I've always been a lonely person.
From the very moment I was a child, no matter how much I tried, no matter how much I tried to change myself for others, none of the other children were willing to hang out with me. I couldn't understand. My own reflection of myself was as a normal person- I liked what everyone else like, I got decent grades, I liked sports and music- but still people stayed away from me. There seemed to be this invisible substance that leaked out of my pores, repelling all those who I tried to relate to.
I couldn't understand it. I tried all the trends, I learnt the proper vernacular, all to try to fit in- but still people stayed away.
The lonely child soon grew up into a lonely adult. I had no friends, no lover. I switched jobs multiple times to try and find the perfect atmosphere to make friends, but found myself constantly resigned to the background, where the lives of happy, sociable people who chattered in little groups among themselves. I found myself witness to their secretive worlds of smiling parties and social occasions.
Eventually I just resigned myself to being alone. Two worlds existed for me- the world of work, which I reluctantly ventured out every morning to spend five hours filing documents, typing away behind a desk as my slightly envious gaze glazed over my coworkers, huddled together by the water fountain or joking and laughing at one's cubicle and my own, private little world- the world of my room, shuttered away from the rest of the world, in my bedroom.
No friends, no parties, no smiles- just me and me alone. Sometimes it was if I was an ethereal figure within a corporeal world, a ghost who wandered the corners of the Earth, unnoticed by all.
I had never been particularly close to my family, but my grandmother had gifted me with her vast doll collection. Their perfect porcelain faces were stacked across shelves windowsills within my small apartment. They were perfectly pale, ever beautiful while I aged by creeping year after creeping year. She had given them to me out of pity at seeing me friendless all throughout my childhood and early teenage years. My grandmother had spent her life making them for children, that these particular ones that she had given to me were the few that she had kept for her own children, but eventually kept away behind glass as they grew up. Now, they found themselves in my possession, as her sole grandchild.
If she hadn't been a relative, I would have been tempted to call my grandmother my only friend. I reveled in the annual visits to her red brick little terraced house and that familiar musky perfume that filled my nostrils whenever I buried my face into the wrinkled folds of her neck as I hugged her.
It was my grandmother who had taught me how to sew. As the years had passed, it had become one of the few pastimes that had helped stave off the inevitable insanity of my near-perpetual loneliness. I had actually begun to make my own felt humanoid creations, new smiling faces to add to the roster of my home.
The words she had spoken to me as a child as I sat, awestruck on he lap as her great old-fashioned sewing machine juddered into life with perfect, precise stitches over the outlaying cloth.
"Sometimes the best friends are the ones you can make yourself."
These words had occurred to me one day as I was making a new doll. I found myself in another depression and as the old sewing machine worked its magic on the new frilly dress I was sewing for one of my favorites, a beautiful blonde Viennese-looking one named Priscilla, I found myself distracted by the cold shroud of loneliness I felt descend around my shoulders.
A short, white-hot jolt of pain raced down my hand from my finger as the blade sliced through the skin of my fingertip.
I stared down, slightly mesmerized by the red that slowly blossomed from the fresh wound and trickled down the curve of my index finger, staining the pink satin with steady scarlet droplets. I felt an unfamiliar, yet not entirely unwelcome tingle from the slowly ebbing shock of my wound.
The best friends are the ones you can make yourself, my grandmother's wavering tones echoed through my mind.
It was at that moment I got an idea for my latest sewing project.
I would make a doll. No, not just a doll- a friend.
I stared around at the unblinking array of face that seemed to stare out at me from every corner of my house, suddenly feeling foolish for all my years of doting on them as realization slowly dawned at me from the sight of my own vulnerability. They weren't my friends. They weren't even real- they were plastic, cloth, porcelain with sawdust and fluff in the place of blood and organs inside their perfectly created bodies.
No. I needed something real. Something I could hold.
I would make a friend- a real friend, with something real inside, something good, something human. And as I thought, my mind drifted back to the nameless yet recognizable faces of those who I encountered throughout my daily life- neighbors, colleagues, their friends, casual strangers that I encountered on my way to and from work along my street.
Yes, I thought- I would make the perfect friend. And from then on, I would never be truly alone ever again.
