My little sister Carly had an imaginary friend named Noah.
I had an imaginary friend too, but I don't remember ever giving her a name or any distinctive traits other than the fact that she, unlike me, was always happy. But unlike my imaginary friend, who I only really addressed when I was alone, Noah was always around, and Carly was always telling me what he was doing.
"He's sitting next to you," Carly would say on the car ride home from school. I made a fist and swung, slamming it into the seat of the car. "Now he's in the front seat," Carly would announce, and I would lunge, straining against my seatbelt. "Now he's on the roof of the car!" I would slump back, defeated. Nevermind the fact that he was imaginary: Noah could teleport. I couldn't touch him.
The first time I saw Carly pushing an empty baby swing, I asked her what she was doing. "Oh," she told me, "Noah can turn into a baby, so I can take care of him if I want to." Noah could also turn into an adult if Carly ever needed someone to sit on top of the monkey bars and hold her knees so she could hang upside down without falling. My sister was very good at the monkey bars.
Maybe the reason why I was always trying to punch Noah in his imaginary face was that I was jealous of my sister for having such a cool friend. I was jealous of my sister for a lot of things she had that I didn't. Friends, for example. Monkey bar skills. Being able to eat anything she wanted and never being anything but perfectly skinny.
But if I was so jealous of such an awesome imaginary friend, why couldn't I have just imagined a Noah for myself? I really don't know the answer to that, except that maybe misery is really just a situation we put ourselves into because we're lonely. Or that we will never truly be happy until we give ourselves permission to do so.
My imaginary friend never had a name, and I think I might have been jealous of her, too.