“A dragon lives forever
But not so little boys…”
-from the PP&M classic
I met him when I was three, or four. His name was Eudable. In English the name sounds like a play that’s called after the football huddle. In Spanish it has a certain rhythm and cadence to it. It is not a common name. I’ve never seen it used on anyone else.
Can’t tell you much about what he looked like. How tall he was, or the color of his hair. He was a boy; that’s all I remember. We used to play together; mostly outside my apartment, on the red sidewalk that a few years later I used as a racetrack for my marble collection. We talked a lot. I often asked him questions about whether he liked the games we were playing, because I don’t remember him ever deciding what we were going to do that day. It was always my choice, and I felt bad that he wasn’t getting a chance to voice his opinion.
But he never complained. It was my way, and my choice; therefore we got along just fine. There was a bit of a problem in that my parents and sisters did not seem to welcome him as effusively as they did the numerous family members that dropped in unannounced during the day. In fact, I sometimes felt that he was being ignored. A couple of times I tried to push the point. I asked my mom to say Hi to him, which she did, with a bit of a smirk on her face. But my sisters and my next door neighbor flat out refused to acknowledge him.
I don’t know when he stopped coming. Maybe it was me: I just ceased to ask him to come over. Probably after one of my cousins openly made fun of me; telling me that there was nobody there, even though I saw Eudable clear as daylight. Some doubt crept into my mind. Once I started school and (painfully, because they didn’t always follow my lead) developed new friends there was no need to have him around.
My daughter the pediatrician tells me that imaginary friends are very common. No indication of any psychological disturbance. Looking back, my parents were pretty cool about letting me have my friend without pushing me into any kind of medical consultation. My mom was an early childhood educator. She had probably seen many instances of this type of behavior.
When I heard and read about the attacks on Paris my mind drifted back to my always compliant friend. In many ways Paris is the reservoir of the western civilization dream. Our romantic capital. Everybody knows about Paris; about where it is; about the Eiffel tower. Very few people would not jump at the chance of visiting the city (I was there in June of last year; a wonderful birthday present to myself).
Yes; it is a huge city. Traffic is a mess. There is pollution. If you’re not careful you’ll get your pocket picked. It’s expensive. I’m sure that the people in charge of running the show have daily headaches trying to solve the numerous issues, foreseen and not, that come up.
And yet… It has a soul. Paris smiles at you 24 hours a day. Millions of people who have never been there have an idea of what it will be like when they finally get to go.
Imaginary thoughts, of course. Just like my boyhood friend. We need our large cities to feed those dreams. Just like I needed Eudable when I was a child.
A bunch of desperate people have decided to take all of our dreams away. Not by telling us that our imaginary friend is not there. They have chosen noise and bloodshed and fear instead. Maybe because they never had anything to look forward to on their own; maybe because they are innately evil.
They want to stop us from being proud of our cities. They want us to think about blood and chaos when we talk about New York, or Washington, or Madrid. When we stop traveling; when we cease to be curious about each other, they will have had their way.
I don’t know how this problem should be solved. It seems clear that the first response will be to find a politically acceptable way to kill even more people. It has become evident over the past 15 years that this approach doesn’t work, but by golly we will continue to use it. Blood breeds more blood.
I wish that I had an answer. A lot. Which is why my mind drifted back to Eudable, and simpler times when I could make up a timeless and shapeless friend. A friend who had no race; no religion; no language that could even remotely put me at odds with him.
A friend who just wanted to get to know me and play. Someone who will make me feel that we have a chance.
I will go back to Paris. I refuse to let my dreams die.