Folks, I’m not embarrassed to say that even at the ripe age of 30, I still check in with my old imaginary friends. You could call it a mild case of schizophrenia or signs of another undiagnosed dissociative disorder or a wild child-like imagination that I refuse to let die. But regardless, I often wonder what they’re all doing from time to time. And so I think we should check in with them to see how they all spent their Thanksgiving weekends.
Because I’m talking about these characters for the first time and most likely not the last, I’ll give you a little background on their origins. I don’t know if this will give any insight to my creative process, but maybe you’ll be interested to see how these people evolved in my head. And keep in mind that I’m aware that everything regarding my imaginary friends is purely fictional. Any likeness to actual people, places, things, or events is nothing but coincidence, unless it’s not.
Monica and Lee Marrows
These two twins are the true OG imaginary friends. They showed up when I was eight and stemmed from human evolutions from the Pokemon Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee. (You can see where the names came from.) I wrote comics about them using their fighting superpowers to save the world, which seems par for the course for an eight-year-old boy trying to write comics. Eventually my brother said, “Hey buddy. Aren’t you getting older?” So I got rid of the half-Pokemon superhero angle, and that led to present day Monica and Lee.
Monica spent her Thanksgiving in Staten Island with her partner Mallory McAllister and her and Mallory’s parents. The Marrows aren’t big on Thanksgiving, but the McAllisters go hard. They watched the Macy’s Parade on TV because Mallory’s dad Kevin, who is a retired cop, was marching in it. They gorged themselves on roast chicken and mashed sweet potatoes and pecan pie. Everyone slept through Friday because of the food hangover, but Monica and Mallory spent Saturday walking around the winter markets in Bryant Park and Union Square to find some last-minute Hanukkah presents for Monica’s parents and Lee. (Hanukkah is here, folks. Snuck up on you, didn’t it?) It was nice that Monica didn’t have to work during the weekend; usually she’s busy running social media accounts for this boutique marketing company, but she was able to disconnect for the holiday.
As for Lee, he didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, as he’s not really the “come home for the holidays” type. To be honest, Lee’s life always feels on the rocks. He was living for a while in a hole in the wall in North Philly, then he moved into a van and drove around the country for a time, and now he’s back in Philadelphia shacking up with his bandmates. He doesn’t let much slip. It seems like he spent Thanksgiving just smoking weed and hanging out with the band. I’m pretty sure he’s dating one of his bandmates, because in pictures I see of them they’re very close. But he didn’t seem too bent up over not being home for Thanksgiving, and the rest of the Marrows family wasn’t too upset about his absence. They have an understanding.
Robbie and Rebeka Stevenson
Back in the day I was obsessed with this series of books called Ghost Twins which featured two characters named Robbie and Rebeka Zuffel. With apologies to Dian Curtis Regan, I straight up stole – ahem, adopted – these characters for my own stories. Of course they went through plenty of changes over the years, and now they’re their own two people. They’re not ghosts; they’re not even twins. Pretty much just the first names survived the constant executive meddling I had over their lives.
Robbie and Beka spent Thanksgiving with their folks down in Philadelphia. Like the Marrows, the Stevensons aren’t big on the holiday, but they always make sure to spend the weekend together. Robbie had put down some money on the football games and promised that he would get his parents a nice Christmas gift if he won. He somehow broke even, but he still said he’d follow through on his promise. He makes a good enough salary at work; he can afford it.
Meanwhile, Beka had to do a little studying; she’s going for her doctorate in pediatrics. Out of all of the imaginary friends, she is by far the smartest and most focused. It’s almost funny to see how different she is from her brother, who works in sales and acts like he’s a drunk twelve-year-old most of the time. His partner Lexi has the patience of a saint. We’ll get to her in a little bit.
