originally written circa January 2009

About a month ago I thought about something that hadn’t crossed my mind in over ten years. When I was little-little and normal and happy, I had an imaginary friend. His name was Tony (sometimes Tone or Toney… yes, he was named after the group) and he was the coolest individual my mind could conjure up. He went to the “cool” high school in town that still has homecomings that rival HBCUs, he always wore a purple and gold letter jacket, and he was the best friend a person could ask for. He was like a chill older cousin who didn’t mind hanging out with me even though I was seven, and it was totally okay to play wedding just for the sake of playing wedding, because he wasn’t my boyfriend. That would be gross. He had girlfriends anyway. (Vanessa AND Denise from the Cosby Show…? and they didn’t mind.) I remember being asked what Tony looked like, and I always just said “regular” because he looked the way I felt boys should be looking by the time I grew up. Brown skin, big emotional eyes, a perfect smile, and hair that was cooler than your average fade but not wack like a jheri curl. I didn’t consciously have a specific person in mind that he was based off of… he just was.

Later, but still many years ago, after Tony had run his natural course in my life and around the time his ever-fixed age was nearing for me, I found a picture that I’d drawn of him and it suddenly hit me: Tony, or at least the face that I saw in my mind when he gave me relationship advice, was Michael Jackson in the Thriller video. High school, letter-jacket Michael who asked Ola Ray to be his girl. Personality-wise, Tony was more Axel Foley-meets-Fresh Prince, so I don’t think this is the reason I expected to start wearing bobby socks and circle skirts when I reached ninth grade (that was because of Grease). But for what it’s worth, Michael Jackson was my imaginary friend. I’m not sure why my young subconscious decided to make that the template for what a guy should look like — but it explains some suggestive dreams I’ve had involving Ricardo Tubbs in a movie theater. I’m a sucker for a mid-length s-curl.