Her name (was) is Annie.
She talks in her sleep, and sometimes even cries. The words are usually unintelligible, but sometimes you can catch a name between her mumbles and whimpers.
She used to say my name in her sleep as if her subconscious compelled her to call for me to save her from whatever fears troubled her mind.
Whenever Annie did call for my name, I would always try my best to be the hero she saw in me.
Her keepers, who, she calls ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ often called this faith she had in me “child’s play” or her “imagination”; but for me, I always conceived it as a sort of wisdom.
… And when you’re nothing but clumps of cotton, you tend to cling to this wisdom as a sort of purpose.
It was about a year ago when Annie started to call out names other than my own in her sleep.
I remember the fluttering feeling in the pit of my stuffed stomach when I first heard the name. It was a name that I had never heard her say before.
How did she go from saying “Frankie” to “Thomas” overnight?
I would motionlessly lay there, puzzled, and pondered over the same question as the evening dragged on.
Usually, when I would hear a soft mentioning of my name in the middle of the night, or anything resembling as such, I would muster all of the strength I had in my boneless limbs to pass along what warmth I had inside me to comfort her from the cold thoughts that lingered in her dreaming mind.
It was each time she said my name with such a belief in what it stood for (for her and myself) that gave me the strength to give her the comfort she needed.
To make things clear, I’m not a selfish bear. I simply can’t move if she doesn’t think I can. If I had a better way to explain it, I could, but it’s a paradox even I don’t comprehend.
I literally don’t have the mind for it.
This is why it took me over a year to catch on.
It took me a year to understand what was happening, and by the time I caught on, I was already too late.
The more time passed between the nights Annie called for my name, the harder it was for me to do anything.
Over time, wisdom became words and beliefs became imagination.
With each time a call for my name was replaced by a call for ‘Thomas’, it became more and more difficult for me to clearly even hear what she was calling out.
As her understanding of the world outside her pastel sanctuary grew, so did her fears and sorrows.
I may not have had much of a brain (none at all really), but it didn’t take much common sense to see that my understanding of the world around us was also slowly diminishing as well.
But that was all I could gather from my Annie-given existence, fading in and out with her belief in me.
I was never mad at her though. In fact, I just wanted to fix it the way she’d have me fixed when something tugged at the strings that held me together.
But I couldn’t.
I literally would freeze up; but not out of fear… just out of a lack of being able to just be.
The other companions never warned me about this, so I never knew what to expect or how to handle it.
Whenever I was still able to, I would curl up next to Annie’s shivering body in hopes of curing her worries that pulled us apart.
“Thomas,” she’d still quietly breathe, even when she felt my warm embrace.
I’d try to hold tighter, but my control over my plush arms would slip away.
Some nights were so bad that Annie would wake herself by her own crying.
Even with my mind slipping away, I could hear her sobs loud and clear.
One night, her sadness was so loud, her ‘mommy’ rushed into the darkened pastel room to calm her night terrors.
As the door opened, a beam of light blinded me. I could only hear Annie and mommy’s hushed voices hovering over my stiff body.
“Don’t call him Thomas, honey, he’s still your father,” I heard mommy say as Annie’s tears by muffled by an embrace I wasn’t a part of.
And from that moment on, my warmth never returned again.
I understood for the last time.
Deanna M. Paulsen