The last time I saw my imaginary friend Fancy, she was eloping with my cousin Dee, a man who is my worst nightmare. Their departure was a good dream come true and I was really hoping that I would never see or hear from either one of them again, but when I got home tonight, I found Fancy sitting alone on the stairs that lead to my door.
It had stopped raining much earlier, but Fancy was huddled underneath an incongruously brightly colored umbrella- broad red and white beach stripes emblazoned with the logo of a bank that hasn't existed in years- it took me a second to recognize her, I briefly mistook her for a real person. No such luck.
"Hiya," we said in unison," hey...are you OK?"
"No", we both answered, momentarily taken aback by the tone of genuine concern in our voices.
"You first...", we blurted together, generating a mutual pause followed by a shared silence.
"Wait", I finally said, unaccompanied," let's take this inside. I think my neighbor is checking you out."
My neighbor, a kid in his early twenties, was clearly impressed by the legs protruding from Fancy's faux-Ska plaid skirt. He even gave me the "dude look" of approval. Dude! You lucky!
Wow, I thought, real people should not be able to see my imaginary friends. Has my madness become so extreme that it is now manifesting on the physical plane? That seems highly unlikely, but then again, so does everything. We could sort it out inside, I decided.
"C'mon in", I said, opening the door for her.
"Thanks", she said, squeezing my arm before whispering into my ear, "hey, can we get high?"
"Fancy", I replied wearily, rummaging through a cupboard for some cat chow to fend off the mewling beasts that had plodded into the kitchen, "drugs are not the answer. Well, not usually anyway," I finished, eying a cluster of prescription bottles on the top shelf.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that I have a theory. I suspect that if I take one of these pills, one of these pills and one of these pills, you will disappear within thirty minutes."
"Oh, ye of little faith", she mumbled sulkily. "I thought you'd be glad to see me. Tell you what- why don't you give me three pills and let me see if you disappear?"
"That's fair", I agreed, handing her a multi-vitamin, an antihistamine and a Xanax and swallowing the same combo myself, washing it down with a glass of tap water. I extended the glass to her and she gulped down her tiny three-course meal.
"Tell me about Dee. Did you two get married? Is that why you are here?"
She laughed. "Dee? I dumped him as soon as he ran out of heroin.He actually cleaned up, can you believe that shit? He woke up every single morning and was starting to be fun to be around, so I ..."
"...so you came here. Thanks. I don't do heroin, and I get up early in the morning. Why are you here?"
"Well, you might not be a junkie, but you are a total drag to be around and watching you torment yourself helps me feel sane by comparison. Oh, wait. I didn't mean to say that last part...anyway, he joined the Peace Incorporeal and got shipped off to Austria- Hungary to help with war orphans from the collapsed Ottoman Empire."
"Don't you mean the Peace Corps? Plus there's no such place as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman orphans are pushing at least 100 years old by now. I reckon it's too late to save most of them."
She sighed. "Well, he was a man, and he was leaving, so I figure he had to be lying about something...anyway, what's your major malfunction? You look like you've been crying."
"Well, it's my work...I think it's almost over and I'm not emotionally or financially able to deal with that. Plus my heart's a mess."
"Hmmm...that totally sucks. You will have to go back to being extremely frugal and you'd better take good care of your car and your computer, because you ain't buyin' anything nice for yourself for a looong time. And I'd give up on women entirely. Eventually, one will surprise you and wham, hello!, but no one wants you the way you are now.'
"I didn't mean to bum you out, but that's how it is. Life is gonna suck for an indefinite period, so deal with it."
"No", I corrected her," I'm not offended. I'm actually glad you said that. I'm really, truly tired of "silver linings", and "god's will" and "one door closing while another opens" and how " it could be worse" or -and this one drives me batshit - how "it's all good"- the truth is, it mostly sucks and it's going to continue sucking until it gets better, which might be tomorrow or might be never."
"It will get better..."
"It will? Fancy, you seem different. Have you stopped being a Scorpio or something?"
"...and then it will get worse. This cycle will repeat in different ways for quite a while until it finally stabilizes."
"How long is 'quite a while'?"
And then we were gone.