“Sometimes I still talk to people that aren’t there. Imaginary people” he confided in her. I eavesdropped on the young couple in the booth behind me. I admit it’s an ugly habit but Sunday morning in rural Ohio, I quickly learned, lacked the humming energy we’d discovered in Cincinnati. Those words engaged my mind though. I still silently curse his companion who asked, “Why would you do that?” Ugh. Of all the questions. Like a newspaper reported I wanted to know: Who are these imaginary people? What are they like? Do they mimic behaviors of people you know? Are they mentors? Do they plot crimes and sins cajoling you at every step? What do you say to them? Do you whisper to them in the mornings over coffee or the evenings while you walk? Please, please tell me more.
Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning tells a tale, The Thing About Cassandra, about imaginary people. A particular line stood out to me (likely due to my poor manners a month ago) “The thing about Cassandra is this: I’d made her up.” This is essentially the starting point for the story of how flimsy the line can be between reality and the world we create within our minds.
Having an imaginary friend, or in this case girlfriend, at eleven may be acceptable. Especially when the pressure to meet someone nice and start dating is high. Or when mother asks a lot of questions about why your an hour late from school. I mean, going to Sandy’s house sounds a lot better than detention. Years later though, it’s best to put aside those figments of the mind and focus on the task at hand.
But what happens when the people you talk to don’t let you abandon them so easily? What happens when imaginary friends grow up into less amicable adults? What happens when the story starts writing without you?
The story in Trigger Warning is interesting and it address one of the many possibilities for imaginary people but for me the real reason it stood out was because of all the things it didn’t cover. The parts of the stone that were chipped away and discarded from this tale. As a reader it is why I stopped reading and considered the tale untold.