We have an imaginary friend. His name is Alex. We discovered it last month when we went out to dinner and the waiter forgot to give him his water. The waiter gave us a weird look when we reminded him about our friend, but obediently placed the drink on the table…almost to the side of him. We tried to blow off the incident when a different waiter came and took our orders…but didn’t take Alex’s. I cleared my throat, and reminded the waiter of Alex’s existence. The waiter gave an uncertain hesitation, but after a nod from Hilary and Jacqueline, he apologized and took Alex’s order…a little too vigorously. We almost relaxed when a third waiter came and gave us our food. Once again Alex was forgotten. No utensils for him. At this point, we were baffled by the waiters’ behavior…until Red Steve felt duty bound to break it to us: “I’ve been wanting to tell you for some time, and maybe now you’ll believe me…Alex is imaginary.” Most of us couldn’t believe it, but to be honest, it was the only logical conclusion. Once we came to terms with the truth, it brought up a few questions:
First of all, what shared tragic event happened in our lives that would trigger the need for an imaginary friend?–a shared friend at that? It must have happened after Hilary came to Utah and met Alex in ‘choir.’ I can only blame myself really. She must’ve been lonely and desperate for friendship. And when we held auditions for our musical the Raven, in walked our star performer from her choir class. In the beginning (at least) he practiced every song, was always prepared, had a perfect attitude. He must’ve been everything that Jacqueline and I needed too, thus…Alex was born.
The second burning question on our minds was why were our real and human friends playing along? Apparently Red Steve had been filming empty space all day, and even when I suggested a new angle, he’d sigh patiently, and shoot the scene again. That takes love. Was Red Steve our therapist?—or just a long forgotten friend from our former life? Who in our life was planted? Which of our friends and coworkers weren’t?
And the last question, were we in therapy now? Every month or year or so, Hilary leaves us for Canada and lives the life of a bohemian—playing pianos for traveling shows and babysitting cats, so she must be further along in her recovery. Yes, there are times when my sister Jacqueline and Alex go off by themselves to plan a murder mystery dinner, and indeed, they email and text all the time—but other than that, she is fairly stable and lives a healthy life. The fact is the person who sees him most often is me since I now work with him at scanning. It must have been a relapse, since he joined me a few months ago. We argue all the time about the best way to flip papers, which means I must be the most messed up out of all of us. Come to think of it, I also have an invisible brake on the passenger’s side of Alex’s car
To this day, Alex is still with us…and I remember that dinner so long ago when it came as no surprise when the manager came to our table and asked how our meal was…and she didn’t even spare a look for Alex. Instead she glanced up at the camera in the sky and winked.