map Faded Friend

by Sharmin Akter

Published in Issue No. 287 ~ April, 2021

The rain pitter-patters against the skylight. It is soft at first, only a light drizzle until the sound of the thunder shakes the world. The rain crashes down like bullets. I am afraid.

It isn’t just the sound that’s scary, but the eerie loneliness that I feel creep up on me with every drop of rain. Paisley warned me about that. When she was five, she breathed life into me with her giggle. She made me realize what it meant to exist. To live.

We would play for hours, but some of my favorite days were the ones where we’d talk about anything and everything. She would tell me about her day, and I’d nod and smile, letting her words fill my ears because her voice was similar to a soft lullaby.
She would tell me stories of how I came to be. How everything she imagined about me came to be true. I was tall with blue-colored hair and purple eyes. She said her favorite color was purple. You could tell just by the way her room looked. The purple walls, the lavender curtains, and most importantly, the heart she had on the wall. She wrote her name with mine on it and pasted it right above her bed so that it was the last thing she saw before she went to sleep.

Now, she is nine and no longer plays with me. She won’t even say hi or look my way. She’s got real friends now. Ones who look just like her. No one sees me for I am imaginary.
But Paisley does. I know it when she accidentally meets my eye, and her face acknowledges me even if she doesn’t.
It is strange. We used to be the best of friends. But today, she’s changing her room.

“Make sure there’s no purple. It’s so plain. I want it to be pink,” she says.
This makes me reach for my heart because it is beating erratically, the arrhythmic beat hurting my chest. I try to take in a deep breath, but my lungs feel like they can’t take in any more air.
Paisley looks my way now. I finally release the breath that I’m holding, ignoring the ache in my chest. My heart has stopped beating loudly, but the dull pain remains. Paisley asks them to remove the poster.
“Who’s Terri?” someone asks.
Paisley shakes her head. “Oh, that’s no one. Just something I made up.” She shrugs like it’s that easy to let me go.
I find it hard to breathe again.
The rain pelts down harder. I cry with the heavens, my raspy voice resonating with the thunder outside. My body shudders like I am lightning. Except the only thing I electrocute is myself.

Paisley leaves just then. One of her friends probably came downstairs. She rushes out, a smile plastered across her glowing face. I’m glad she’s happy, but there’s this bitterness swelling inside me, and I try not to let it take over.
I wish I could make her laugh. But that’s a thing of the past. I am slowly fading, remaining as just a figment of her imagination. Pretty soon, I’ll dissipate.

I wish it wasn’t so painful. I don’t think I can handle seeing Paisley distance herself from me much more. There must be a way to end the pain.

The rain drips down the side of the window, and once it touches my finger, I scream. There is a burning sensation.
I remember Paisley warning me about the rain. “Don’t go outside, or you’ll burn in the rain, and I’ll lose you forever.”
She was scared of rain and thunder, but not anymore. She’s grown out of it. She’s grown out of loving me, too.
I watch the rain one last time. It trails down the window, one droplet attaching to another until they fall together and collide into one huge puddle.
I open the window now so that it is big enough for me to crawl out from. Once I jump, I land with a thud, but I am not hurt. Not until the raindrops cover me do I feel just how icy they are.
My skin burns, but the bitterness within me is replaced with calm. My shoulders relax as I surrender to the clouds, letting them rain down on me with as much force as they please.
I can feel myself fading away, my whole existence being engulfed by the water. I look to Paisley’s room one last time. She is back, sitting on her bed. I watch her giggle before the last of me has completely thinned out into a puddle, washing me away with my emptiness.



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Sharmin is a writer, thinker, teacher, and student. She loves words because without them, she wouldn't have a voice.