There is a boy standing in the corner of the room with me. His hair is blonde. His eyes are blue — no, they are green. Or are they… both? He is a beautiful boy. If I ever have a son, I would want him to look like the little boy in the corner.
I wonder what his name is.
I wonder how old he is.
Who is he?
Where are his parents?
He looks so sad. I see now that he is crying. That must be why he is trying to hide his face.
Should I comfort him?
“What is your name?” I ask him.
“I don’t have one,” he answers.
“How old are you?”
“I don’t know,” he says. His tears sparkle on his face, and yet there is no light here to reflect off the droplets of his sorrows.
“Where are your parents?”
“I don’t have any.”
An orphan? I wonder…
He senses my thoughts. He knows what I’m thinking. He can read my mind, the ageless crying boy with no name that is beautiful.
“I am not an orphan,” he says. “I just don’t have parents.”
Such maturity in his voice. He is not a boy. He only looks like one.
“How is that possible?” I ask.
“The same way you are possible,” he answers.
“But I have parents,” I say.
“No,” he says. “They have you.”
I don’t know what to say.
“But that isn’t what I meant…,” he says, but he stops before he is finished.
He knows my name, even though I haven’t told him. I can see it on his tongue, but he won’t speak it. He doesn’t want to frighten me.
“Why are you crying?” I ask.
“It’s broken,” he says.
“The world,” he answers.
“I didn’t want it to break — that’s not what I meant to do… but it’s my fault… and now it’s broken.”
“It’s not your fault,” I say. “How can you be responsible for that? The world has always been broken.”
He shakes his head at my words, ignoring them. “It’s my fault, too, that you are broken, Ashley,” he says.
I am scared when he says my name.
He takes my hand in his. A little hand that feels soft and innocent.
I’m not scared anymore. A warm feeling takes me over, like a shower of comfort. What is this feeling?
“I didn’t mean to make it that way,” he says. He cries harder. “I didn’t mean for bad things to happen to you. But they had to.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The bad things,” he says. “Your pain.”
“Who are you?”
“You know who I am.”
“Yes,” he says.
But I didn’t speak.
“I don’t blame you,” he continues. “I’m sorry about your grandfather. I’m sorry that I took him away from you.”
I’m crying now. Tears find me unexpectedly, as they always do when I think about Papa.
“And the pillow kings,” says the little boy. “I’m sorry for what they did to you too.”
He knows about the pillow game. He knows about them.
“Is that why you’re crying?”
“No,” he says. “And yes.”
For a moment he watches me. Then he continues.
“I only meant to make something beautiful,” he says. The boy with no name looks out into nothing. He is looking at something I can’t see. “But you were my favorite.”
“All of you.”
“Yes,” he says. “You were my favorite creation. You were the most beautiful.”
But I couldn’t speak the word, his name.
He doesn’t answer my question. “I had to let the world be broken, Jo,” he says.
Only Papa calls me that — called me that…
“I had to let them hurt you.”
There are more tears in my eyes now.
“Why?” I ask.
My voice is broken. Softer than a whisper. The pain is too loud.
My tears stream harder than his. He is still crying, but my tears fall in greater numbers as I accept who he is. The beautiful little boy with no name and no parents.
“Because I needed you to write,” he says. “You are very special, Ashley Jo.”
“Yes,” he says.
I fall down to my knees before him, and because he is only child, his eyes are level with mine. That is why you must bow to him.
“Why am I special?”
“You’re imagination, Jo. It is my favorite part of you.”
“Because it is your favorite part of you.”
“Did you make me this way?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “But I did not make what came from it. You made beautiful things. Wonderful dreams. It was the only way you would know me,” he says, squeezing my hand. “After your grandfather died… after those who loved you let you down… after that selfish boy who wanted and raped you… you hated me. We are connected, though, because you imagine the way I imagine.”
“Why did you make us?” I ask, “All of us… Why are we here?”
He smiles at me, and puts his arms around my neck. The arms of a child. Loving and soft.
He whispers in my ear to answer my question. An answer I already knew — that I have somehow always known.
“That’s why I exist,” he whispered, “To create and imagine. That’s why you exist, too. That’s our connection. I must create. You must write.”
“Do you love me?” I ask.
He nods. His smile fills me with joy. A feeling from so long ago it must have been when I was only a child, as young as the boy with no name appears to be.
“But you love everyone. How can I be special if everyone is special?”
“I love you, Jo, the way you love your characters. They are all special to you, aren’t they? They are the part of you that makes you happy, that makes you laugh and cry, the part that makes you sad. They belong to you. They are the part of you I love the most, because they are you. They are the part of you that you created without me.”
He kisses my cheek, and I stop crying. His eyes are clear now, and I can see the whole world in them. He tells me of my life to come, but I forget it as soon as he tells it to me, and I know nothing of it again. I feel happier though, knowing that he tells me. I know that I have a purpose.
“Do you have to go now?”
“No,” he says. “I am always here, in this corner. You can come to me whenever you need to.”
“Do I have to go now?”
“You are always here,” he says. “Even when you are not in this room, you are always here in this corner with me.”
His words are warm. A blanket wrapping me. I feel safe.
“Is there anything I can do to make you cry less?”
“Yes,” he says. “But you already know what it is.”
And I do know.
I know I must write.
The boy knows it too.
He is just a boy, and yet he isn’t a child. The boy with no name. When you kneel before him his eyes are level with yours. That is why you must fall to your knees in his presence… so that he may look into your eyes and let you know you are loved by him.
I understand it now.