By L McGregor
I met Lucas when he was five.
He was at preschool, sitting by himself on a carpet covered in multicolored bubbles. Of all the bubbles on the carpet, he sat on the only pink one.
I had watched from afar, as other kids the same age, had laughed at him for wanting to play with Barbies.
It wasn’t fair. Five-year-olds are young; young enough that their words are influenced by those of their parents, and they don’t know what the words mean; not really. But while a child doesn’t know what they’re saying, they also don’t know the consequences.
Those children didn’t know that they were missing out on being friends with the most amazing boy in the universe.
I walked over to him that day, and sat down beside him. I liked Barbies and dolls too.
He looked up at me, his big innocent blue eyes shining with tears. “Hello.” He sniffled.
I smiled. “Hello.”
He smiled back. “I’m Lucas.” He said.
I just nodded. “I know.”
Lucas had a lot more fun at preschool after that, and so did I. But I still felt sad, wondering how people have the inability to see the beauty in things that are right in front of them.
Junior and senior kindergarten were hard and easy at the same time. No one bothered Lucas and I, and we kept to ourselves, but Lucas got in trouble with his mother a few times for doodling in class. Even when he was four and five, he was talented.
Lucas’s sixth birthday was his favorite. He had a Paw Patrol cake, and his mother made him a cupcake with a little horse on it. The horse had a little raised, jagged stump on its forehead, like it used to be a unicorn. Lucas noticed the same thing I did.
“Why did you take the horn off?” He’d asked his mother.
His mother just smiled at him and gave him the cupcake.
On the first day of grade one, Lucas made a couple friends. His friends were two kids his age named Matt and Jordan. Jordan was a girl with pink hair, which Lucas found amazing (he dyed my hair pink that night). Matt was a shy but cheerful little boy, shorter than Lucas by about half a head.
The year passed quickly, for Lucas and I. Everyday, he went to school and sat in a desk beside me, whispering quietly to me when he got bored, which happened often. At recess, he, Matt, Jordan, and I played tag and a strange little game called Telephone, where we sat in a circle and one person whispers a phrase into the ear of the next, and as it arrived back at the original person. I always lost.
When grade two started, Matt moved away, and left Jordan and Lucas and I alone. We still played tag at recess, but it was different without Matt. Matt was always very happy, much like Lucas. They were how six-year-olds should be.
The three of us didn’t make any more friends until grade five. All the grade fives were very excited to become grade six’s. It was like a rite of passage.
On the last day of grade five, Lucas said goodbye to Jordan at school, and Lucas and I walked home together.
“I don’t want to go to grade six.” Lucas said, staring down at his sneakers as we walked down the sidewalk.
I made sure he didn’t get hit by a car and asked, “Why?”
He shrugged his thin shoulders. His brown hair was getting too long again. It grew so fast. “I don’t want to get older.”
I silently agreed.
The summer and beginning of grade six floated past like a haze for Lucas, on the verge of sadness and happiness. He never liked spending too much time with his judgemental mother, and Jordan was on vacation for the entire summer, unable to play with us.
Lucas’s eleventh birthday rolled around. It’s on August 18th, which, to his immense pleasure, is Percy Jackson’s birthday as well.
He wasn’t very happy on this birthday.
His mother and father had divorced just before I met Lucas. Lucas lived with his mother, but she wasn’t very nice sometimes. And Lucas’s father was even meaner. This year, he wanted to come visit. I wasn’t very happy about it either.
Lucas was standing by the front window, waiting for his father’s car to pull into the driveway.
“I don’t want him to come.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “I know you don’t.”
He frowned sadly. When I asked what was wrong, he said, “Mom took away Sally last night, after you went to sleep.”
I growled lowly. Sally was Lucas’s doll; his favourite doll. She was very special to him.
“She said I shouldn’t play with dolls.”
I sat down in a chair beside him. “You can play with anything you want. She doesn’t control you.”
He smiled at me, then, just before his father pulled into the driveway.
It was an awkward meeting. I didn’t like Lucas’s father, not from the moment I met him. He was big and covered in scars, and he smelled like a dirty alleyway.
Lucas didn’t tell his father about the doll his mother had taken.
A few days later, after his father had left, Lucas was playing at Jordan’s house.
