My Old Friend, Writing

I remember at any social event; my mother would tell everyone I had my own imaginary friend. This made me feel stupid of course, shy even to get to know people. At such a young age I created a bubble, separating the outside world from my own imaginations and desires. My mother thought my imaginary friend was something I could see and hold on to. I never considered this imaginative being a physical entity or a way to escape my social encounters. It never had a name either. I communicated with my imaginary friend in the form of little sentences in a glittery journal I got for Christmas because I was too nervous to speak. Always confused with Spanish and English language, I was scared to mess up in front of my friends. I didn’t want them making fun of me for not knowing English. I spent up until fourth grade with speech difficulties and I resorted to writing my conversations down to pass my classes. I fell in love with writing as a form of communication first and then it just disappeared.
At the end of my childhood and especially during late stages of my preteen years, I was mad at writing. In the sense that I was betrayed, writing left me for a while. Like an old friend, writing just moved on from me and it left me feeling extremely bitter. My family was going through financial difficulties and I was still confused about my growing body. I’d thought about what I wanted to say when writing came back. “Hey um, you pretty much left me at my lowest point in life. Thanks, I hate you”. At that age, I told myself that writing left me, like it was something it could ever leave. I was defensive. I left writing.
After my trip to Colombia for a summer, I had recurring night terrors of not being able to speak. One morning I woke up to a dream that a man from Bogota removed my eyes as I was walking down the street. My experience in a third world country made me realize my fortune in the United States. The hot water, the air conditioning, the equality. I never realized how free I actually was. My dreams of Colombia’s brutality pushed me to write until the sun rose, and if I was tired, I slept in a closet where no one could see me. Instead of being afraid to speak, I was afraid to step outside. I wrote long poems, poems that had two lines, and poems that tasted like hot dogs they sold after church. I wrote when I told my grandmother I hated her in front of a mountain that stretched all the way to Venezuela. Sometimes I painted with my neighbors when there wasn’t any money for paper.
It was the strangest feeling when my old friend came back. We were both familiar with each other and it was almost like we picked up right where we left off. I was still bitter at my old friend but I never stopped coming back for more. Today I realized that I am addicted to writing, addicted to communicating how I feel on paper. The only way I got over my fear of speaking was to write about being afraid.
-Evelyn Alfonso, Poetry Editor