It’s like when I first noticed boys. One boy, in particular: my neighbor Tony. The oldest in a family of five children, he was beautiful. I was seven years old, and he was three years older. Naturally, I couldn’t say a single word to him, at any point in time. Weeks after I first noticed him, he moved away. That was the first time in my life I was grief stricken. But what I’m saying is, when you first notice boys, your universe turns upside down. Your brain feels entirely different. It’s like the square footage in the palace of your mind instantly doubles, or triples, to make space for boys, and the accompanying thoughts.
It felt like that when I first saw that little man under my bed. My mind flipped, and grew. It had to expand, to fit the reality of him in it. Funny how when I saw him standing there, in the penumbra under my bed, all I could think of was Tony. I never said a single word to Tony. Not even hi. This little man under my bed would not be another Tony. I would not freeze, I would not be a seven-year-old statue. I would speak. So I did.
The little man just stared at me, his eyes open as big as the smallest plates you can imagine. There was a flicker in them that made me wonder if he was simply waiting for me to imagine I was nuts, and run away to the nearest Thorazine provider. The flicker turned into alarm as I continued to stare at him, refusing to give my eyes a single blinking rest. They began to sting, and fill with moisture. I’d have to let them blink soon, and risk his taking that opportunity to escape… so, I insisted.
“How you doin’ down there?”
I had to blink. Blink. He was still there, but I caught the tail end of his body’s start.
Silence. I sighed, feeling the odd combination of amazement and impatience swirling in my head.
“Yeah… I lost a sock down there once. A knee-high sock, with colorful strip- look at you! You look guilty! Did you take my sock? No, no, don’t look so alarmed. I don’t care about the sock. I have another one just like it.”
A twitch at the corner of his mouth. I decided to avoid all references to home invasion and theft, and stick to light-hearted conversation, and perhaps another bad joke.
“So… my name. I’m Seline.”
His eyes told me he knew. He gave me an almost imperceptible nod.
“Should I guess your name?”
An almost imperceptible shrug. I smiled softly, and he almost smiled back.
He wrinkled his nose at me.
“Ah, sorry. In my version of the story, he’s a hot little number. Never mind. Is your name… Peter?”
A head shake.
No, said his head.
“Do I have a limited amount of guesses?”
Yes, danced his head.
“Crap. OK, OK… let me think.”
I was beginning to feel quite apprehensive. How many guesses did I have left? Ten? Three? One? The answer came to me almost immediately.
“Your name is what I give you.”
Finally, a smile. It shone in the furniture darkness. I sighed, happily.
“When I name you, you’ll come out of there.”
“And be mine.”
His whole body was a nod.
“OK. Your name is