This story starts around the time I was in Kindergarten. I still remember him, quite vividly. His name was Joey, and he was my first friend. He never left my side, he was always there to play with me, and we laughed our way through the first year we were together. I no longer played with him by the time I entered first grade. The reason for that was because I moved schools. And also because, I was too old for imaginary friends. As I remember him, he was just a shadow on the wall. I don’t recall when I first started talking to him, or why I called him Joey. I’ve always hated plain names like that.
By the time I was 13 my two youngest siblings, the twins Gavyn and Olivia, were Kindergarten age. I remember the first time it happened quite clearly. My step-mother, Liz, and I were making dinner (she was cooking, I was taste testing) my brother was outside with a friend, my father was watching television after having just come home from work, and my sister was upstairs playing. The walls in that house were very thin, as it was a decently aged place. From my bedroom upstairs I could hear most people’s conversations and if I listened closely I could sometimes hear Liz washing dishes.
So it wasn’t completely implausible that we could hear my sister upstairs. She was talking to herself, as she sometimes did while she played with her dolls. This time though, the context felt different. Like she wasn’t just talking to herself, but having a conversation with another person. And then the unthinkable happened – we heard somebody reply. Liz gave me a look that said ‘go make sure she’s okay.’ I didn’t need to be told twice. I have a deep connection with all of my siblings, especially Olivia (at the moment she’s in that stage where she worships me because I’m a teenager and therefore everything I do is cool). If there was somebody there who shouldn’t be there, they could count on a fight from me. Nobody messes with my siblings.
So I walked into the living room, passing my oblivious father on the way, and peered up the staircase. She was in the hallway, clearly visible. As usual, she had a doll in each hand, making them converse with each other. I asked her who she had been talking to. She told me, “My friend Joey.”
I went back into the kitchen, glad that I had been the first to witness a memorable part in my sister’s life – her first imaginary friend. Liz and I laughed it off as our imaginations, and for the next few weeks thought nothing of it. Later though, when we visited my grandmother, both the children were playing upstairs and I heard her say his name once again, “Joey!” My brother asked her who that was and she explained it to him. He got mad, I think because he couldn’t see Joey as well.
After my dad yelled up the stairs for them to stop arguing, my grandmother recalled my first imaginary friend, who’s name was also Joey. I’m not sure how to explain the feeling I got next. It was just like a sinking feeling, like I wanted to vomit, but couldn’t. I walked silently away when the adults changed subjects, and climbed upstairs. The twins were thrilled of course. They loved it when I played with them. I sat down and played dolls with Olivia, and read to Gavyn, just to humor them both, because hey, what are big sisters for?
Then I slyly started asking Olivia about Joey. Gavyn was immediately put off by this topic and went to play by himself. I asked her when she started seeing him, she told me she met him at school. I asked her why she called him Joey. She gave me a look that said “are you stupid?” and told me it was because that was his name. Then I asked her what he looked like. She pondered over it a minute and then shrugged. I asked her how she didn’t know what he looked like, and she told me it was because he didn’t really look like anything. He was just a shadow.
There’s no way my sister could have known about my Joey. I’m not exactly sure if the Joey she saw was my Joey or not, but it seems likely to me. Olivia looked almost exactly like me at that age. I suppose it’s possible Joey could have confused her for me? Or maybe it’s because she’s my little sister, I’m not sure. If it is my Joey, I’m sure he never meant to harm her, but I asked her not to talk to him anymore. She’s seven now, and I haven’t heard about Joey in a long time.