I sat on the bed, watching, as Lucas and Jordan put on dresses and played Knight. I liked Jordan. She didn’t ask Lucas why he liked dresses, and she was just as playful and childish as he was.
The next few years passed alright, but Lucas was maturing, and starting to question things.
A few weeks before his grade eight graduation, we were sitting in the attic, in a beanbag chair he had lugged up from his room. There was a lamp in front of us, and the floor was littered with video game controllers and his DS.
“Lucas?” I asked. “You don’t like video games.”
He nodded. “I know.”
He was wearing basketball shorts, and a shirt that said “COOL STORY BRO” in big letters. He didn’t like wearing things like this.
I watched him graduate a few weeks later. He looked very nice in a suit, but he was staring at the girls dresses with envy. I wondered why he didn’t just wear the dresses.
The next summer was very strange.
I was sitting in his room, waiting for him to come back upstairs. His mother had called him downstairs to talk to him, and he told me to stay here. Summer had just started, but something was a little different.
All Lucas’s dolls and dresses, all his pink clothing was gone. I looked around for it, but it was nowhere to be found. Had he thrown it out?
I also realized that Jordan hadn’t come over recently. She had called Lucas’s phone yesterday, but he ignored it.
Lucas came back up, then. His face was blank, like he had no emotions.
“Mom says you’re not real.” He interrupted. “That I should started acting like the teenage boy I am.”
I felt like the world had just dropped on my shoulders. “D-d-do you-” I clear my throat. “Do you believe her?”
He nodded, but I could tell he didn’t; not really.
Grade nine started, and I became invisible to him. I was still there, because he still believed in me, but he refused to see me. I was left to follow him around aimlessly, like a ghost.
He was mostly by himself during school. It was like he was living in a bubble. Still there, but apart from the rest. I called out to him, but it was equivalent to screaming into an endless void.
I simply didn’t reach him.
He met a group of kids about halfway through grade nine. He was sitting in a corner beside a stairwell, wearing black, as he did every day now.
I didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t speak to me anymore.
A group of teenagers, his age and a year older, came up to him. There were four boys and two girls, all with piercings in strange places and tattoos and sneers, and they asked him if he wanted to come with them. They said that they could see he was unhappy, and they could make it better.
I tried to tell him not to go, but he didn’t hear me.
Lucas thought for a moment, then stood and went outside and across the street with them, off school property.
They handed him a cigarette and a lighter, and a pill.
He was happier after that, for the next two years, but not for long.
The haze had gotten thicker.
Every morning, he got up and put clothes on. He took two pills, and fell back asleep. He got up and packed his school bag, forgetting something every day. On the walk to school, he smoked a cigarette. He got to school late, and met his new friends on the roof of the school. More pills. He was late for every class, and slept through most of them. Then he got home, and slept, and did it all again.
One particular day scared me half to death. Lucas stumbled out the bathroom. He was very small for a sixteen year old. His wrists were bloody and his hands were red. He was very high.
It made me sick; it broke my heart; every day.
The worst day is today.
I’m in the corner of the bathroom. I can’t stop the tears, just like I can’t look away.
He’s looking at himself in the mirror, wearing only dark jeans. I can see every rib, every scar on his wrists. He hasn’t been eating, and he’s been taking more and more pills.
I don’t understand how he can’t see it. His beauty. He was himself when he was playing dress up with Jordan, and when he was playing with Sally. That was what made him beautiful. Now, he’s judged by his mother, who pays no attention to him, and influenced by his friends. But he still has so much to live for, and so much that he owes himself.
He owes himself to get better, get the help he knows he needs, and move away, to stay with Jordan, where ever she is. I know she’s told him he can.
He once read a First Nations story where they believed people had two wolves inside them, one of love and peace, and one of hate and bitterness. He was letting the bad wolf take over, with hate and bitterness for the beautiful person he was.
I feel a tingling in my feet and look down. I’m fading.
The tears come faster, and I look back at Lucas.
He has an open bottle in his hand.
“NO!” I scream. “Lucas, no! Please!”
He lifts them to his mouth, and swallows them all.
The last thing I see, before I, his imaginary best friend, fade away forever, is his body hitting the ground.
I take one last breath…He owed it to himself to live.