So there’s this big thing in the world where we are all like “oh let’s pretend we part of an alternate existence, that is usually ridiculous/boring but who cares, at least it’s not our lives”. I used to pretend like I was above all that. “oh my life is better” or “what? Reality shows and hiding under the porch eating graham crackers watching the neighbors rake leaves is duuuuuuuuuumb and so is breaking my foot pretending to be spider-man, so obviously I did not do that. I’m so above it all.” No more. I’m coming out. Here’s the nitty gritty: I watch reality shows. I play imaginary games. I spy on my neighbors and go to department stores to people watch.
Okay, I’m still a little embarrassed about it. Secretly. I secretly feel secretly ashamed. I still need to mask my true intents. I feel sort of silly/creepy about it. Reality shows usually make me feel embarrassed because I think the people must know that I am watching them, so I run out of the room, and then run back after doing a lap around the block so I can catch the end. The exceptions are with shows like Project Runway or American Idol, because I can always be like, “I’m watching it for the fashion/music/whatever bizarre competition is going on, and not for the drama or anything like that”, thus deceiving myself as well as setting up a defense if I’m ever questioned about it on Dr. Phil or Conan.
I usually don’t have the same qualms about imaginary games however. I love pretending to be in scenarios that are bizarre and that are extremely unlikely to ever occur, while being oblivious of these facts. One of my favorites was dubbed “the dead road”.
The bulk of my imaginary game playing when I was in my early fours through late eights was played with my sister who’s cardigan I covet. From now on I think I’m going to call her sister #2. I would also like to clarify that this is not a ranking system, but simply because she is the second child in the family. My oldest sister is sister #1, and my younger is sister #4. If I ever need to refer to myself in third person I might refer to myself as sister #3, just to be fair, though I dislike third person, so this is unlikely to happen.
Anyway, the dead road was a scenario made up by sister #2. In this parallel world, she was in college, and also very wealthy. She would always pick me up and show me her glamorous life and I’d be cool with that because she’d buy me extravagant imaginary gifts. Once she bought me a jet pack in the Dead Road, so life was basically pretty good.
We had to throw in some natural conflicts, which is where the name the Dead Road comes in. Occasionally we’d be driving places in the parked family Nova, and sister #2 would shout, “Oh no! The regular road is closed! You know what this means…” and I’d scream, “No, no! There must be some other way!” but no! There was no other way! It was the dead road for us, so we’d just buckle down while sister #2 frantically turned the wheel back and forth while also narrating the situation.
The dead road is a back road where animal carcasses would fly at our car, particularly in the windshield area. That is honestly and sincerely what it is, and it also was the bulk of this imaginary game.
A lot of the imaginary games I’ve played through life have been based on imaginary adversity, because they always seem grander and more interesting than my real-life problems, probably because they are not actually happening to me. So the real trick is to make the made-up problems be extremely unusual and specific so that they don’t actually happen to you. For example, the standard playing “poor”. This may or may not be insensitive; regardless, I’m pretty sure everyone has played poor at some time in their lives (P.S. Support ‘their’ being used as a singular gender neutral pronoun and not just in the plural sense! I think we should make buttons, and maybe some cupcakes). But you can’t just be poor. THIS kind of poor person can only eat grass even when people offer her food and has to stand outside in cold weather and live in some sort of trash can instead of…I don’t know, some sort of logical shelter. This is cold, hard stuff. Raw stuff. Living in a trash can. Yeah. Hard core.
Or maybe you are the leader of an Indian tribe and a famine has come and you are probably also being attacked by bison and you are also trying to court the neighboring Indian chief, which is naturally complicated and fraught with deception and eventual betrayal so it’s been a pretty tough week and on top of all that your water was just poisoned with a substance that kills by turning you inside out.
Other times I would intentionally try to get lost in a grocery store when I went out with my mom and pretend to be a vagabond, or a runaway, or maybe an orphan, just trying to survive in the cold, harsh world of Shopko. There were gangs that came out of the dressing rooms at night and I had to fight them off and make my own den with shirts and magazines. Of course I never got to live out these events because my mom would find me and make me go home.
In the interest of full disclosure, I still try to spice up my life by watching sitcoms/soaps/whatever it is they play on ABC Family (those shows really aren’t good at all…but I can’t seem to tear myself away) and trying to insert them to my life. It’s a possibility that I have an affinity for drama. One might even call me…dramatic. Histrionic. Word of the day, right there. Sometimes when I get sick I jump ahead of myself. I had a headache a little while ago and ended up lying on the floor of my apartment, half-convinced that I had a brain tumor. The other half thought this might not be likely. “But!” (first half retorted) “Web MD said it might be true”. This won over the rational half because self-diagnosing has never led me astray before probably, so I spent some time planning out the next six months. How I would tell people. What people would say. How I would act. Sometimes I would start to get terrified because I would actually convince myself that it was real, and start to hyperventilate. But then I would calm down and start writing my eulogy.
I wish I could say that the brain tumor episode was an isolated incident.
A reoccurring scenario I play out is what I’m going to do when I meet David Sedaris. I’m going to be so cool and say something hilarious and then he’ll say something hilarious, and be like, “oh, you’re hilarious!” and we’ll laugh together and I’ll be clever and witty and not redundant and he’ll think I’m so awesome that he’ll be like, “oh, let’s be BFFs!” and I’ll say, “If you insist…” and that will be that.
Of course some of the details of the conversation vary, but I guess I’d rather not go into the supposedly clever and witty things I say in the imaginary conversation, because when I meet him in real life I’ll probably start squeaking, and he’ll look at me and say, “Why are you drooling on my paper?” or “Please stop gnawing on my hand.” And I guess that’ll be that.