At a young age, children never cease to experiment and learn. Their minds never stop asking questions and growing. Many children learn their first life lessons by experience. Whether it be a good one or a bad one. Mine? Was that life is not a happy place. The world can be cruel and unforgiving to the weak. Especially young children.
When I was young I made a friend; Mr. Smile. I had been throwing a tantrum and for the first time in my life I broke something. It wasn’t really bad, just my cheap airplane toy breaking as I threw it against the wall with all the strength my little arms could bare. As my temper cooled down I saw a faint black smoke seeping from the remnants of the toy. It swirled and took shape of a young child. A young boy. He flickered on and off like a hologram.
We stared at each other for what felt like forever. Until I reached out a small hand and blubbered, “Ewwo.” A wide grin spread across it’s face, the smile unnaturally wide and crooked.
Call me Mr. Smile.
At the time I was too young to really understand Mr. Smile but I didn’t really care at the time either.
He stayed for as long as he could, playing and giving me care that my parents never could give me. He did truly make mehappy. Though over the small period of time we played together he began to flicker more often and fade ever so slightly. That day before he left, he leaned in and gave me a small red bell attached to a black string. He tied it around my small wrist and smiled his big smile.
When you need me break something else. This bell is a promise from me to you that I will come back.
I remember losing the bell somewhere as small children do but I didn’t forget Mr. Smile.
I didn’t understand what he really meant either but I knew how to summon him, it was as natural as learning to walk. It was just there. But when he left I still missed him. So, when he disappeared that day I started to cry. My mother came in and strictly told me to stop crying, then she hurried out to whatever needs more important than her own daughter.
So, when I grew lonely I’d break something. Mr. Smile would never miss a single summon and we played for as long as he could stay. I learned three things while summoning him;
1. I was a lonely child with a neglecting mother and a cold distant father.
2. The bigger and more valuable the object I break the longer Mr. Smile stayed to play.
3. Mr. Smile could only be summoned once every day.
I didn’t care though. I savoured every bit of time we spent together. He told me stories of monsters and creatures that this world will likely never see. Places that your wildest imagination couldn’t possibly imagine. Stories that normal children never heard of.
Years went by and we saw each other less and less. I kept breaking things so my parents sent me to doctors and specialists. I became more and more lonely. I was bullied at school called; freak, Cursed, Retarded…
The hollowness in my chest increased day after day. I stopped caring that nobody would really love me but Mr. Smile. I stopped hoping my parents would hug me or tuck me in for bedtime. Because they never did that. They never even hugged each other. I stopped hoping someone would notice the damn sign around me screaming at everyone,
That I was lonely
Most days I put on a smile to hide the cringe of all the pain I was going through. Some days I did not speak to anyone at all. The only shield I had was a mask of stone and sad smiles I wore day after day.
Until one day I snapped.
I couldn’t take anymore of the neglecting or the bullying. I just wanted Mr. Smile. I don’t remember what drove me off the edge. The very edge I stood on all my life just staring. Staring at the dark abyss of nothingness. Never really needing to jump off or too afraid to take a step.
None of it mattered to me anymore.
But I remember falling. It was exhilarating. It made me feel alive and free. The numbness of not feeling the pain. It was breathtaking.
So I let myself fall.
That night at twelve years old I crept out of bed and out into the garden. I picked up the biggest garden stone I could find and smashed all the windows, my toys, my mother’s fancy plates and cups, my father’s prized tv that seemed to be so much more important than their own daughter. I let out the pain and loneliness as Mr. Smile followed me around the house whispering to me what to break. His smile was wider than any smile. He was my friend and I was his.
That was all that mattered.
I broke into fits of laughter and tears as the hollowness filled with anger and happiness all at once.
My parents woke to the first window breaking and rushed downstairs. They couldn’t do anything but scream and gape at what I was doing. When there was nothing else to break and dawn was peeking through the windows many people gathered around the house to see where the screams and breaking came from.
My father bellowed at me for the first time. He finally payed attention to me. My mother weeped and I grinned broadly. Mr. Smile was still next to me. Smiling with me.
I stumbled back and Mr. Smile’s smile faded along side mine. The faint sting of the contact to my face pulling me back up the edge and into reality. Back into the real world.
Reality slowly seeped back in. My world of freedom and swirling colours faded away to see my wreck of a house.
“WE ARE SENDING YOU AWAY YOU WRETCHED CHILD! FILTHY CURSED CHILD! YOU HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY SATAN HIMSELF MIA!”
I frowned and felt hot tears roll down my cheeks.
“You are a disgrace. Be glad we’re sending you away, you monster.”
I turned to see Mr. Smile’s face contorted with anger. He saw my gaze and his expression softened.
I will take you away to somewhere better soon.
And then he vanished.
The police came an hour later followed by men and woman coming to question me and my parents. I was taken away. The only thing keeping me from breaking so horribly the whole world would hear the snap was the promise Mr. Smile gave me.
Everything went numb and quiet and I didn’t hear the questions anymore I didn’t care that someone put me in a car I didn’t know and drove me to a place meant for broken children. I didn’t care that they put me in a room filled with nothing to break. I didn’t notice the tests and doctors and nurses coming in and out. I just sat there most of the day. Staring into nothingness as I waited for Mr. Smile.
Finally I was moved to another place. With other children.
That’s when I met Tommy.
A boy around the same age as me, red hair and sparkling green eyes. Always with a bright smile.
I never responded to his greetings and invites to play. Everyone else thought I was scary. Everyone but him.
One day on his usual routine of pestering me to play I turned to him and said, “Aren’t I scary? Don’t you think I’m weird?” He looked at me with a funny face and shook his head. For the first time I felt a blanket of warmth wrap me in a soft embrace.
“Y-You don’t?” He shook his head again and smiled.
“No, I just want to be you friend.” For the first time in ages I smiled.
The ice and stone that built around my hollow chest was melted. Allowing my heart to finally feel again.
He made my life happier. He and Mr. Smile with his promise that I somehow knew would not come true. I told Tommy about him anyway. He believed me and I felt loved again. He was my friend and I was his.
“One day I’ll introduce you to Mr. Smile. Us three can stay together forever!”
I promised him and he promised me. We waited and waited for Mr. Smile. One day I sort of let go and gave up. Tommy was there to comfort me.
Then he disappeared.
Searches and investigations were launched. But it seemed he just vanished into thin air. No tracks no nothing. They finally just gave up looking for a child no one would miss. No one except me.
The following day a note was left under my pillow, along with the bell Mr. Smile gave me a long time ago.
I’m your only friend.