Imaginary Friends


I think this might be the most difficult question I’ve ever been asked.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t really allowed to watch TV. Anything I know about the Ninja Turtles, X-Men, or any other cartoon of my childhood I either convinced other children to tell me about, or I went back and watched them in high school. So I don’t really have any fictional worlds I’m that attached to. And all the ones I made up on my own wouldn’t be good to live in.

My favorite from that time was a world I never had a name for. All the houses looked like drawings in that they were only little huts with doors and chimneys and nothing else. The real houses were all underground. The entire village was underground.

The people weren’t apex predators, so they built an interconnected network of tunnels that had common areas and shops and households. They would only come and go through their “houses” which were just tunnel entrances. I guess whatever preyed on them was smart enough to realize they were food, but not smart enough to realize that there were hundreds of them all within digging distance. The people would only come out a few at a time, and only from their “own” houses.

Now that I’m an adult, I realize how that’s not a good defense strategy. I also realize that the entire world is a pretty obvious metaphor for the process I was performing on my own psyche at the time. Keep everything buried, only bring it up a little bit at a time. Even the predator is spot on as an unknowable giant who’s danger lies in violence, but who’s weakness is a lack of perception.

I bet that’s why I enjoyed that world so much, despite its obvious simplicity. Going over and over the details of how to keep my weakness and my reactions under the surface, how to stay safe in a situation that was both unsafe and unpredictable. The more I think about this, the cooler it is to me. I basically drew myself a map of my own coping mechanism.

Sometimes when I’m sick or really sad I think of the people in their tunnel village and it makes me feel better. In my imagination, they were all used to being in close quarters because of the limited space, so they would always sit really close together. They also watched out for each other and made sure everybody was back inside the village at night. And because they had to control the population, every child was precious. So I guess if I had to live in an imaginary world, I’d pick that one. Even though you’re basically huddled underground trying not to die. Every other imaginary world I can think of has it’s own terrible problems. Gotham is a crap heap, I’m pretty sure the X-Men aren’t even considered citizens at a certain point, and the Ninja Turtles have to deal with April O’Neil stinking up the place.