As though her leaving for college was not painful enough, my daughter left behind her unicorn, Virgil. His namesake is the poet of the Aeneid, but she said she gave her imaginary best friend that name because she liked the way it sounded.
The mystical creature plods the house, nudges my shoulder when I’m reading a book, and neighs loudly when I’m on the phone.
There’s a pecan grove by my home, where I take my pre-dawn walks. The branches of the trees intertwine overhead creating a protective arch for walkers. In twilight, you can smell the earth waking from its sleep. Its odor a mixture of dew and dying leaves. If I linger to look at the family of deer who come to dine on the long grass, Virgil pokes me in the back with his snout to move me along. “I know, I know,” I say, “Keep the heart rate over 117.”
This morning there’s glitter in my hazelnut latte, because he’s taken a sip, and I’ve passed the dust mop at least three times today, to clean up the molting feathers from his wings. “Oh, he can fly too,” I recall my daughter’s tiny face glowing as she told me about her new best friend.
Virgil’s not all bad, though. He looks out for me, as my daughter used to, by doing things like hiding the salt shaker to keep me from loading up my soup with sodium and reminding me when it’s time to pay the light bill.
Tonight, Virgil is quite useful. When I climb into bed with a book by Philip Schultz, I turn to the page with the poem, “The God of Loneliness”, Virgil clamps his mouth on the book’s spine and whisks it across the room, then places his limber lips around the chain of the bed lamp, and clicks out the light.