One morning, Mr. Chagreen left and never came back.
He picked himself up from the corner of my room, skipped out the window into a freedom I had never had. I stare at the window and watch the wind blow my drab curtains. I wonder if freedom felt like the happy swing of the purple patterned fabric.
I didn’t understand why I was never to leave this room. They said I was mentally unstable, they said a traumatic experience brought it on. They said I could put others in harm’s way. And then they said I was of no harm to anybody but myself. I don’t understand people. They say one thing all the time and mean another. They don’t make sense to me. But I guess that’s what makes me different. I guess it’s what makes me ‘mentally unstable’.
Mr. Chagreen was my invisible friend. He made me laugh when they made everything seem sad. Once, we went sun-searching. That is what Mr. Chagreen called chasing the sunset, trying to catch the shimmery orange rays of the sun as it fell away from earth to give way to the moon. We’d rush outside and sit on grass, stretch our palms out to the sky and try and catch as many rays as possible before the sun said goodbye. When he caught a ray, Mr. Chagreen always looked beautiful. The orange glow set his brown face in a shimmery halo, and a thought always flashed at that moment: God sent him to me.
But they say Mr. Chagreen is bad. They say he takes away my real friends and he is only a figment of my imagination. They say he scares people away from me and makes me talk to myself when real people want to talk to me. So they drove him away. For days, I was lonely. I wanted to call him back but I dared not. Because they said it was part of my ‘treatment.’ And I hung alone in parks, played in the grass and went sun-searching all by myself. The real people didn’t know how to talk to me, they stared at me funny and whispered behind my back.
All I could hear was screaming voices. It was the night pain began; that day was when Mr. Chagreen first came to me. Mummy and Daddy were angry again. Mummy was crying and screaming at the same time. Daddy looked like the evil purple monster in my bedtime story. I crawled to the corner of my room and closed my ears and hummed the song mummy taught me to hum. But they were shouting and I couldn’t hum loud enough. I started to cry. I wished they would stop. Then a thought flashed in my mind: Tell them to stop.
I run out of my room to the hallway, looking up the staircase at them and just when I filled my lungs to scream ‘stop,’ Daddy hit mummy hard. She fell and rolled down the stairs. I looked down at mummy lying next to my left big toe. She was no longer shouting. She was no longer crying. She was staring at a place between my legs and her red juice started to creep under my toes. It was warm. It was sticky. I called her but she didn’t respond. Then daddy swooped me into his arms.
Mr. Chagreen pinched my cheeks and kissed me awake. He told me he would be my best friend. He told me we would play lots of games together. And we would grow up together. He was with me when the men in blue came and took daddy away. He was with me when the fat ‘institootional’ lady came to take me away. He was with me when the doctor with thick glasses told me I’m ‘unstable’. He was with me when the nightmares came and mummy kept staring at somebody else with her red juice wetting my hands and feet and my favorite purple dress. I screamed her name but she simply looked away. Mr. Chagreen was with me when I woke to find the red juice had become urine all over my sheets and clothes. He cried with me when the fat ‘institootional’ lady gave me a ‘good spanking’ for wetting my bed.
He was with me when the other children refused to play with me. He made my tongue form words when I was so scared to talk, I stuttered. He made me talk of the green leaves, orange sunlight, rainbows and unicorns when my mouth wanted to scream that mummy’s red juice was on my feet. Mr. Chagreen braided my hair and put flowers in it, though it made the other children shout, “She’s putting dead flowers in her hair again!” And when we went sun-searching and the magic orange rays fell on our faces, that hole in my chest that made it difficult for me to breathe vanished. That urge to scream ‘stop’ melted and mummy’s smile came back, daddy’s laughter caressed my cheeks again. And we were rolling around in my bed again, tickling each other and laughing and telling stories. Like the story of the handsome prince who looked like Daddy and had a dark horse that would take us to a far away land.
But the doctor with the thick glasses and moustache like a toothbrush said Mr. Chagreen was bad and had to go away. So I pushed him away. But he still held on to my hand.
Then one day, he went and never came back. And the nightmares came back. I began to cut myself and mummy’s red juice was with me, in my bed.