Jimmy and Adrianne Finkle
The Finkle siblings came about as a result of lazy writing. In sixth grade I was writing a comic based on the Megaman video games, and I needed to come up with some characters. So I essentially copied Monica and Lee and changed around some key physical attributes to create Jimmy and Adrianne. Of course, like all the other characters, they’ve evolved to form personalities far removed from the characters on which they’re based. (Also, what’s that, grade school Will? More comics based off of video game franchises? Why am I not surprised?)
Jimmy and Adrianne both spent Thanksgiving with their folks and some family friends at their childhood home in Oxnard. They’re both going through some rough stuff as of late. Jimmy lives in Ithaca, New York and teaches private music lessons, but he and his longtime partner Paul had a big falling out, so he’s actually been out West for a while spending some much-needed time away. I think he’s planning to move to Cali permanently, but we’re all trying to talk him out of it.
Meanwhile, Adrianne is still reeling from what her now ex-husband Joe did last spring. (Spoiler: He was hooking up with one of his bartenders.) It’s really hard for her right now; she’s got two young kids, the divorce proceedings have been messy, and she’s had to work extra hours to make ends meet. Luckily she never moved too far from home, so her parents are giving her a little extra support. And despite Joe being a real piece of shit, his dad seems to be taking Adrianne’s side. No one knows what Adrianne ever saw in Joe, but frankly, we all tried to warn her.
I don’t actually know where Lexi came from. In college I did a lot of character workshopping, so I think she stems from the leftovers. But regardless of that, she’s got a strong personality. Her background is that she came out as trans when she was fourteen, went to go live with Jimmy in Ithaca after high school, and runs a successful youth dance and theatre program in New York nowadays.
Lexi spent Thanksgiving with the Stevensons, rooting for the bulldog to win the dog show and helping Robbie’s mom out in the kitchen while Robbie yelled at football. Considering both of her parents have passed, the Stevenson parents treat Lexi like a second daughter. They didn’t even mind when the Scottish deer hound won Best in Show and Lexi swore so loud it made even Robbie blush.
On Friday night, Lexi and Robbie dragged Beka out of the house, and the three of them hit up some of the local bars to meet old friends. Robbie, of course, ended up getting a little too lit and needed the girls to carry him out to the car. At the time I’m writing this post, he is most likely still hungover.
You already know a little bit about Mallory from earlier on in this post. She came from a NaNoWriMo project back in 2013 which took me two months to finish, and while the project itself is an unhinged mess, Mallory survived and is a permanent part of the crew today. (I go back to that project periodically to see if it is still that bad. Folks, I vomit in my mouth every time.)
I mentioned Mallory spent Thanksgiving Day with her folks, Monica, and Monica’s parents in Staten Island. Mallory has a close relationship with her parents, even though she left home at sixteen to pursue a music career. When that didn’t work out, she tagged along with her dad to learn the ropes of detective work. She couldn’t get behind becoming a part of the NYPD for real, so instead she opened up her own private investigation firm out of an abandoned warehouse near Tompkins Square Park. To most folks’ surprise, the firm became rather successful, and now Mallory runs her business from her house – yes, house – in Prospect Heights. She lives there with Monica and their dog Charlie.
This sounds farfetched until you remember that everything I’ve mentioned in this post is fictional. I’m allowed to take some liberties with the realism, within reason.
Anyway, Mallory hasn’t had many cases as of late, but now that folks have started coming back to the city and things are opening back up, she’s hoping to get back on the horse. Not that it matters, anyway; she makes bank off of each closed case, so just one or two means she and Monica are set for the year.
We’ll check in with these crazy characters time and again on this blog. I haven’t spoken publicly about them to most folks, since it’s a little strange for a grown man to go on record and say, “Hey, how are you? I have imaginary friends.” But at least at this stage of my life I know they’re fictional folks. There was a time back in my teens when it was fairly difficult for me to separate fantasy from reality. Something tells me that’s going to come back to bite me in the ass later on.
We’re gonna call this group the Spiff Hotel Friends. Spiff Hotel is a whole story unto itself that requires its own post. That’s like Inception-level imagination business.