not a permanent placement, and not "The Girl" I've spoken of previously. Just a troubled nine year old yearning for stability while her mother "rights the ship."
Earlier in the week I found myself driving her into town for a state mandated psychology appointment. Professional probing...sometimes necessary, other times, well...
This young lady is not known for speaking of the events which led to her displacement, therefore, we don't ask. If she feels like talking however, we listen.
As we made the twenty minute trek into town that day, she felt like sharing. And I listened...
"Is this a new doctor?" she asked from the backseat, her monotone barely registering more than a whisper.
I turned down the volume on the radio. "Yes, Honey. You haven't met this lady yet. But she's nice."
"What should I tell her?"
"Well, if I were you, I'd answer all of her questions honestly. She's just trying to help."
She was quiet for a bit, then, "Should I tell her about my imaginary friend?"
I considered our destination, then answered, "That would be fine."
Her reflection through the rear-view mirror was that of a downcast soul. Ebony tangles forming a curtain of hair over her eyes. She was faced forward, her gaze angled toward the floor. Thin fingers clasped together and resting upon her lap as if in prayer.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
She offered me a quick glance. Up, then back down, like the blink of an eyelid. "Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little?"
"I sure did."
"What was his name?"
"His name was Sam."
Her hands relaxed. "Did he ever talk to you?"
"Hmm...I guess so. That was a long time ago, Honey."
"But, what I mean is...could you hear him when he talked?"
I felt myself backpedaling into dark ground. "Can you hear your friend when she talks to you?"
"All the time. She came with me when I moved in with you guys."
"Oh. Well okay." I briefed her gaze in the mirror. There and gone. "You know, you should probably tell the doctor about this...I mean, if you feel like it."
I was reaching for the volume on the radio when her next comment froze my arm in mid-stretch. "I think that dog in your basement needs fed. He looks hungry."
"The black one. The one with the red eyes."
"There's a black dog in the basement?"
"He followed me from home too. He sits next to the fireplace when I'm watching T.V."
"We're almost there, Honey. Just a few more minutes."
"The white dog was already here when I came though."
My grip tightened on the steering wheel. "White dog?"
"The one from the woods." From the backseat, the girl looked out the window, studied the passing scenery in the distance, a grove of maples, their branches skeletal from the late season. "He follows us all the time."
I didn't want to ask, but couldn't help it. "This white dog...what's he look like?
Through a veil of dark curls I watched her eyes squint, collecting her thoughts. Then, "He looks more like a wolf than a dog. White and fluffy. But kinda dirty, like he might need a bath. And his eyes are cool. Kind of brownish-goldish. I bet they can glow in the dark."
I swerved into the parking lot, was rescued by the first open space I spied, and jammed the car into park, my chest heaving, moist hands sliding off the steering wheel.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Let's head inside."
...before my wife and I were blessed with our first child, we owned two dogs. One was a female Shepherd mix, beige and white, a rowdy shrew that fought off father time for sixteen years before finally passing away this past Spring.
The other one was a male. Dingy white, and shaped like a polar bear. He was a hybrid-wolf, his father a pure Timber. We called him Dutch. During the winter months his coat would thicken and fluff outward for the coldest of days. At the age of eight, he broke lose from his outdoor pen one bitter January night, and ran off. At some point during his journey, he was tempted by the sweet lure of anti-freeze from an open garage. We recovered him several days into our search, but the poison had spread. Dutch was put to sleep roughly a week later. To this day my wife struggles with our loss.
I stayed in the waiting room during the appointment, allowing the child some privacy with her doctor. The ride home was spent in silence, the youngster no longer willing to share.
Imaginary friends and their dogs...some black, others a bit more familiar. What I'd give for a moment of vision through this girl's eyes. Just a moment...