“Did you chat last night?” I asked Gino on Saturday morning. I was referring to the weekly chat my side of the family holds on Friday nights.
“No, I slept early,” he answered.
“I chatted...” Gabriel butted in, “with my imaginary friend.” He was of course joking. Then he asked me, “Mom, did you have an imaginary friend?”
“No, I did not,” was my curt reply. “I had an imaginary brother.”
That last part elicited chuckles from the brothers. They were flabbergasted. Gabriel shook his head as I babbled on.
“He was one year younger than me and his name was Emanrico just like Markus. We went to parties together. I thought about him once a year...”
“Wha---?” Gabriel kept saying.
“Whaat? You think you are the only crazy ones?” I asked.
“That’s the dumbest thing I heard this morning next to squid beef,” Gabriel said jokingly. He was referring to my squid beef boo-boo, which is another story.
“Mom, what age were you then?” Gino asked. They were getting more curious and amused by the hitherto unknown side of their mom. “Can I put this on Yahoo?”
“I was in high school or college. Every Holy Week, we would travel to Bicol. The trip took like 12 hours and there was nothing to do. So I thought up a brother I never had,” I continued storytelling.
I have a flesh-and-blood brother who is 10 years older. I imagined one who was about my age, a buddy I hang out with, and who accompanied me to happenings and stay-in parties popular during the martial law years in the Philippines. I imagined fun things I could do with a younger sibling and a brother at that. As for the name, I heard it from my parents who would have given it to a son if they had a second one.
My imaginary brother lasted only as long as the trip. After that I quickly forgot about him until the same trip the next year. It was one of those things I imagined to pass the time.
In real life, I made many friends from the opposite sex from college onwards. Wholesome, non-romantic friendships lasting many, many years. It was like having lots of brothers. I had no need for an imaginary one.
Back to Gabriel. If he had asked me about having an imaginary boyfriend, I would have answered differently. Which brings to mind a funny incident when Gino and Mickey were about 10 or 9.
“Mom, what were the names of your boyfriends before dad? Kuya LA said something about blah blah blah blah,” Gino told me one day.
Skirting the topic, I made a joke I thought was pretty obvious. “Oh, I went steady with Richard Gere, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson...”
It was months later when Gino would catch the joke. Coming home from school one afternoon, he was smiling broadly as he exclaimed, “Mom, you were kidding about Mel Gibson... They were really not your boyfriends!”
Not even in my imagination!