Okay. Fiction. Fiction.
Fiction. All our attempts to understand reality are fiction. But this is not one of those! This is fiction of the more gratuitous sort, the sort where you're just sort of making up a character, and putting him or her through some adventures (or an arc, if you're really feeling aggressive), for the edification of the reading public (the author). So.
So I'm in a room, no features yet. A featureless room. Who am I?
I know I am me. I have never been anyone else than me, or anywhere else but here. In a featureless room. What is my past? I feel certain I have had a past, in fact: I must have. But perhaps before telling you what that was, or who I am - what my features are - I should tell you more about this room. "Featureless," my eye! My eyes must have been closed when I said that. This room is full of features! It's chock full of them. Wait. Maybe I should open my eyes, first. Enough declarations of blind faith.
It's just like I remembered it. I am in my childhood bedroom. The window looks out four stories above a residential street in Parsimanee, NJ. Or at least, the street we're facing is residential - we're in the back of the bank building. We live on the top floor of the tallest building in town. An old building, from the pre-penthouse era, when top floors lacked cachet. There is no elevator, but I don't mind that at all. The stairs smell like pee!
As a child, I liked things like that. They seemed naughty. Somebody was in the stairs, peeing!
I can't remember whether I'm a boy or a girl. Why am I back in my childhood bedroom? I'm curious. I have to look around.
There are stuffed animals here, but some of them are dragons. Some of them are teddies and bunnies, though. They all look very well-worn-in. I don't see any barbies.
There are two beds in this room. One of them has pink sheets - the larger bed has pink sheets! Do I share a room with my big sister? Am I the big sister?
I hope I'm a boy. I hope I'm the brother. I don't think I can write convincingly like a girl.
I can check.
There is a mirror on the back of the door. Or I could pull my pants down, too.
I'm a boy. Thank god. Girls have it hard in this life. I know that much, though how I know is a bit hazy.
Why am I back in my childhood bedroom? How old is my sister? Her bed is pretty big. What kind of parents room a kid boy with a clearly much bigger sister? Isn't that going to mess me up a bit? I wonder if she's hot?
See! Clear psychological damage already. Well, the damage is done I guess. Whatever damage, it'd be done. And I'm not some sicko, I'm not going to -
Ok! She just barged into the room, grabbed a sweater out of a drawer and barged back out. Slamming everything in the process on the way through! She's not hot. No worries there. Anyway, I'm no sicko. I wasn't worried.
What is her name?
My name is Elijah, and hers is Elizabeth.
We call each other "Eli" sometimes, as a joke. As sort of a joke. Both of us secretly prefer it I think.
I come to her for comfort when the world makes all the worst kinds of sense, and she comes to me when people are jerks.
I spend most of my time in the room. I'll sit in the little surplus school desk in the corner, filling books with wordless stories. Hours and hours and days go by, between school and dinner. The desk is almost too small for me now.
I'm ten. She's fourteen.
Our friends don't like each other. Mine are afraid of her, and hers think I'm a little shit!
Nobody messes with me. She beats up the bullies at school. I excoriate her persecutors with withering cracks, right to their face. Nobody messes with her, either. Except teachers.
My sister hates homework. Hates it. Absolutely detests it.
My sister helps me with my homework. She hates math, and is fantastic at it. She can explain anything.
My sister's the smartest girl I know.
I don't know any smart boys, so I guess I win there. When I get to be my sister's age, I'm going to be smarter than she is! She told me.
Right now, my teachers think I'm pretty well-behaved. I'm great at gym, but bad at sports.
I hate homework too.
My sister says she doesn't do anything really well, but I don't know what she's talking about! Every time we do anything together, she makes the whole thing up as we go and it's always great. She can make anything up.
She says an elaborate little prayer out loud, every time we pass the Gillette's house on the way home. She made up the prayer herself. It goes: "stay and keep and sleep and wait all day all week for goodness sake and don't get up and don't you roam I'll come back soon to take you home."
My sister makes up little prayers all the time. Usually God's not in them, but you can tell by how hard she squinches her eyes and clenches her fists, as she breathlessly recites - she's sending that prayer up. This one is about a car, up on blocks in the Gillette's huge front yard. Really, they live behind an empty lot, they just park on our street and walk through this lot, which I think is owned by nobody, to their house. They call it their front yard, but it leads to their back door, which has been surrounded by lawn furniture. Their real porch is jammed full of bicycles and exercise equipment. It's on the far side of the house, facing their real front yard which is tiny.
I think the Gillettes don't get along with the neighbors on their real street.
Ellie makes a point of getting along with them. Ellie is in love with this car, and convinced that it's hers: in two and a half years. It's a Mustang, a pretty ugly one. Love has weird eyes.
We call each other "Ellie," too, sometimes. When either of us is being overly romantic. It's like a chide, a code-word between us: "Okay, Ellie."
I love my sister Eli. I just remembered she dies when I'm twelve.
Sometimes when the world's making the worst kind of sense, I come back to this room. Sometimes I can forget for hours at a time. And when I forget completely enough, sometimes she'll come banging through - always looking for something, and then bang right back out again!
I don't remember the day I moved in, but ever since then I think this was always more my room than hers.