The Hanjub Syndrome



Adam listened to music on his iPod until he heard his parents close the door to their bedroom downstairs. He waited a few more minutes until he could hear the faint sound of their television, then retrieved the small flashlight, and tiptoed to CarolLee’s room and listened. Sometimes she was awake late, but tonight he heard no sounds from her room as he stood outside in his underwear. He quietly opened the door, and tiptoed in. She was motionless in her bed, and he looked on and near her desk for the tablet. Adam eventually found it on the floor near her bed, as though she had been drawing before she fell asleep. He retrieved it, making as little sound as possible, and turned the pages. As he looked in the glow of the flashlight, he saw mostly sketches of hands, and a few objects like dishes. All of them were realistic, and all had a certain style. He could feel his anger grow as he realized here was yet another accomplishment of his little sister’s: she was an artist.

When he found the page with the penis, he stopped. He reluctantly admitted this pencil drawing was also very good, even compelling. The dark pubic hair, longish penis, and wrinkled testicles seemed to be hanging in the air on the white page, without any attempt to lessen the impact by attaching it to a body. It stood shockingly alone. Even flaccid there was life in the drawing that drew his stare for a long time. Adam had been thinking about the image all afternoon, and he could feel his erection protruding through the flap of his boxers. He was about to take the tablet to his room and jerk off when CarolLee said, “What are you doing?”

Startled at being caught in her room in his underwear, his erection exposed, looking at a picture that had given him the erection, Adam responded angrily. “I’m going to tell Mom you’re drawing dirty pictures.”

“I’ll tell her you look at pictures of naked boys on the computer.”

Adam was stunned that she knew his pornographic interests. “I do not!” he said. Adam knew instantly she didn’t believe him. He turned to face her and pointed his finger, “You’d better not say anything, or so help me I’ll break your neck.”

“I’m not afraid of you any more” she said, her voice calm and superior.

Adam stood paralyzed, about to cry at the frustration of not feeling in control of his urges. Suddenly aware again of his erection, he pushed the dwindling thing back into his boxers. “How did you know?”

CarolLee paused before answering, “A friend told me.”

“What friend? You don’t have any friends. Nobody likes you because you think you’re so smart.”

“I do too have a friend,” CarolLee said. “And he tells me all the bad things you do.”

“How come I’ve never seen him?” Adam sneered. “How does he know what I do if he’s never around?”

“He’s around all the time,” she said, sounding very smug. “Because he lives here… in the attic.”

Adam turned toward the end of the room and the slightly open attic door. He had explored the attic thoroughly when they first moved in years ago and it was not big enough for an adult to stand in, let alone live there. He was sure his sister was making this up, but she did know something she shouldn’t know. He went cautiously to the door, opened it, and peeked inside. His flashlight shown on the unfinished interior, empty except for some old furniture and dusty boxes. Turning back to his sister now sitting up in the bed, he said, “You’re crazy, CarolLee. It’s too fucking small for anyone to live there. Where would he sleep?”

“He’s does too live there,” she said.

“Then where is he?”

“He’s watching Daddy go down on Mommy. Daddy doesn’t like to do it.”

It had never occurred to Adam that CarolLee knew anything about sex, and he couldn’t believe she knew what she was talking about. “You don’t even know what that is.”

“Yes, I do,” she said. “He does it to make her feel good. Hanjub told me all about it,”

“You’ve been spying on… everyone,” he said, even more shocked by this revelation. “You’re going to get caught. You’re not supposed to spy on people.”

CarolLee’s face retreated into the shadows, her voice apologetic. “He can’t help it. It’s hard not to spy when you’re invisible.”

“Holly fuck, you are so crazy.” Adam turned off the flashlight and went to the door. “You had better stop talking like that or they are going to put you away.” He pulled the door closed as he left, whispering, “So fucking crazy.”

Beverly had lost plenty of sleep wondering what CarolLee knew about her secret, and how. Every time she convinced herself her daughter couldn’t know anything, doubt crept in, and she reversed her conviction. She had been avoiding lengthy conversations with CarolLee so the topic wouldn’t come up, but now she felt the anxiety was too much to bare, and she had to know what she knew. She waited for CarolLee to come home from school to engage her when they could be alone. CarolLee had been to the library and was lugging another large art book which she put down on the counter in the kitchen. As she usually did, the girl asked for a sandwich and a glass of milk. Beverly had her sit while she retrieved the ingredients. Trying to sound nonchalant, Beverly asked, “Is this for you, or your friend?”

CarolLee said nothing, seeming wary of her mother’s inquiry.

“It’s okay,” Beverly said. “Your friend is welcome here.”

There was another pause, then CarolLee said softly, “He gets hungry in the afternoon.”

After a knowing nod, Beverly asked, “What’s his name?”

“Hanjub,” CarolLee said.

Beverly had to suppress her laughter at the obviously made-up name, but kept the conversation going, wondering just how elaborate her daughter’s fantasy life was. “That’s such an interesting name. Where is he from?”

“India,” CarolLee said. “He’s Hindustani.”

“Really? How exotic. And what does,” she struggled with the name, “Hanjub, look like?”

“Well,” CarolLee said, “he is very good looking, like a nobleman. He wears a blue turban with a silver star in the middle, a long silk coat, and he has dark skin, and a very nice penis.”

Beverly could barely manage to attend to the sandwich as she struggled not to burst into hysterics. Neither Adam or CarolLee had ever had imaginary playmates before, but she recalled conversations in which they were described by other moms, and CarolLee’s sounded typical, except for the penis. She didn’t recall any such explicit references in their descriptions. “Well, he sounds very interesting, I would like to meet him sometime.”

“Oh,” CarolLee said. “he doesn’t like adults.”

“I wouldn’t bother him. Maybe just long enough to say, Hello?”

“I’m the only one who can see him,” CarolLee said with enough finality that Beverly knew she wouldn’t get any farther. She cut the sandwich in half and put it on a plate in front of her daughter. “That’s too bad,” she said. CarolLee took the plate and milk, and stood up to go to her room.

“CarolLee,” her mother asked. “How do you know he has a nice penis?”

The girl turned to back through the kitchen doorway, said, “I saw it,” turned again, and disappeared.

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