My Imaginary Friend
At first I wasn’t sure if I should even tell you this story. Quite frankly, I was afraid that you might think I was crazy. I’m not talking “Oh, well we all have our moments” type crazy. No, I’m taking “put on the white straight jacket and throw me in the rubber room” crazy. But in the end I surmised that the notion of you thinking I was crazy pales in comparison to what actually happened to me and therapy hasn’t helped.
My doctor believes that writing this down might be cathartic for me since our sessions of late haven’t been going all that well. Sure, there have been some breakthroughs and revelations since my breakdown six months ago, although I’m still not even sure how I was able to suppress the memory of it for twenty years. He’s been wrong before, like the time he upped my medication and I slept for three days, but for the sake of my own sanity I’m willing to take his advice if it brings me closure.
You must understand that the thought of reliving events about my childhood and things that go bump in the night isn’t something that really appeals to me, but if it somehow brings me solace and gets me off of these meds I’m willing to take the chance. So here goes.
To tell this story properly requires a little explanation. Growing up, some children are prone to having imaginary friends. Some invisible person that comes to play with them, listens to their problems and talks to them in a voice only they can understand. A rite of passage some doctors believe may fill a void that exists in a child’s life. Something that’s very common and also quite healthy if you ask my shrink.
I too was one of those children who experienced the imaginary friend phenomenon growing up. But having the experience is where the similarities end. In those cases, the children all grew up to live normal lives. But in my case, the “friend” wasn’t invisible, didn’t come to play and surely didn’t give a damn about my problems. In reality (yeah, now there’s a funny word for it), my “friend” also wasn’t a person. Mine was actually a “thing” if you really want to know, and very far from imaginary.
When I was eight years old the visits started and they continued twice a week every summer for years. Always starting on the Summer Solstice, June 20th, and always the same way.
Deep in the night while tucked under the covers of my bed I could hear it. The scuffling from underneath. The sound that broke me out in sweat like a Pavlonian dog, making my heart race. Coming from the place I promised myself I’d never peek under for fear of what might come out and pull me down into darkness.
From the moment the sound began I quickly dismissed notion that it might be a mouse in the wall. Looking back, I wish it had been an army of rats. Anything would be better then what was coming.
I also quickly discovered that first summer that Spider Man wasn’t real either. The night light with the wall crawler on it that sat near my bedside, the one my Mom had bought me for Christmas, the one that religiously guarded me in my bed and vanquished all foes, would be of no help.
So I pulled the covers up to my nose and prayed to God to make it go away. Promising him that if he’d help me just this one time I’d be in church every Sunday for the rest of my life.
Telling myself that if I just close my eyes suddenly the sun would be shining and my mother would be yelling for me to come down for breakfast. I’d hear the sound of birds chirping outside my open window and the swaying of bed sheets hanging on the neighbor’s clothes line in the warm summer breeze. The smell of bacon would fill the air and I would reassure myself that last night was only just a bad dream.
But this wasn’t a dream. I was still under the covers in the middle of the night and could hear rain pelting the window outside. Worse still, I was too scared to call out for help as the shadow began to rise from under my bed.