Have you ever had an imaginary friend? I had them often as a child. One however sticks out more than any other. Below is the reason why. Maybe you can weigh in on the Charlie issue. As a reminder, these are memories from the mind of a child, of a small age. So some of them may have been altered by time, maturity, and maybe even the need to make sense of something that doesn’t. So with that grain of salt reminder, off we go.
Charlie was my friend. He stayed with me in the night when I was afraid. He talked to me, when I was alone. He was my companion when I didn’t really have anyone. I didn’t know that no one else could see him, or if I did, I chalked it up to them just not really looking. After all, I could see him, so that meant he was there.
I don’t know that I actually ever heard him talk, though I was able to understand him all the same. Was it a telepathy type deal or just the fact that children are better at reading people than adults? They don’t assume anything extra. They don’t add feelings or jealousy to actions. They simply accept the action for what it is. No need to read between the lines. Yes, means yes. No means no. There is no “but” or “if” or “sorta”. I talked to Charlie all the time. ALL. The. Time.
Charlie made me laugh. That was why I kept him for so long I think. I remember there was a time (a moment? A thought?) that I wanted to be a great artist of the world. Maybe I saw it on Sesame Street. Maybe I got the idea from a book. Who knows? Charlie and I decided to draw a great mural of my family. I chose as my drawing area, my bedroom wall, the entire wall. I got out my crayons and got right to work. I added my mom, and dad, and my sister and me. Then as an added bonus, I decided to put in Charlie. I added colors and shapes, and personal traits to each person. Then with great excitement I went out to my mom and dad and told them to come and see what I had done. I was crushed when they were not only, not pleased, but mad as all hell at what I had done to the wall! I was spanked (nothing new there) and I was told that I was going to have to go to bed early that night and the worst punishment of all, I was going to miss the Muppet Show because of it. Then I was handed a bowl of soapy water and a scrubby sponge and told to get to work removing my masterpiece. I remember crying for what felt like a full day but was probably more like an hour as I scrubbed and scrubbed that wall. I remember Charlie sitting on the ground within the area of soap bubbles and water droplets. I can see his hands twisting in his lap. He was just as upset as I was. Then he left. He slammed the door on the way out. Which got me in trouble again. My mom stormed in and told me not slam the door just because I was mad. I tried to tell her it wasn’t me, it was Charlie but she wouldn’t listen. In fact she just got all the madder.
That night after the sun had set and I was in bed crying over the loss of the Muppet Show, my mom came in and asked me why I had done it. I couldn’t answer her. I didn’t have any real answer other than I thought they would like it. I got a kiss on my forehead and a gentle wish good night. Before she left though, she stopped before the door and asked me why I had drawn so many people? I’d drawn an extra one. I knew even then that the extra person was my drawing of Charlie, but I also knew with my child mind, that my mom wasn’t in the mood to hear any more about him. So with a shrug, I said or conveyed that I’d miscounted. That I’d drawn an extra person, just because. My sister made fun of me for a while about not being able to count right. I didn’t bother to explain to her it was Charlie. She’d just make fun of me about that as well.
There were lots of moments with Charlie. Too many to name, but the above is one of the clearer moments I have of him. As you can guess, Charlie used to upset my mom. She’d get so mad over him. But then, he’d slam door and knock over plants. He’d get silly and make the hanging plants spin on their ropes, which would really set her off if I am remembering correctly. He was great fun to me though. We moved from a little house, to an apartment. I was afraid Charlie wouldn’t come with us. He did though and my mom was upset about it. We moved again and he came with us again. Then we moved once again, and Charlie didn’t come. I never heard or spoke to Charlie again. I’d lost my best friend. Somehow I always knew my mom was happy he was gone and that always made me mad at her.
I was a lot older when I finally had the nerve to ask my mom about Charlie. This is the answer I got: We lived in a house that had belonged to my real father’s aunt’s son (did you follow that?). We were able to stay in the little house because they had not been able to sell it or rent it, due to the fact that the son had hung himself in the garage. His name…was Charlie. When I first started talking about Charlie it was thought I had heard the name through family. Then when I started using Charlie as an excuse for being bad, they thought I was just a bad kid. Then we moved. I don’t know why we moved the first time. We moved the next two times to get away from Charlie. My dad didn’t like the things he did or so I was told. I don’t remember anything about my dad and Charlie. He didn’t want to believe the plants were moving by themselves. He didn’t want to believe the doors were closing or opening on their own. It was the wind. It was an earthquake. It was the house on a tilt.
I wonder if Charlie is still in the last place we lived that he was with us. What house was that? I don’t know, I was too small and my mom doesn’t want to say or remember. Why did he stay there and not come with us, with me? Who knows? Maybe he liked the house. Maybe he was tired of moving.
I always wonder if I made up Charlie. Did I hear the name and just let my imagination run wild? Was he the ghost of a sad man that killed himself in the garage? Why did he befriend me then? I was small. Two-ish when I first started talking about Charlie. Five’ish when he left me. Who or what was he really?
The drawing never fully came off the wall, by the way. My dad had to paint over it in the end. I can still see the drawing in my mind if I close my eyes and try really hard. It was awesome…in a little girl kind of way. The one figure that I see most clearly is the one I did of Charlie. There was one big circle for the head, a big circle for the chest, and stick arms and legs that resembled pitchforks. He eyes were black and his mouth was a straight line. No fake smiling face or blue eyes for Charlie.
To be continued…one last time.