My co-worker takes public transportation to work and tells wonderful stories about the friends she’s made on the bus over the years. “You’ll never guess what Barbara said this morning…” or “Mary Ann told me the funniest joke.” Apparently, Co-worker and crew sit in the back of the bus and rabble rouse, disturbing the other passengers. On more than one occasion, reportedly, Co-worker and her friends have been asked to “keep it down” by other riders trying to catch a few winks before heading in to work.
Despite all of the sordid, sundry tales I’ve heard about Co-worker’s bus friends, I have never met a single one of said cadre of compadres. Sometimes, I’ll walk into work and Co-worker will tell me that her bus friends had just come and gone. It’s happened on more than one occasion that her buddies had left mere moments before my arrival. With each additional occurrence of near-miss bus-friend sightings, I’ve become more skeptical that these fine folks actually exist. I have nearly become convinced that Co-worker’s bus friends are of the imaginary variety.
It’s a sad thought… Co-worker sitting on the bus chatting up a storm with what must appear to other riders to be empty seats… laughing and carrying on despite the pleas of annoyed (and perhaps even sympathetic) passengers to keep her enthusiasm down. I have delicately made mention of this possibility to Co-worker, but she has, quite naturally, I daresay, denied vigorously any such proposition. “They’re not imaginary. I’ll bring them here to meet you someday,” she promises, but that someday never seems to come.
To my knowledge, I’ve never had my own imaginary friends, but I can remember interacting with my brother's. Sometime in his early childhood, Little Bro had developed his own gang of make-believe friends. Little Bro’s imaginary friends were named: Blue Boy, Brown Boy, Yellow Boy, Green Boy, and Lily Car-Jacket.
Lily Car-Jacket was his girlfriend. Nothing made Little Bro angrier than mixing up his girlfriend’s name. “How’s Lily Car-Coat?” I’d ask, taunting.
“It’s Lily Car-JACKET,” he’d fume.
“Oh, right. Sorry. Lily Truck-Jacket.” And so on.
Each differently colored Boy had a distinct personality. Yellow Boy was the most dependable, friendliest member of the bunch. Green Boy was the worst. He was always causing problems, spilling Little Bro’s milk or leaving messes in the bedroom or tying Little Bro’s shoelaces together. Little Bro was the leader of his fantasy pack and a strong disciplinarian at that. Little Bro was always sending Green Boy to the time out chair. Once, while we were in vacation in the mountains of West Virginia, Green Boy was misbehaving so severely that Little Bro actually threw Green Boy in a state park trashcan. Unfortunately, devious Green Boy’s hitchhiking skills were top notch, and Little Bro found him waiting for us at home when we returned from our vacation.
At some point in the progress of Little Bro’s relationship with Lily Car-Jacket and the Green and Blue and Brown and Yellow Boys, it occurred to me that I could have some big brotherly fun at the expense of Little Bro’s imagination. To this end, I invented Zorton, my alter-ego alien twin. I managed to convince Little Bro that whenever I walked into a closet alone and shut the door, I would mysteriously switch places with Zorton, my outer-space doppleganger. We laughed alike; we walked alike. At times we even talked alike. And Little Bro bought it hook, line, and sinker.
Whenever I was bored, I would enter the closet and emerge as Zorton. I would spin the most intricate yarns about my interstellar adventures and wax eloquent about the wonders of the universe as Little Bro would sit in rapt wonder. When I tired of playing the part, I would enter the closet and re-emerge as Yajeev, too exhausted from the galactic exchange to spend any more time engaging Little Bro. Little Bro was about 10 when he began to suspect Zorton was a fraud. Zorton and I would go to great lengths to reassure Little Bro that we would never play such a cruel joke on him. As demonstration of Zorton’s authenticity, I (Zorton) would utter some garbled outer-space phrase that I (Yajeev) would later feign difficulty articulating. Much to Little Bro’s embarrassment, it wasn’t until he finished the sixth grade (long after the gradual fade of Lily Car-Jacket and company into the sunset) that he finally became convinced of Zorton’s unreality.
The imagination is a terrible, wonderful thing. I laugh to recall Little Bro’s Technicolor Boys. I feel a mixture of pride and regret as I retell the Zorton delusion. And, I feel pity for Co-worker and her imaginary boisterous bunch of bus friends.
Of course, I do sometimes wonder how much I myself might be imagining. What portions of my reality may be the artificial constructs of my id or super ego? Am I the pitiable soul carrying on with imaginary co-workers? Do I have imaginary friends with imaginary friends? Is Watson Steve my Yellow Boy and the wife my Lily Car-Jacket? Is the friend I instant message my Green Boy; would my chat transcripts reveal pathetic monologues rather than witty dialogues? As I question my my own reality, I feel my sanity slipping, slipping, slipping… I am crawling deeper and deeper into a cave… are the shadows on the walls real readers commenting on my blog or are they figments of my own imagination providing the validation my soul craves…