Lisa felt anxious, worried, confused. Then there was a momentary awareness that she was not awake, and she felt relieved. But then her dream continued. She was hunched over a board, boys around her talking with intensity. There were cards, sheets of papers with tables and text too, and funny dice with lots of sides -- dice resembling pyramids and soccer balls. She felt fear, then panic, then a rush of embarrassment -- feelings that were hers and not hers at the same time. That kicked her out of her dream, and while there was instant relief in knowing again it had just been a dream, those feelings remained, lessening only slowly. In the aftermath she dimly recalled other dreams she'd had. Other dreams with boys in them. In these dreams she was a boy too somehow. They seemed totally different from the kind of dreams she usually had -- such as having to take a Spanish test when she'd never studied Spanish, or finding out that the reason the girls were laughing was that she was actually naked.
"What funny dice," she murmured out loud.
Something sizzled in her mind right after she said that. A sleepy sort of confusion, and a voice saying, "What?" The voice was male, and it was close, very close, as if she was saying it herself.
She froze and paid attention, but gradually the drowsiness took over -- not her drowsiness, somehow. When it had quieted, she gave a big sigh. And instantly there was a bigger sizzle in her mind. "What's going on?" said the male voice, accompanied by a feeling of rising panic and then -- nothing. It was just her lying in her own bed, gray through the window showing it wasn't too long before dawn.
The mind does funny things, she told herself. She tried to relax, confident she would fall asleep soon. But she didn't. She would get very close, then the shadow of that dread would arise ever so quietly, and the memory of the strange male voice that was almost like hearing herself. It was enough to keep her awake. Sleep didn't feel so safe any more.
She sat in history the next day, head in hand, looking down so she could close her eyes without offending Mr. Cohen. It was the drowsy time after lunch anyway, and with her poor night's sleep it was harder than usual to stay focused. Her mind went blank. Then a strange image came to her. She was seated in some other classroom, where the desks were arranged in a U shape. Her attention was focused on a girl seated across the way, whose legs were open enough to provide a view of most of an inner thigh. This was exciting for some reason, and it was followed by imagining reaching up under that skirt to the girl's underpants, to touching her right at that private spot. The yearning was surprisingly powerful, and it made Lisa uncomfortable. She abruptly sat up and cleared her throat. In that moment there was a sizzle in her brain, just like the ones in the night. She felt from this other place a deep fear tempered with the same sort of thought she had had -- the mind does funny things.
Lisa came to in the middle of the night, thankful to be relieved of another dream of being naked in school -- a dream that was upsetting as usual, but also comforting because it was familiar. She turned over, rapidly drifting back to sleep when she heard the same male voice. "Why is this happening?" it murmured. Lisa was suddenly wide awake. But there was nothing more. She lay back. The mind does funny things, but hearing voices -- that was something else. Something more serious. It sounded different, too, somehow. A little farther away, rather than inside her head.
She lay quietly and concentrated, trying to sleep again but also trying to figure out what was going on. She concentrated on trying to relax, then on attending to her thoughts. A memory of the naked-in-school dream drifted through her mind. Cindy was pointing and laughing as she walked towards the cafeteria ... And Lisa felt again the dread when she looked down and saw no clothes...
There was a male moan, then, "Ugggh, why am I thinking about a dream I never had?"
Lisa tried to calm her unease. "Keep talking," she murmured. "If I'm going to hear voices, I might as well get to know them."
She tried formulating thoughts in her head in the form of sentences. (This isn't real. It's just my brain acting up.)
"Sure, I'll keep talking," said the male voice. "Yes, I'm real. Of course I'm real. You're the one who is imaginary. Oh God, the girl in my brain thinks she's real. You're not. I'm real."
(If you're so real, tell me who you are.)
"I'm Mark. Mark Sanchez. I live in Berkeley, California. I'm a junior in high school. I have a big brother who's in his first year at Berkeley."
(What kind of person are you?)
"I read a lot. I'm into math and science. I'm kind of an egghead. I do stuff like Dungeons and Dragons."
