This I Believe: Imaginary Friends
I am an only child, and when I was a little girl, I played with Jeffrey, my imaginary friend, instead of siblings. Although I cannot remember the day Jeffrey came or left, what he looked like, or what adventures we shared together, I distinctly remember his presence. When I was nine years old, some years after Jeffrey had been semi-forgotten, I traveled to Europe with my parents. London was our first stop, and our first experience with an elaborate subway system being that we were from Dallas, Texas. Our subway inexperience caused my parents to overlook the cardinal rule of subway travel with small children: children must exit the subway car first. After an exciting morning observing the Changing of the Guard, we got on the subway to travel to our next tourist destination. As we arrived at our station, my mother pushed the button to open the doors of the subway car and stepped onto the deck; my father behind her paused in the doorway and proceeded to streeeeeeetch for what seemed to me to be a very long while. The next thing I knew, the doors were closing, and as I frantically pushed the button to open them, the train took off. I can remember being plastered against the window screaming and beating it with my fists until the camera I wore around my wrist broke into pieces. I could see my mother, also screaming, run after me for only a split second because the train was so fast. The only other person sharing the subway car with me was a homeless man who tried to comfort me although he did not speak English. I realized quickly that if I just stayed on this train it would eventually return to the station where my parents had gotten off, and we would be reunited. So I sat, nine years old and alone on a subway in a foreign country. After a few minutes, a tall British man boarded the car. He sat down next to me and politely inquired about what had happened, even though I was not crying anymore. So I temporarily forgot all the rules I knew about talking to strangers (especially in foreign countries) and told him the whole story. I told him what station I had lost my parents at and how I planned to get back there. He told me if I got off at the next station, took the second train, and got off at the third stop, I could be back to my parents in 15 minutes instead of two hours. After reviewing the plan with me several times, he asked if I could go by myself or if I wanted him to come. Again I thought nothing about how I was certainly not supposed to go anywhere with strangers, and we got off the subway car together. The rest of the trip back to my parents sped by so fast, and it seemed that as quick as I could snap my fingers we were back at that fateful station. He guided me up a set of stairs and told me one of my parents would be waiting at the lost and found, where my father indeed was. After hugging me, my father asked how I got back and when I turned to the man who had been at my side five seconds prior, he was gone. My mother has always told me that imaginary friends are guardian angels that can be seen by children because of their innocence. It had never occurred to me until then that Jeffrey is a very British name.
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