When I was nine, I lost my best and only friend. No, not like that. I mean, we walked into the woods behind my house, and when my surroundings fell silent, I turned to find him gone. Like gone, gone.
The next day, he didn’t show up for my tenth birthday party.
I didn’t tell anyone of my friend’s disappearance because that meant disclosing what we planned on doing in the woods.
Months later, at the dinner table, my parents asked about my friend. I told them I had not seen him. “La Llorona must have taken him,” I said.
“Oh,” they said. My parents looked at each other and suppressed a smile.
As children, we were warned of La Llorona, a woman dressed in black veils who walked the banks of the river in search of her children – which she had intentionally drowned. Legend has it she wails in regret as she walks alongside the river, calling out for her children. We were told that if we didn’t behave La Llorona would come for us, mistaking us for her kids.
“It happens,” I said.
I pinched some beans onto my tortilla and continued eating, a trace of a smile on my lips as well. If my parents weren’t going to admit that La Llorona was bullshit, I wasn’t going to admit my friend was imaginary.