"Oh, guys sit around and pretend they're knights and elves and stuff, and fight monsters. With spells and armor and weapons. And rolling dice to resolve battles."
The mention of dice brings to mind her dream, and images of the funny dice.
"Yeah, the dice are funny shapes. So you've seen them?"
She spoke. "No, I just dreamed them. Before hearing your voice in my head."
"This is so weird."
Wave of panic. (I'm hallucinating.) Mental hospitals...
"Oh, great. My hallucinations are worried they are hallucinating. Projection, maybe. I think that's the word."
Lisa's mind was blank for a moment. She wasn't sure she wanted to tell him who she was, but the thoughts formed in her mind anyway. (So, who am I? Lisa Monroe, Weston, a town near Boston. Distant father, a witch for a mother. Only child, one good friend Jen. I love to read.) But then the image from her daydream came to mind -- the U-shaped chair arrangement, a girl across the way, her legs open a little, the fantasy of sliding a hand between them.
A brief groan. "More projection, I guess. But yeah, girls are sexy. So I'll confide to the imaginary girl in my head: I'd love to have a girlfriend. Or just to, you know, do it with a girl."
A little thrill, then seeing herself on her bed, naked, legs spread wide, and an equally naked boy -- Josh -- on top of her, penis dangling down, lowering himself, something pressing against her vagina. Bigger thrill, fear... (This is embarrassing.)
"Oh, God," moaned the voice. "The girl in my head is horny. But why is the cock tiny? It would be big and stiff. Everyone knows that."
(Well, maybe I don't. How would I know what a penis really looks like?) She realized she was feeling very defensive. (I'm crazy. I'm hearing voices. I need to get back to reality.)
"For a hallucination, you make a lot of sense. So really, dear hallucination, I'm just a guy. Harmless. Friendly."
"Yeah, horny. But harmless." There was a pause. "You can't tell what I'm thinking, right? Only hear what I say. You didn't know I was thinking about skiing just then."
"You were thinking about skiing?" (But I could certainly tell what you were thinking in class with that girl. I should be calm about the girl. Yeah, guys are horny, it's natural. Of course girls would seem sexy, and their panties too, and what's inside. It makes sense.
"Thanks ... What if you were really real? Then that would be really embarrassing."
(Of course I'm real. You're the one who's imaginary.)
"What can I say? Guess we'll just have to disagree about that. Or, could we test it? ... Hey, I've got an idea! You write me a letter and I'll write you one. See if our imaginary friends can write. When no letter arrives, I'll know you're just in my head."
They exchanged addresses.
Lisa felt a bit better. The imaginary friend in her head was basically a decent fellow. Yet it was serious, hearing voices like that.
She was sorting through the mail as usual, ignoring all the stuff addressed to her parents in hope of the occasional "Lisa Monroe" on the envelope. And there was a hand-addressed envelope, return address Berkeley, California. She slid it out of the pile and chuckled to herself as she started scanning the rest of the mail. But then the importance of the letter hit her. She hurried to her room and shut the door and tore open the envelope. "Hi Lisa, from your mysterious secret admirer. Sincerely, Mark Sanchez." Postmark from Berkeley too.
It is impossible, she thought. It is not real. Yet there was the letter. She tried to think of how a hallucination in her head could create a letter postmarked in Berkeley. It WAS real. This was impossible, according to science. Unless she was hallucinating the letter too. But the paper crinkled in her hands. Her room was as real as could be. When she pinched herself it hurt. Everything else in her life made perfect sense, the way it always had.
She considered telling her parents, but then thought better of it. They'd never believe her. They'd laugh at her, unless they took her to the loony bin instead. She couldn't even tell Jen.
And besides ... this was kind of special. There was potential here.
So she closed her eyes and thought. (Earth to Mark. Come in Mark ... This is Houston, Mark -- or make that Weston -- do you read me?) Then she figured she'd say it instead, just in case. "Hey Mark, this is Lisa. Can you hear me?"
Nothing. There was a time zone problem. She hadn't thought of it before. Were they synchronized that way? It was 4pm in Boston, which meant -- which way did it go? -- 1pm in California. Who knew what he was doing?
.... There is more of this story ...