I hastily scribbled down on a piece of paper all the attributes of my perfect friend- kind, smart, brave, with a good heart. From then on, I browsed more carefully, selecting those who had my perfect parts.
Amy, he sweet bubbly temp with the tan skin and perfect blonde hair who had captured the attentions of all in my office, who had even tried to make conversation with me before being pulled away by the others, who had already recognized me as a lost cause- kind.
John, another colleague at work who had been employee of the month for three months and counting. A diligent man who was always seated in his cubicle typing busily behind his laptop on his new report, seemingly oblivious to our wondering glances that we cast from time to time at him. All that seemed to matter at him was his work- smart.
A red-haired woman, whose name was lost from my memory, but who seemed close to sweet little Amy at work, who was one of the most outgoing people at the office. Samantha, Sidney or something. She was a fan of extreme sports in her spare time, and had even once climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro for charity. Perhaps the bravest person I had ever known, but never really got close to.
The last was unexpected- he was a handsome neighbor who frequented the coffee shop a few streets away from my house. I think he might have worked there as a barista. I would forever remember the day when we had been returning home from work and he had looked across the picketed fence that had divided our houses and smiled at me.
That was the thing that struck him about me- he had ignored me, or turned away in repulsion when I had smiled back. This was a beautiful man, a rarity in itself, but he possessed something even rarer- a gentle heart, a kind heart.
I had found all the pieces I needed for my project. It was time to go to work.
I managed to locate them easily, in places far away from any potential witnesses- I didn't want to cause any kind of fuss, I wasn't that sort of person. I had found Amy and her drunken friend staggering down an alley after another night at the bar, John typing away behind his computer at a coffee shop, still as oblivious as ever to the world.
And my neighbor?
Well, as good a heart he had, he could be a little forgetful sometimes. He often left his front door unlocked when he was home and going about his business. Terribly unsafe. Anyone could get in.
I could have almost thanked him. It just made everything a little easier for me.
But these circumstances made my task all the more easier. Sooner than I ever expected, I had all my parts, safely wrapped in tinfoil within the confines of a plastic cooler.
I sat for untold hours that evening, all my doors locked and windows shuttered, hunched over the great black metal sewing machine that that once belonged to my grandmother before a dozen watching glass eyes from all corners of the room. I worked on the folds of felt, carefully molding out the little features with my reddening fingers as I stitched the patchwork of cloth together- fingers, toes.
My new friend needed to be perfect.
My tired eyes swelled with tears as I gazed upon my finished work- a huge life-sized body, androgynous with greyish-blue felt skin, easily the height of a grown man. Its face held no other features aside from a pair of button eyes I had sewn on as a cute little feature.
It was perfect on the outside.
Now all I needed were the perfect insides.
With quick, near surgical precision, I opened the desired places on my creations to insert my collection of parts, before sewing it up again. Amy's kindness, John's intelligence, Sara (yes, that had been her name, silly me), until there was only one final fixture to add.
I stared down at the heart that I held in my raw, bloodied hands. It still radiated warmth, the very same heart that I had torn from the perfect fleshy rib cage of my handsome neighbor. I swore that I could almost feel it beat as I slid it into the cloth cavern that I had cut into its chest. With a carefully threaded needle, I sewed up the gaping hole until the quivering red mass had all but receded within to its body, leaving only a darkening wet patch as proof of its existence.
No matter about the blood. I would be a good friend and clean it up.
I happily embraced the barely human figure that lay slumped across the floor, feeling the bloody patches soak into my own clothes. I knew that to the eyes of any other person, someone a little less lonely, that it might have appeared grotesque. But the grotesqueness visible in its form was endearing to me, only making me love it more, making me want to protect it from the world. The mothball staleness of lavender perfume invaded my nostrils as I buried my head within the confines of its broad makeshift chest. Wetness soaked into my hair from the treasure that was now sewn inside, a cold happiness shivering down the side of my body as I clutched it closer.
After so many years spent on the outside looking in, I knew that I would never be alone again. I had a real friend now, someone who would always be by my side. Someone I had everything that I had ever wanted in a friend.
Someone who would never try to run away.