In Your Defense
In your defense, you had no idea what you were getting into. New houses are like that- full of a lot of questions that don’t really get answered, mysteries that don’t get solved. Any homeowner will tell you that you get used to it, that noises fade to the background, drafts become facts of life. That door always sticks in summer, you just have to shove it.
You couldn’t have known about me. I’m not from here, not really. I came from the creek just past your property line, far enough that the realtor didn’t have to tell you about me. It gets lonely, though. The creek is small, and nobody who lived here when I did goes down to it any more.
So I come to visit, up the little hill covered in clovers. Your neighbors to the left have a baby, they don’t get enough sleep as is. I’m a lot noisier than I mean to be, and I don’t have much in common with them anyway.
Your neighbor to the right is a woman, and I kept her company before you showed up. She couldn’t see or hear me, even when I opened and closed all of her cabinets and moved all her chairs around. She’s getting old, you see, almost too old to live all by herself, and she forgets sometimes. She doesn’t notice me, because she thinks she turned all the lights on and just forgot. I sat on her porch and ate cookies the day I went down to the creek. There’s a plate on her porch still. She forgets sometimes.
In your defense, everyone goes exploring when they first move in. I think, deep down, we all want to find secret passageways, hidden doors, anything special that tells us the house isn’t what it seems. This house doesn’t have secret places. I know, I searched a thousand times growing up. I pulled at every book on the bookshelf, peeked under all the carpets, and knocked on all the walls. But there’s nothing special in this house, unless you count me.
The basement and attic are always the most interesting places to look, aren’t they? Those are the spaces that are truly yours. Nobody else gets to see them. I like staying in the attic because of the big window. Not a lot of houses have windows in the attic, but I think this was a room once, before I moved in.
If you stand at the window and look down, you’ll see the bottom of the frame is chipped. Something heavy had to be moved when my family left, and whoever moved it went too fast. I wish my family didn’t have to leave so quickly. They left before I found out I could come all the way up the hill, when I was still down by the creek.
When I’m at the creek, the animals look at me like they see me, but once I’m up the hill, they don’t look at me at all. I think I’m more here when I’m closer to where it happened. I haven’t tried to go too far, because I don’t get to move things once I reach the road. I want to be here enough to move things, so I stay. I think it’s good that my family moved out, so I don’t have to watch them move on.
In your defense, the light in the attic is really nice for drawing. Your drawings are nice, but I know you don’t think so. Your wastebasket is always full.
I’m sorry I scared you when I picked up your pencil. I know you couldn’t see me, but I wanted to see if I can still write like this. I can, but only slowly. Thank you for being patient.
Your family didn’t believe you when you showed them what I wrote. I tried to show them, write something else, but they were all the way in the front room, and all I could do that far from the creek was roll the pencil. They blamed the drafts. New houses always have strange drafts. I’m glad you still believe I’m here.
I tried to talk to you, but the same thing happens every time I want to make noise. I open my mouth and then I feel like I’m back down by the creek. My head hurts. It’s hard to breathe. I’m so cold, and I think I got my paper airplane wet.
So I kept my mouth closed, and told you hello by rolling your ball across your room. You thought it was funny, not scary, and rolled it back. If I could pick it up, I would play catch.
Your family thinks you are too old for imaginary friends, but they never come to your room in the back of the house, closest to the creek, to see me roll the ball. I don’t need them to know I’m here, though. You’re enough. You don’t leave the house much, so I guess you don’t have too many friends. We spend so many afternoons together, side by side even though you don’t know that. You loaned me an extra pencil, and I did my best to write while you drew, even though I’m still not very good like this. I told you my name, and learned yours.
In your defense, anyone would follow their ball outside, especially if it looked like it rolled by itself. I tried to kick it, but my hands work better than my feet, maybe because they’re closer to my heart. I don’t know, so I just push the ball. You followed it all the way out of your room, and you even pretended to kick it when someone walked by, because by then you knew they would never believe it rolled on its own, or that I helped. I tried not to let the ball go too fast down the hill, so you wouldn’t have to run.
I ran when I chased my paper airplane. The hill was a lot muddier then. I want you to be more careful.
You gasp when you reach the creek. I raise my hand to wave and hope you can see. You wave back. I don’t look exactly like I did, but you get the idea. We’re the same height, the same age too, if the birthday card on your shelf is new. I smile, something I haven’t done since I chased my paper plane down this hill, and you smile back.
You spend more and more time with me, down by this creek. I think you understand that you must walk down the hill slowly, and never go straight down the middle. The side with all the trees is the safest, because their roots make stairs you can step down. You’ve brought a picnic blanket, and you draw here now, I think because here you can see where I am. I still can’t talk to you, but you talk to me, so it’s okay. You tell me about your life before you moved in, before I saw the big truck pull into what used to be my driveway. You tell me you were lonely before, that you’re glad I’m here. I wish I could tell you I’m glad you’re here, too.
A year goes by. You get used to the drafts, the noises, that door that just needs a good shove. I get used to you, and used to being seen again. Some days you can’t visit me, but that’s okay. You left some books down by the creek, wrapped up so they don’t get wet, and I can read them. I am much better at writing like this now, and I can give you full sentences in a few minutes, ask for more books about different things. I am happy. You make me happy.
In your defense, you never could have seen the car coming. The driver wasn’t paying attention, it doesn’t matter why, and you never noticed. You had my paper in your hands, reading the paragraph I wrote, but you weren’t even on the road. It wasn’t your fault.
Sometimes I wish I could have done something, but the road is too far from the creek. You can’t see me, and I can’t move things.
I’m sorry you had to see your family so upset. They loved you, and they miss you. I’m sorry you got upset when they left, just like mine, and you couldn’t go with them. I’m sorry I told you that you were better off staying.
But in my defense, it’s nice to finally have a friend, and when I open my mouth, I am heard for the first time in a long time.