Roman’s best friend is a space explorer with a perma-smile, all of three inches tall, and made of plastic. Roman named him Jerry. Confided in him, held him in sweaty palms while entering unknown places, took him to school, smashed him up along the handlebars of his bike and the chains on the swing, carefully put him in his pocket while using the men’s, silently watched countless garbage truck videos together, begrudgingly set him down on the table when obliged to eat, and tucked him alongside under his covers at night.
Jerry was originally designed to man an exoskeleton robot suit,* but he shed all that gear long ago. Now an old guy with bum hips, he can barely stand up by himself. But Roman could care less about Jerry’s geriatric problems- he is no ageist.
Jerry is well traveled on Earth - at least in North America - having been up and down the eastern seaboard several times, over to the west coast, and through the lower 48 as well. Once left at a restaurant in Philadelphia by accident, half an hour down the road Roman panicked. “Jerrrrrrry!”, he exclaimed, like Marlon Brando calling for Stella in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Jeff flipped a U at the first opportunity, and the buddies were reunited in short order. Crisis averted!
Sometimes even friends need to take breaks though. Jerry went missing for a few months last year only to be rediscovered in a plastic transport cargo box with Steve. Suspicious, indeed! Then Jerry seamlessly went back to his usual state of permanent presence.
Lately though, Roman had taken to showing his adolescent discontent with Jerry... by using him as a MISSILE. Not wanting to walk to a restaurant in Tallahassee, Roman threw him into the nearest bush along with both of his flip-flops. (Jeff fished everything out.) Then another time, he chucked Jerry clear across a busy road. I dodged traffic to fetch him, and Roman was dismayed to find that Jerry's plastic hairpiece was permanently scuffed in the bargain.
In Austin last month though, Jerry was well and truly lost. We backtracked through our entire day and looked everywhere we could remember having been, but came up empty. Roman was anxious and heartbroken.* Us too. And I rushed to order Jerry 2.0 on Amazon to soothe his pain.
When Roman opened the box, he chirped “Look, Mom, it’s Jerry!”, and I thought I had fooled him. Hand in hand again, playing together, they went everywhere together for days. Until Roman went into Chapel Hill with his brother and sister to get a pizza, and summarily launched him high into the upper foliage of a sturdy campus tree.
Roman’s brother did his best to dislodge him. But Jerry 2.0 would. not. come. down. So Quinn called to apprise me of THE SITUATION, dropping this knowledge on me: "Maybe Roman actually NEEDS to lose Jerry."
And I began to see Jerry 2.0's fate as a kind of organ rejection- no shiny replacement with good hair and working hips was ever going to do.**
Now Roman travels with an unwieldy pack of Playmobil guys, all unnamed as far as I can tell. They fall out of his pockets when he sits down, or drop out of his hands at inopportune moments. He finds places for them while he's *ahem!* otherwise occupied
then rounds them up again.
Maybe Roman will even NAME one of these guys some day, once he feels strong enough to weather the heartache of losing another bestie.
* Like the one Sigourney Weaver rocked in Alien.
** Enough to spell out the poem at the bottom of this post, letter by sad letter.
** At least I wised up before springing for Jerry 3.0...