When I was growing up, my parents introduced me to a word that I didn’t understand the meaning of until I was of older age, known as confabulation. Apparently, on a psychological level, it means that an individual may or may not be telling the truth about a memory that they believe they had. With that, I leave you to conclude what I have – that children try to recall a memory and sometimes the details get bunched up somewhere within the timeline, simply because they were too young to understand at the time.
Experiences I had ranged anywhere from normal to completely bizarre, but the fact still stood, my parents rarely believed me. When I was in my teen years a conversation about camp came up and I paused as I recalled, “Remember when I fell in the pond that one time and Dad had to jump in after me?” My parents too, paused, and then went back to eating their supper as if I had said the most outlandish thing in the world. With further prodding, my father eventually said, “Enough is enough – that never happened, Julie, for God’s sake you must have been dreaming.”
There was another time that I received a bad grade on a test when I was ten years old and I shrugged and said stupidly as a ten-year-old, “Well, maybe my teacher messed up the grade and gave me another student’s grade like Mrs. Brach did a few years ago. Remember that?” My mother suspiciously raised her eye and said, “I don’t remember you ever having a teacher by that name. I think you’re just confabulating.” “I’m what?” “You’re fabricating.” As I grew up, I learned what these words meant by name. My parents must have had sincerely awful memories, because I could remember it all as clear as day. There was no way that my brain was misconstruing the information…just no way.
Out of all the memories in my patient, little, uninteresting life, there weren’t many that I can say I was particularly ‘more than fond of’. However, a few nights I lied awake at night staring at the ceiling in my older years, recalling the memory of a friend that I had met when I was only a young girl, a memory that made me smile and brought me straight back into the happiness I had felt when I was living the moment.
You see, growing up with parents who were deeply intrigued by their work and studies, no siblings, and an area starved of other children my age, I became quite the young adventurer and spent a lot of my time alone discovering new things to get into. I suppose this backs the statement that my parents used so often that I could have had a “wildly active imagination” caused by some of these neighborhood adventures, but I assure that I have a vivid recollection center that can see my day-by-days perfectly in front of my eyes. My memories danced along the ceiling before I drifted off to sleep, now 26, remembering Jeffrey.
That summer, I was getting ready for the second grade. We lived in the middle of nowhere in the home where my parents reside to this very day. The neighborhood was placed along the border of a woodsy area where I wasn’t allowed to play at my young age without supervision. However, since the neighborhood was so desolate and the people that were there knew one another, I was able to get some exploring in. That summer, the explorations consisted of walking down the straight road from our house to a playground that was entirely abandoned. There was no upkeep, but the equipment was fun to climb on and there was a treehouse, something I didn’t have in my own backyard. My parents were slightly reluctant to allow me to go alone at almost eight, standing there and asking, “Can I please go down the street, and I promise I’ll be careful?” BUT my mother was baking that day and our bay window looked out to the playground. Though it was far off in the distance, she would be able to see that I was there and telling the truth, and surely be able to hear me screaming if somebody were to try and pick me up.
I remember running to the park the first day and on that very first day was when I met Jeffrey, the boy in the treehouse. He was sitting in the corner of the giant square-shaped abode, a slide passing through that strung out in two different directions and a ladder to get inside. You can imagine my surprise as I climbed the stairs ready to play and pretend that I was an explorer, only to stop dead in my tracks when I saw a boy sitting in there already, as equally stunned to see me. I remember his face went from a shocked “O” to a solid smile as it curved upwards, and I couldn’t help but to do the same. We introduced ourselves and talked about our families, both relating to the fact that we had no siblings and nothing else to do in these summer months.
As much as I liked Jeffrey, his aversion to never wanting to go out and play was the only thing that got me. From day one, he was there every day on the weekends when I would go to the park, reading his little comic books in the corner. I remember the pages of the comics being littered with beautiful-looking women much older than myself, pursing their lips like they were about to give a kiss – but whenever I would try to look over his shoulder, he would shyly pull them away and say that they were secret. Jeffrey liked nothing other than sitting up there and talking about himself and me, his new best friend. A couple of times that summer I told him that we should go out and look around the tree line since we were bordering the woods, but he shook his head and said he didn’t like being outside.
I asked him multiple times if he wanted to come and play at my house, that my parents would like that I met a friend, but again, he continued to tell me that he felt uncomfortable with that idea, and would want me to sit closer to him as we did things like drawing and playing board games in that nearly- dilapidated treehouse. A treehouse that no longer stands in our neighborhood to this day.
One day by the middle of summer, I went to the treehouse and Jeffrey was reading his comics again, smiling when he greeted me. “Can I come sleep over tonight?”
The question struck me as a surprise. Now, from what you may have gathered, my parents were quite strict. At this point I hadn’t said anything about Jeffrey to them. That’s fine and dandy – as I said, me communicating with another kid in the neighborhood was something that they would have loved, because it was me branching out and meeting people rather than being locked up or creating trouble. But, 1.) I had never asked anyone over for a sleepover in my life and 2.) my nearly eight-year-old brain became instantly nervous at the fact that a boy would be sleeping over at my house. I wondered what my parents would think – even at this age, the thought of sleeping in the same room with a boy seemed like something they would outright reject, something that seemed a little off. I told him about my concerns in the best way I could and I remember him looking at me sneakily and saying, “Just leave your bedroom window open tonight, and then I’ll sneak in if you want me to come.”
And although I don’t remember much about that entire day, I do remember the chills I had at the thought of doing something so huge behind my parent’s backs, but thinking it was the coolest thing ever that I was going to have a sleepover. And so I told Jeffrey that, yes, I would do that tonight. I told him to look for the open window on the far left side of the house and that he could even sleep in my bed. That we could quietly watch movies all night and eat snacks. He was so excited about the idea.
Suddenly, my memories of Jeffrey cut short. I vaguely piece together the rest as I lie in bed, remembering my parents screaming at each other, at me, and cutting me off from the adventurous lifestyle that I had. I remember growing up and being put on a leash, only to cut myself free when I turned seventeen. I remember my first real boyfriend and not bringing him home to my overprotective parents. I remember finding bloody bed sheets in the woods out behind my house, trying to conjure a memory in my mind, but coming up short. I remember not allowing my boyfriend to put his hands on me, the fight we had, the way he told me that it must have been because I was already used, the break up, coming back home and my parents telling me that I was safe there. I remember.
I remember Jeffrey, the 40-year-old squatter that lived at the local park when I was a little girl. I remember how he would sit up in the treehouse, pornography in hand, that oddly intrigued smile on his face the first time he saw me. I remember how I would have been friends with anybody at the time, and how he stuck to me like glue when he realized that I was going to be an easy friend to him, an easy victim. I remember how scared I was to tell my parents about him, afraid that I would never see him again, never share another conversation with my new friend. I remember the way he crawled into my window like some desperate beast of a human, and the way he gave me my first kiss, and the way he bloodied my bed sheets that night as I tried to stay quiet, not about to lose my friend to my parents.
To this day, they say nothing about the experience, because a piece of me suspects that they think I’ve forgotten. That by telling me my memories must be lies, then I’d have imagined it. Confabulation… the act of lying, something that they’ve done my entire life.