I don't need Caller ID in order to trace phone calls from my imaginary friend, Fancy. All I need do is lift the receiver, tap a button or two at random and the rest is easy.
Fancy answers on the fourth ring, although I'm certain that she could have picked up earlier. It would be just like her to coyly let it ring a few times, simultaneously masking her enthusiasm and creating the illusion of her being busily engaged in something other than waiting around for the phone to ring.
"Hey, yourself. Wow,this is a switch- I never expected you to call me. How did you get this number , anyway?"
"I made it up."
"Right,right...so , what's going on? Does this mean you forgive me for dumping Dee?"
Not long ago, Fancy had eloped with my suppositious cousin Dee and things, predictably, had not gone well for them as a couple. The incident had also strained my friendship with Fancy and we had lapsed into a long, uncommunicative period. I don't know (or care) what became of Dee.
"Forgive? Ha!", I laughed, "You should get a medal for dumping him- after they let you out of your padded cell for marrying him in the first place, that is. What the hell were you thinking, anyway?"
" What was I thinking? Ya know, that is a really strange question to ask of an imaginary friend. Anyway, did you call me to pick at my scabs or does this conversation have a point?"
"Yes...it...", I struggled for the words, " I need a sponsor."
"A sponsor?", she asked, mis-interpreting my words, " I thought the radio station stopped paying commissions on sponsorships. Besides, I'm not a business- I'm figmental, remember? A paycheck from me isn't going to help you very much."
"No, not that kind of sponsor. I meant like in AA- the person that you call when you feel like drinking again. What they do is..."
"I know what they do," she interrupted, " but why do you need one? You hate AA and you never feel like drinking. Do you?"
"Well, I did feel the urge- for a moment- on Thursday. After they pulled the surprise lay-off on us , I felt so utterly bereft that I had to resist the temptation to pick up a bottle and a twelve-pack on the way home. I made it OK, but jeez...it was scary the way it just kinda jumped out from nowhere...the need is a lurker and a damn sneaky one at that."
"Like a troll. From under a bridge, I mean."
"I get it. Yeah, like that."
"You called your brother?"
"I did. He was cooking dinner and his succotash was burning, so he couldn't talk. I wish I hadn't called him, actually...it just made him worry."
"Call your friend?"
"Yes. Things aren't good for her at the moment. Plus, she's really mad at her mom right now."
"So you called your brother, but he was busy with succotash, so you called your friend and they bitched about their mother to you?"
"Well, they each have their own problems and that's a bit over-simplified, but yeah."
"What's the complaint about the mother?"
"That she lacks empathy and compassion."
"Oh. Well...why didn't you just go get some ice cream or something? Find some chocolate on sale ."
"Well, I 'celebrated' my new job with a week or so of binging on donuts, ice cream and day-old bakery goods- the sugary kind of baked goods- so now I need to lay off the sugars and fats for a while."
There was a pause while Fancy digested this tidbit.
"Wait", she finally replied, " let me make sure I hear this correctly. You felt the urge to drink- which you know will immediately wreck your entire life and probably kill you inside of a month- but you didn't want to eat ice cream because it might be bad for you? You have really lost your edge when it comes to self-destruction."
"Well, I don't want to self-destroy my cholesterol. It was perfect last time I checked. Oatmeal really does work, you know."
"Dude, I don't think you need a sponsor."
"No. You just need to stop agonizing over things that you can't change. Do something constructive with your free time."
"You're right. Perhaps I'll practice writing dialogue."
Another awkward silence. I could feel Fancy wincing on the other end.
"Um, yeah. That, uh, sounds like a g-great idea, really... it does. But do you think you could practice on someone else? I'm kinda busy here."