Did you ever have a childhood imaginary friend? I did. His name was Tomboy.
He was among the many boys I played with in my childhood. Together, we played soccer during recess, climbed monkey bars at lunch, and on our own time, in the privacy of our homes we ran around topless, imagining ourselves to be karate black belts, knights and warriors, ninjas and monks. We were best friends, and being young as we were, no one questioned our close friendship. It was all pure, innocent fun, they reasoned. Or puppy love at best.
As we grew older and went to high school, we grew apart, as they expected we would. After all, as people grow, interests diverge, and so do ways. He continued to hang with the boys, and I the girls. We still chilled sometimes, but not as much. Spaces that used to echo with hysterical laughter, exciting adventure and boundless imagination are now filled with awkward silences that are filled with polite conversations.
People who knew us would some times ask about you. "How is he? You guys used to be so close! Have you hung out recently?"
"We're okay. I see him sometimes. We're different now, not as much to talk about."
But deep in my heart I missed him, and our distance hurts me.
For some reason I felt a need to maintain that we're no longer close like we used to be. I guess it's for propriety's sake. Him being a boy, and I a girl and all. It'll look funny if we're too close. People will suspect. And they will talk.
Besides, I didn't have time to make the effort to keep in touch anyway. I was preoccupied with other worries. My changing body and looks for one. Dating, or the idea of dating, for the other. He would just get in the way. Boys don't like seeing us too close. They get scared. Girls don't know what to make of us. They get confused.
Meanwhile, I grew discontent my my reflection in the mirror. I'm not pretty in ways that others expect me to be. There are ways, I suppose, to amend this. Things I can put on, clothes I can wear. But the image that results feel like a cage. Like a prison cell that I wear constantly on my body. It drew attention to places where I didn't want attention, from people I didn't want attention from. The added stuff limited my mobility and expression. But it seemed that no one noticed my discomfort but me. People approved, even, but I cringed inside.
No one understood my discomfort, which bordered on pain, not even myself. But I had a feeling that he might. And then I missed him dearly, and found a sudden, urgent need to see him and talk.
Seeing him was bliss. In front of him, I didn't need to wear heavy make up or tight dresses, and we just lounged comfortably in our sweats. Gosh I missed him.
He's changed a lot over the years. Like me, he's done a lot of growing. While I struggled with my own reflection, he has grown handsome, and I envied him. I envied the way that his clothes did not hug him tight, but rather fell lightly over his athletic frame, subtly hinting at slim but tight muscles underneath. I liked the way his haircut exuded cleanliness and confidence, complementing his facial features. My heart is lit by his carefree smile, and I found myself inexplicably drawn to him, to the tenderness in his eyes, a tenderness so rare in boys his age.
Our eyes met. He held my gaze, and smiled. I smiled back, and knew that it was okay to reach out and touch him. I slowly extended my fingertips towards his face... and touched the surface of a mirror. Startled, I drew my hand back and looked again. And the mirror was still there, reflecting the image of myself, the image of him.
"Who are you?" I asked this sudden stranger, whom I thought I knew so well.
"I am you," he answered, "and I've been here the whole time, waiting for you to reach out and touch me."
And reach out I did, to this new image of myself. Sharp, carefree, confident, tender. And for the first time in a long time, I liked what I saw. I knew that not everyone will understand our union, there will be many who disapprove. But I also knew that there will be those who like what I'm seeing, and they will be the only ones that matter. "So you'll be sticking around this time?" I asked.
"I'll be around for good," he answered. And I felt so very reassured.