In the third grade, our science teacher gave us a clump of colorless clay to mold into a planet. Pluto, as it was still considered a planet back then, was assigned to me, and I understandably felt gypped, because Pluto was the runt of the solar system and I thought that was a reflection of the teacher’s opinion of me. So in retaliation I ripped off half the clump and stuffed it in my pocket, feeling a little thrill at my thievery whenever my hand brushed against it. That night I attacked it with a lime green marker, picking it apart and folding it over itself again and again, until the entire thing was stained green. I named this piece of knock-off Play Doo “Grape” and carried him around on my shoulder all day and all night for weeks. I told my parents that when I walked into a room they had to address me not as Hannah, but as Hannah and Grape. I brought him to school and made him a little bed in my desk. I shared my pretzels with him. Eventually my parents’ concern outweighed their lax parenting style, and they sent Grape to the farm with my hamster Fluffy.
For the next decade I never thought of Grape once. But why should I have? He was a piece of clay that I stabbed with a green marker. A week before I was supposed to leave home, go off to college and leave my adolescent life behind, I stumbled upon Grape. He was stuffed in a Ziploc bag with other rejected art projects from my childhood. He was hard as a rock—I tried to break him in half and ended up breaking my nail. His green coat was faded and discolored so that it looked like gray poo, tiny cat hairs were sticking out of him, and, honestly, he kind of smelled. I put him on my shoulder for old time’s sake and he immediately slipped off. I remembered I had molded the bottom of him so that he curved to my shoulder, but I guess my choice in friends wasn’t the only thing that changed with age.
“Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph,” my mom said, pressing her hand to her heart as I walked into the living room with Grape on my shoulder. “Where in the world did you find that thing?”
“His name is Grape, and will be addressed as such,” I said, mimicking my ten-year-old self, but my mom was not amused.
“Hannah, your father and I were this close to sending you to therapy after you started to set a place at the table for that thing. I thought you were done with your delusions.” Of course I wasn’t done with my delusions, I wanted to say. I just found new ones. I have delusions that the cute boy who I bat my eyes at in class will ask me out, that my roommates don’t talk about me behind my back, that I’ll do great and memorable things in life. I was born to be delusional, and I picked a major where I can live in my delusions every day. I said all this out loud, and my mom, her brow furrowed in concern, stood up and checked my forehead for a fever. I let her make me chicken soup.
After that, and in the following weeks, Grape stayed on my mind. I ended up throwing him in the trash after I found my cat trying to eat him, but it was with great regret and reluctance. Ten year old Hannah didn’t have a better friend than him, and maybe, even now, twenty year old Hannah is still looking for her Grape.