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The Death of Polly, My Imaginary Friend

May 20, 2011

When I was about three years old, I had an imaginary friend.  Her name was Polly, and she had dirty blond hair that was always up in little pigtails.  She was scrappy and a little older and wiser than I was, and told the best jokes.  She wore overalls like me, and told me her secrets.  She was always around when I needed her.  She took care of me.  She looked a little something like this when I drew her:

Polly!

But in my mind, she looked like this:

Polly in all her as Calvin-sees-Hobbes glory.

I was pretty quiet about Polly; I didn’t ask dad to set a place at the dinner table for her, or talk to her in front of my parents.  I would just casually say sometimes after school, “Polly told me that unicorns are real.  She saw them when she was little” or “Polly doesn’t like peas.  I don’t like peas too.”  Mom thought she a little girl at school for a while, until one night she passed by my room late at night, way past my bedtime.  She heard me telling Polly that the triceratops couldn’t marry the deinonychus due to diet differences.  And after making sure I went to bed, she told my father that the reason Polly didn’t ever come over on play-dates was due to her fictitious nature.

I sort of knew Polly wasn’t real; I sometimes knew intellectually I made her up.  But still, as I thudded asleep at night, clutching Puppy number 2, I would sleepily mutter, “I love you, Polly.”  And I swear each time I felt a touch on my forehead, light as a bird feather, brushing back my bangs.  “I love you, too,” she’d whisper.

One day, right after I turned four, my entire family went over to my cousin’s house for brunch.  There were bagels and lox and fruit, and everyone was having a wonderful time making much of my little brother James, who was tearing around the house with the manic energy that only two year old boys possess.  I slipped away, feeling forgotten, and went to the basement.  My cousin was down there, her face intent in concentration.

“What’ca playing?” I asked, standing awkwardly behind her.  She was six.  Practically an adult.

“Tetris.”  She was understandably laconic; the game was difficult.  I watched as she fit a purple block skillfully into the mass of blocks below.  It must have been right, because some blocks disappeared.

“Can I play?”

“Do you know how?”

“No….”

“Um, well, I guess you can try!  After this game, I should back upstairs anyway.  Dad wants me to help clean up.”

“Okay…” I watched her play for a few more moments and then went into another corner of the basement, feeling angry and sad and not really understanding why.  It was no fair!  James was a baby and the adults thought he was something special, and Emma was older than me, and she didn’t want to play with me because she thought I was a baby…

So I started to talk to Polly.  Only this time her jokes didn’t seem so funny.  When she tried to tickle me to make me laugh, I frowned.  She didn’t know how to play Tetris either, and told me it was probably stupid anyway.  That just showed how little she knew.  I looked at her coldly.

“What do you know anyway?  You’re not even real!”

She didn’t look hurt. She didn’t seem to even hear me.   “Can we play space camp now?  You can be the new kid at the space station, and I will be an older girl, and I will suspect that secretly the leader is evil, and together we can lead-”

“No!  You are just me!  You are as dumb as me.”

“-the revolt against her with other kids, but one gets trapped with almost no air, and we have to try to rescue her but when we do I almost die-”

“Only babies have friends that aren’t real.”

Five minutes I was back upstairs, and my face was red.  Dad swooped me up, saying I was probably just tired.  I fell asleep in the car-ride home.

It was a few weeks later that Mom thought to ask me about Polly.  She asked me why I hadn’t mentioned her for a while.

“Because she’s dead.  I killed her.  It was an accident.”

I think Mom was a little shocked her daughter just confessed to killing one of her friends, imaginary or no.  I didn’t want to talk about it, but she asked me how that happened.

“There was some grape soda in a big punch bowl.  But it was bad grape soda!  I told her it was bad.  It was flat.  But Polly wanted to drink some, even though it was bad.  And she’s dead.”

And that was that.

The Instrument of Death

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Will permalink
    July 22, 2011 11:21 PM

    When we’re very little, we sometimes have these moments of inspiration we don’t recognize for twenty years…

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