When I was 7 we moved to another neighbourhood where I had no friends. Like any uprooted little kid, I was upset by the move. New house, new school, new streets, new people. I missed my old back alleys where I could bike carefree. I was scared of the woods behind my new house. People said there was a bear in it. You could hear it sometimes, too.
The little girl across the street was first to come to me. That’s no bear, she said. That’s just a dog, a big black dog. He’s friendly, don’t be afraid. Her name was Dolly and she was very ill but also very wise. She had no hair and other kids made fun of her because of the little scarf she wore on her head.
We became best friends and I protected her from those who teased her. It was a good partnership, but of course we didn’t see it that way. We were kids and we were friends.
She often missed school because of her illness. And on those days the other kids would tease me. Why are you spending so much time with someone like that?
She was my friend, and I defended her. She was small and sick and didn’t have any other friends. I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t leave her alone if they couldn’t find it within themselves to be good to her. She was such a kind, gentle soul. She wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Why pick on her? I never understood that.
She died one night not long after we became friends. I never got to say goodbye. I cried very hard when they told me. I was angry nobody had woken me up so I could wave at the ambulance that took her away forever.
I made other friends, and life went on as it does. Mercilessly forward. But I never forgot her. My friend, my Dolly.