I went to see the Muppet Movie this weekend (and, by the way, it is as clean, fun, and bright as I possibly could have hoped and then some). When the main character, a man born a muppet (lowercase) who worships The Muppets (uppercase), I felt a weird sort of kinship with him. I realized that all of my friends are imaginary.
Not all of them, of course. I’ve got the core set of actual humans floating around. But there’s something really rather lonely about the fact that some of my favorite people only exist between pages. It wouldn’t be so bad if they could talk back, even. But they don’t know I’m there, and they never will.
When my grandmother died ten years ago, the strangest part of it was all the things I wanted to tell her. Even when I was college, when I got a good grade or was elected to the magazine, I wanted to head right over to that yellow house with the great big garden, plop down on the bench outside, and tell my grandmother every minute of it. And when I finished The Hunger Games (in three big gulps- I barely slept) I found Peeta so akin to myself, I have a funny idea and thought, “Oh, I should tell him.”
Even worse is the way they tend to creep into conscious without even trying. The summer after my senior year of high school, when no Harry Potter books had come out in a bit, I started asking my friends where Stanley Shunpike was up to these days. No one knew him. But the name was so familiar. Didn’t we have biology together? Or was his locker near the choir room? Finally my father overheard me on the phone one day, and said, “Lovie, Stanley Shunpike did not go to your high school.” Startled, I asked, “How can you possibly know that?”.. and felt a little crazy when he reminded me that Stanley Shunpike drove a bus in Harry Potter. But I could have sworn…
I know that I can’t give Peeta a call. That Stanley did not help me dissect an owl pellet. That dreamy guys aren’t just waiting for me to turn the page and unleash them into the real world like in the music video for Take On Me…
But all the same, I get caught up in those world sometimes. And that can be a little lonely.
The only great comfort a reader has is finding others who feel the same way. Even if I can never hang out with Scout Finch (Scout, if you are reading this, I have not ruled out the possibility that you will come to my 24th birthday party- please RSVP soon), I can talk to other people who want to. We can say things like, “Ooo, did you hear what Ramona did?” and totally not sound like crazy people. It’s what one of my professors called “gossiping about imaginary people,” and I do it far too often.
I just wish we could get tea sometime. My treat.