My imaginary friend grinds herself against my minivan, hips swinging in time to music we listened to decades ago. “You said we could have a Corvette when we grew up,” she sing-songs, and I remind her I said lots of things when we were young, but nothing anyone wants at sixteen works out.
“Jason would’ve worked out,” she murmurs, running her manicured fingers along a jaw she’s never had to contour. “I bet he could work you out just right, even now.”
“Stop obsessing,” I tell her, turning on the minivan’s integrated vacuum, sucking out the crushed Cheerios and Goldfish crackers from the carseats.
“Tell that to your search history,” she giggles, before wrapping her lips around a Rocket Pop.
I press my lips into a line and spray a microfiber towel with Invisible Glass. There’s always a film on the inside of the windshield, and it diffuses sunlight like a wall of fog. I reach my fingers toward it at red lights, the sharp angle of the glass just outside my grasp, and I wonder if my hand would pass right through the translucent parts and find Narnia or Middle Earth on the other side. If I could drive my whole seven-seater into another world. Fold my entire life down and away, like a Stow n’ Go seat.
“We should make Jello shots.” My imaginary friend plops herself down on the floor next to the open sliding door, crossing one long leg over the other, one platform gladiator sandal weighting her foot like a pendulum. “Or tequila shooters. Simpler. That guy down the street—the one with the sad eyes—I bet he’d lick the salt right off your neck. You wouldn’t even have to tell him it’s our birthday. Just snip a lemon off the tree when everyone’s asleep and walk over with a bottle and some salt. Ask him to let you in.”
“You make me sound like a vampire,” I say, and wipe the film off the windshield, erasing Narnia’s border.
“You are pretty bloodless these days.” She shrugs and stands up, stepping over the trash can I still need to empty before I load my family for my birthday road trip to a theme park full of fantasies that aren’t mine, but hold so much happiness for others that I tell myself I cannot possibly mind, because I am a kind of vampire, now. I suck joy from those who still feel it.
My imaginary friend is standing by my shoulder. She moved so fast I didn’t see her. “You could rent a Corvette, you know. Or steal one. The border’s not that far away.”
“You shouldn’t care what we drive.” I gaze into her wide mascara’d eyes, at her hair, thicker than mine, at her bare midriff glimmering with a unicorn tattoo I’d never dared get. “No one can see you.”
“You can see me. You can see yourself.” She grins at me. “Ask me what I want for my birthday.”
“What do you want?”
She wraps her arms around me, fitting her toned torso against my doughy middle. “Let it be your turn,” she whispers, “for no one to see you.”
I bury my face in her neck, and then we’re both laughing. Guffawing. Heaving great boulders of mirth out of our bellies until tears run down our faces, because we both know that every week is my turn.