I have this friend since secondary school and we’ve remained friends since. Though we aren’t studying in the same college – she wanted to become a technician while I opted for linguistic – we’ve found numerous ways to stay in contact and keep our long-lived friendship from “desiccating” – to quote her beloved lexical item from a vampire show we both watch. Did I just mention a vampire show? Yes, one effective way for us to meet on regular basis despite both our hectic schedules of senior year is our TV weekends, where she brings in greasy snacks from a nearby fast-food stall and I prepare the latest episodes from all our favorite shows. Then we would lounge all day on the soft-cushioned couch and enjoying our exclusive privilege of youth indolence while increasing our cholesterol level by munching on unhealthy fries and gulping down extra-large sized Cokes.
This Sunday was one such day.
We began the day religiously like any other Sundays: she came bearing a humongous pack of fries plus Coke and as soon as I hit the “Play” button, she plopped down on the cushy seat, putting her elegantly long legs on the low glass table. The day went fine and so engulfed we were in the shows that I never noticed it had already been four and a half in the afternoon, around the time my mom would get back from her shift at the hospital. As if on cue, just when the thought popped in my mind, the gate creaked and opened, revealing my mother in her casual kind of crumpled clothes, her hair an essential mess poorly disguising itself in a bun and dim grey circles around her eyes. She gave a little nod to my ubiquitous greeting of “Mom” and went straight into the kitchen, not sparing a briefest glance at my friend. Having witnessed her rather unusual behavior, I was bewildered. That was so unlike my mother, who, as it was her job at the hospital, was warm and friendly in spite of her weariness after an eight-hour intense shift. She would smile at my friend, albeit weakly, and offered some frozen fruit snack (which we would definitely decline anyway due to our full bellies). But not today. Today her tired eyes had glided over me as if there had been only thin air around me where my friend was. Even stranger was that my friend was seemingly unaffected by my mother’s demeanor.
I leaped from the couch and went into the kitchen. There I found my mother sitting by the counter, slurping some peach juice she probably had found in a half-full carton box.
“Mom,” I called.
She raised her head and replied, “Yes dear?”
“You went straight into the kitchen when you got home?”
Mom raised an eyebrow, questioning. “So?” she asked dubiously.
“Normally you’d offer to make us some fruit though you know we’d decline anyway.”
“Us?” She sounded surprised, which had me confused as well. “Silly dear, you know I only offer to make that snack because your friend’s here. You’ve despised my frozen fruit snack sinc—”
“What?” It was my turn to be bewildered. “But my friend’s here and you just went straight past us as if you hadn’t seen her.”
“Who’s here, tell me again.”
Her bloodshot eyes went wide as she said, “I saw no-one but you on the couch, grabbing your greasy fries in one hand and the remote control in the other, eyes gluing to the TV with that vampire show that seems to go on forever.”
“You’re lying, Mom,” I almost shouted in my failure to grasp this unexpected turn of event. “Sybil’s been here with me for the entire morning and afternoon. She’s still out there.”
A deep crease manifested between her hazel eyebrows as she replied, rather tautly, “I am not lying, dear. Why should I be? I saw only you, not Sybil on that couch. If Sybil had been there I would have seen her already.”
“But I’m not lying either,” claimed I in a frustrated tone.
“I’m not saying you’re lying, dear,” she soothed me with her gentle voice and living gestures, the way she was so used to treating her uncomfortable patients. “I only say maybe you’re a little tired and have been a bit imaginativ—”
“Come Mom,” I huffed, trying to make it sound like a firm order, and, without finishing her sentence, she grudgingly stood from her seat and followed me out of sheer indulgence.
When we were in the living room again, Sybil was laughing hard at something on the screen.
“Where have you been, Sid? You missed the fun part. Should we rewind it?”
“See Mom?” I said with a note of confidence etched into my tone. “Sybil is not my imagination, isn’t she?”
“Hey Sid, why are you talking to thin air? Come and watch with me,” Sybil said from the couch.