If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that there are actually eleven (and counting): Paul Ryan, Frederick, Stacey-Maurice, Jerry, Bridgette, Gordo, Deena, Milo-Jordan, Billy Joel (a.k.a. Ol’ Bluegrass), Dickens, and Bixby. These little guys are my whole world, and they fit in the palms of my hands. Better yet, they fit perfectly on the tips of my fingers—though I do unfortunately have a maximum capacity of ten a time. Picture this: your favorite animal or mythical creature in a quasi-realistic, ultra-friendly form that is the size of your fingertip, and wearable. These perfect finger accessories are made of a soft plastic, and they look as though they are your favorite children’s book characters brought to life. Their beautiful, stupid magic condensed in such a small package makes them the best pocket-sized friends a girl could ask for.
I call them my “finger friends,” and they each have their own backstory. Frederick, my strong and forthright raccoon, is a Napoleonic military commander currently based in the Swiss Alps. Stacey-Maurice, my overly sweet (likely phony) meerkat, is a PTA mom who drives a white Range Rover and is a proud anti-feminist. Billy Joel, better known as Ol’ Bluegrass, is my black-and-white billy goat, and he is a slightly cynical, somewhat unhinged, but ever-wise town sage located in the Dust Bowl region of the United States. I also have a couple British finger friends, such as Bridgette, Dickens, and Bixby. Gordo is not even from Earth, so my finger friend posse is really an intergalactic force to be reckoned with.
When I first pick out a finger friend, I peer into their soul. In a matter of seconds, I decide on a name and uncover their life story. I refuse to take one home until I really see them and know who they are. My imaginative mind and all of its whimsy make it too easy for me to give my plastic toys personalities more richly developed than those found in 1000-word novels. More than that, I grow deeply attached to the souls of these supposedly inanimate entities. With their lives so complex and beautiful, with their many ambitions and passions and various neuroses, it is impossible not to care for them as living beings.
Maybe the self-ascribed personalities of my finger friends are a subconscious attempt to externalize my own feelings. Maybe giving them lives as magnificently intricate as humans induces human levels of empathy in me. Or maybe empathy extends beyond the living, in understanding that we will never fully understand anything we cannot experience. There is importance and perfection in the existence of all such elusive bodies. Further, these plastic personas remind us that we are not omniscient, and thus we cannot dismiss the value of something simply because we do not relate to it.
Paul Ryan—my white rat, my eldest, and my right-hand man—has truly become part of me. No library study session, no train ride, no coffee shop venture is complete without him. As I write this, he sits in front of me on my airplane tray table beside my Diet Coke. Not all my finger friends can stand on their own—both literally and figuratively—but Paul Ryan is just like me: independent and well-grounded. While he and I have never spoken a word to each other, there is a certain comfort in his presence and the silence we share. His silly face provides me with serotonin, and I feel encouraged to embrace and be my full self. If I am already getting stares for carrying my finger rat around with me, I may as well have the time of my life doing so! After all, if I really cared what people thought about me, I would probably keep my finger friends at home and not give them the love and attention they deserve.
To know my finger friends is to know me. They encapsulate everything I wish to be: curious, lighthearted, endearing, and bearing infinite potential. This collection of mine is more than a series of display pieces; it is a tapestry of the lives that could be. The stories of very real, very human individuals somewhere out there in the world are in all likelihood very similar to the stories I see in each of my finger friends.
The guy in front of me in line at Trader Joe’s seems a bit aloof. He is wearing a black denim jacket and a grunge, all-black ensemble, and he reminds me of my pal Dickens, my black cat. Once I compliment him on the AC/DC iron-on patch on his jacket, he lights up, and we strike up an interesting conversation. Just like Dickens, some friends take time and need prompting before they warm up to you.
When the little boy is screaming in the middle of the airport, at first I want to tell him to knock it off because it’s four in the morning and I don’t have the energy to deal with him right now. But then I think of my opossum Jerry—what a loon—and I can’t help but smile. Jerry lives, breathes (not literally), and embraces chaos—and we love him for it. I try to be more like Jerry and embrace the chaos of the little boy, and I maintain my cool until it’s time to board my flight.
By making a friend out of a stranger, a neighbor, or any object placed beside me, I feel a much greater sense of comfort in being alone in the world. Plus, are we ever really alone? I, for one, would far rather feel like I have friends all around me when I am by myself than feel like I’m alone when I am surrounded by people. Whether in a bustling crowd or an empty field, I know that I’m in good company with a finger friend or two in my backpack. And if I forget them at home, there are infinitely many other friends—both living and inanimate—whom I cannot wait to meet. I can be a wanderer, but also find and make myself at home anywhere I go. Thanks to my finger friends, my pockets and my heart are now a whole lot fuller.