When I was a wee little kid, I made an imaginary friend for myself and my sister. Little Friend. Make your index and middle fingers walk on the arm of your chair. Voila. You have met Little Friend.
Little Friend was used mostly to amuse my sister. He—I don’t know why, but Little Friend was always clearly male—would sit on the bridge of my sister’s nose. She would give him elevator rides on the palm of her hand. When she got bored in the car, Little Friend would “run” alongside the car—my skinny white arm extended, index and middle fingers running in the air. Little Friend had to leap over the driveways of the houses we drove past, since he was unable to walk on asphalt. Grass only, that was Little Friend.
Little Friend was also a champion blackmailer. If Hilary didn’t want to play with Little Friend anymore, he would start to curl up and die. If he made it into fist formation, it was lights out for Little Friend. My sister would have to kiss him, or death would ensue. Sometimes she left it to the last minute, and Little Friend might not respond immediately. “You shouldn’t have taken so long,” I’d say. “I’m not sure he made it.”
Inevitably, however, her pleas and love would rouse Little Friend, and they would play again.
When I moved into my house years and years ago, my sister gave me a little metal statue. “This is how I imagined Little Friend would be,” she said. He sits on my bathroom shelf.
Today, when McIrish and I were driving back from New York, Little Friend again began running alongside the car, vaulting effortlessly over the driveways and exit ramps. It was wicked fun. I’m happy to say Little Friend hasn’t lost his touch.