I had imaginary friends for years. Their names were Memo, pronounced MEEMO, with the long “E,” Tebo, rhyming with the latter and Julie, the most normal named non-existent friend of mine.
While driving around my hometown, I would often point out random vehicles, wave ecstatically and exclaim to my mother, “OH, there’s Julie!” Or while kneading play-doh between my little fingers at the dining room table, pretending to run a bakery, I would scold my invisible friend, Tebo for burning the cookies.
“Tebo! I told you not to forget the cookies! Now what are we gonna do?”
Needless to say, I possessed a great imagination, however, the older I get, the more rumination I do, the more therapy sessions I partake in, it is becoming clearer to me that my three friends were more about an escape from my reality than they were a product of a typical child’s mind.
My mother worked hard for as far back as my mind was able to register the virtue of work and able to perceive time. Though I imagine the nights where I was left alone with my inattentive, older brother and equally as inattentive, alcoholic father seemed to last a lot longer than they actually did. I hated being left alone with them. It’s probably more accurate to state that the impression has lasted longer than the situation.
On many of these occasions, my brother, imaginary friends and I wound up at my grandparents’ home due to an exceptionally inebriated dad who was passed out on the brown, dingy couch spotted with erratic burns from a dropped cigarette or five. After countless attempts to wake him we would call grandma to come pick us up because we were too young to be left unsupervised or so that’s what adults like my father told us. How’s that for an underdeveloped mind fuck? Besides, what if my dad was dead? In my naivete, I needed another adult to ensure it wasn’t the grim reaper but an excessive amount of booze causing our father to abandon his adult, fatherly duties. On these late nights, my tired mother would fetch us from grandma and grandpa’s after long hours at work before heading home.
If my dad wasn’t working the following morning, a heated fight would inevitably ensue. In fact, the appetizing scent of bacon cooking in the kitchen would often waft into my slumber and trigger the anxiety, a feeling I was unable to identify at such a young age. If the sound of shouting hadn’t rudely awakened me, the aroma of dead, fried pig that most associate with an enjoyable breakfast would inform me of an impending argument between mother and father.
Thankfully, inanimate objects, like pewter ashtrays, didn’t go flying across the room meeting the plaster walls with a heavy, sharp crash, sending gray, morbid plumes of cigarette ash into its damaging path every day. Fortunately, my mama and I would leave before it escalated to such levels because I couldn’t bear to see my mother’s pain nor be left alone in her hasty departures.
En route to grandma’s or my aunt’s, my mother and I would sometimes discuss our relationship woes with the men in our family. That was a normal Saturday for me. That was the familiar, what I could learn to count on, to expect.
“Hey! There goes Julie!” I would wave at a random Pontiac, “She didn’t see me,” I would explain, disappointment drawn in a southward facing scowl across my little girl face.