“And you can tell everybody this is your song, it may be quite simple but now that it’s done, I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, that I put down in words… How wonderful life is when you’re in the world”
-Elton John, Your Song
I occasionally get to participate in a blog-hop with some funny, talented writers. They pick the subject and the rest of us get to write about it. This week the subject is our imaginary friend. I recently wrote about Billy Monkey and all the trouble he and I got in to. I don’t think we need to re-hash his short stint as my partner in crime. Selena was an imaginary friend of a different kind. She wasn’t my creation…. she was inflicted on me.
My sister is 3 years older than me. And she spent most of our childhood leveraging those three years for all they were worth. She was older, smarter, cooler, prettier. I looked up to her, I wanted to be her. I must have driven her crazy following her around, trying to copy her mannerisms, trying to hang with her friends. Where she was cool, I was awkward. Where she had boys of all ages fawning all over her, I was getting into fist fights with the boys on my street. Where she had perfectly feathered blonde hair, I had mousy brown hair that wouldn’t be tamed, that she “affectionately” called “Greg Brady hair”.
Even though we were very close, we fought often and we fought viscously. It didn’t take much to set us off. A simple disagreement would escalate into a scuffle in a matter of minutes. Some of this was due to the fact that we were constantly in each other’s way. We shared a small bedroom and a tiny closet and a half broken dresser. It was tight quarters and her 80’s glam leg warmers and glittery hairspray didn’t mesh well with my dirty socks and endless piles of junk. But the living arrangement also made us closer. We would stay up late at night talking in the dark, long after we were supposed to be asleep. In those moments we were each other’s confidants, supporters, therapists, best friends. But in the light of day, it would fluctuate from camaraderie to down right brawls. We would be covered in bloody scratches, pulled hair, bruised limbs, sometimes bloody noses. I usually held my own in these physical match ups, but in the messy minefield of psychological warfare I was outmatched and outplayed.
She took joy in finding small ways to torture me. She would wake me up for school in the morning by spraying me in the face with a squirt from a water bottle. To be fair, I have never been a morning person and the job of waking me up every morning probably wasn’t a pleasure. The worst was when she would wait until I was walking out the door to the bus stop in the morning and say “Aren’t you going to fix your hair today?”, or “You’re wearing that?” or sometimes she would just look at me and snicker, implying that I looked ridiculous. I eventually started getting ready at my best friend’s house so I wouldn’t have to go to school with her words echoing in my head all day.
One night she just started talking to someone in our room and carried on a one-sided conversation. Of course I played right in to her hand and asked who she was talking to. After pretending to not want to tell me, she finally revealed to me that there was a spirit who lived in our closet named Selena. It became pretty clear that Selena was on team Kristen and didn’t care much for me. Selena only communicated with my sister. My sister would often ask me to do things for her. “Go get me a glass of water”, “Get up and change the channel”, you get the idea. I think this is part of the older sibling DNA, they are inherently bossy and demanding. If I refused, she would just have a little conversation with Selena that would always end in some kind of implied danger to befall me or veiled threat from our closet dweller.
Of course, I kind of knew that Selena wasn’t real. But after years of looking up to my sister, the power she had over me, coupled with the occasional abuse, it was like a sibling’s version of Stockholm Syndrome. I bought in to it. I usually gave in to Selena’s requests because what if? Selena had an evil streak and I didn’t want to piss her off. And my sister was incredibly convincing.
Selena didn’t last for too long. I don’t remember if my sister got bored with the whole thing or if my mom caught wind of it, but eventually she just stopped appearing in our lives. She is just one part of the timeline of our childhood that all seemed to center around that tiny little bedroom with the broken dresser.
My sister got married after high school and moved out and I had my own room for a few years before I left for college. She only lived a few miles away, and I loved having a room all to myself. But I missed her. In spite of the teasing, the fighting, the manipulating, she was my friend. No one knows me like my sister knows me. We can speak volumes with a look, with one word, with a hug. No one else has shared the experiences we have shared together. I don’t know if anyone can understand you better than the person you shared your childhood with. These are the years that form you, that make you who you are. And your sibling goes through all of it with you. There’s nothing I can’t talk to her about. I know that I can go to her, call her, show up on her door step- and she is there for me. And I can do it with little explanation because she knows me that well.
I still look up to my sister. We are both married. We both have three kids. We still tease each other. Scars from bloody scratches have healed. Bloody noses have dried up. Name calling has been forgiven. And what remains is the two of us. I call her on the phone and it’s just the two of us and I’m back in that little bedroom, laying in my bed in the dark speaking to the night. Revealing my thoughts, my feelings, my insecurities or frustrations or joys – and she is there. She is still that little girl in the bed next to mine listening and confiding. She is still the one who understands, she is still the one who is there for me. She is still my best friend.