Do you remember how, when I first introduced you to Zebra, in this post:... I promised to attempt to enlighten you as to why, despite being a relatively well-adjusted adult, I'd taken a plastic zoo toy on holiday with me?
Well, as promised here goes, I'll do my best: In short - it was for old time's sake - but allow me to explain properly ...
Zebra's creation myth begins approximately 15 years ago with a story my sister's oldest friend, a teacher, told her about a small girl she'd had in her reception class ....
The girl had carried a toy zebra with her everywhere she went and the adults around her recognised that she was using it as a comforter to help her through the daunting task of starting school. One day my sister's friend decided to address the issue with the zebra girl:
"Is he looking after you?" she asked.
"No ... I'm not scared." she replied "He is! I'm looking after him".
And, to be honest, that's really all I know about the girl who carried her zebra everywhere with her, just in case he got worried about being away from home.
At least, that's all I know about the original girl who carried her zebra everywhere, because there was another one who followed in her footsteps ...
Around the time I heard this story I was spending a lot of time at home myself. I had clinical depression and was afraid of most things and couldn't face going most places.
Which is when James bought me my own Zebra: As I gradually built myself up he used to go everywhere with me. The zebra, not James.
Although indeed James did actually have to go most places with me until I was back on my own two feet. Once I was, once I'd begun taking baby steps without my family and James beside me, Zebra took their place.
Well, like the little girl said ... he was scared of being out in the big wide world on his own so how could I leave him behind? He needed me. I was the brave one in the relationship.
So I kept him safe, in my pocket, while I went for walks to the end of the road and back to see how it felt to be outside alone.
Next he became my travelling companion when I managed to start taking trips by bus, after which I let him come to college with me ... and then university, because he'd be anxious if he'd been left on his own.
Which is also why he had to come with me to work with me when I got my first 'real' job. And why he came along to every scary new place and social occasion in between. All of which goes some way to explain why his stripes bear scuffed and faded battle scars:But at least we won the war.
It's telling that, when I wanted to introduce him to you a few weeks ago, I couldn't find him.
I looked in the bureau in the hall, near where we keep our coats and bags. The place where he used to be kept within easy reach for whenever I went out and couldn't face leaving him behind ... Eventually, after looking in every pocket, bag, cupboard and dark place I could possibly contemplate having once upon a time left him, I found him in the back of the drawer I keep my belts in. Obviously!
And even though he's not afraid any more, I have it on very good authority that when I plunged my hand in that drawer and felt four small hard plastic feet poking out amongst the leather and fabric ... there was a great deal of relief at our being reunited.
For both of us.
So now what? What do we do together now he's no longer afraid of life?
Well, we start on a new journey together. We open an online shop. We start selling things I've created ... we see where we go from there.
It's a venture which could be daunting. It's one which could make you more vulnerable than you've been in a long time and it might just be enough to make you the tiniest bit scared .... if you're a zebra.
Luckily for him though ... he's got me.