It’s less than an hour until dawn by the time I get home. I’m tired—I’m beyond tired. I’m in that fuzzy place where the mind refuses to shut off even though the brain is already out cold. I should probably go straight to bed, get a few hours’ sleep before facing down my parents.
“Well, well, look at you! No more big ol’ glasses!”
I look down. Mini-Theo is toddling over to where I’m standing. I give him a good, hard look. There’s got to be some trick to his consciousness, some magic to his motion.
“And that bedroom hair!” he continues, stopping, smiling, wrapping his arms around himself and pretending he’s making out with an invisible partner. “Your look is almost complete! All we need is a fish net tank top for you and the mass deflowering of Boca Linda’s eligible junior and senior girls can begin in earnest!”
“Never mind,” I say, frowning, “that I’ve lost my natural eyesight—”
“While gaining at least a pound of pimpness!”
“—and that I have to wear special contacts until I can get my parents to take me to the doctor.”
“You’re too negative! With your new lenses you can see 20/20—without the need for eyeglasses. Say what you will, but that’s way cool.”
I shake my head. “Who are you?”
Mini-Theo stops making out with himself. He blinks up at me. “I’m you, dork. Part of you, anyway.”
“Yeah, but are you real or imaginary?”
“I’m as real as you need me to be.”
That’s not an answer. “Meaning?”
Mini-Theo snorts, rolls his eyes. “Most people develop a voice in their head during adolescence. It’s part of the cognitive development process. You developed a plush doll version of yourself instead. Big deal. You’re not the first. It’s called personification. The application of human-like attributes to an inanimate object.”
“So, I am imagining you?”
“No, not at all. I totally exist. Now, whether I’m a walking, talking miniature or just a dirty sock you’ve personified is up for debate.”
Also up for debate: whether I’ve gone insane or am just majorly sleep-deprived.
Mini-Theo raises his arms; a translucent layer of celestial imagery—galaxies, stars, planets—is superimposed against the backdrop of my bedroom; Dom F. Scab’s “Fear to Void” starts playing. “See, I exist in a state of perceptive flux. Someone else might walk into the room and see you talking to a dirty sock because that’s what they expect to see, that’s what their brain is wired to think is possible. To that person I can only exist as a dirty sock. To you it’s entirely possible that I’m a walking, talking, super-sexy mini-me. Either of you would be correct in his assumption of my existence in a particular state. You’re both seeing the same thing. You’re just perceiving it differently.”
“Then…I’m the only one who can see you as a doll?”
“I prefer the term figure. And to answer your question, it depends on who’s looking and what their perceptive state is like.”
I shake my head, dodge a brilliant sun as it whizzes past. “Real or not, why do I need a plush doll version of myself?”
Mini-Theo darts forward, kicks me ineffectively in the shin. The whirling pyrotechnics go poof! in time with the impact. “Stop thinking of me as a separate entity! I’m your ego, your libido, your competitive edge—I’m you. Us. I help get things done. I prioritize when to be a dick and when not to be. I help us decide who to step on and who not to. When we’re older, I’ll make sure we get laid on our prom night.”
“Thanks,” I say, “but I think I can handle myself just fine without the likes of you.”
Mini-Theo laughs so hard he splits a seam along his neck.
“What’s so funny?”
“Before I came along, all you did was go to school and come home. It was all homework or PHP coding with you. You go to your mom’s gym everyday, but you’ve never been in a fight or arm-wrestled anyone or even walked around the house with your shirt off. You’ve never lived.”
Ignoring the fact that Mini-Theo’s gone back to using the first-person, I sigh and say, “Before you came along I had eyes that worked, I had safety, security, stability—”
“It’s my life, to live how I want—”
“Fail! That’s why your subconscious created me: because it was bored out of its ever-loving mind.”
“—and anyway, there’s something not right about believing in a little doll version of myself. People would think I’m nuts if they knew!”
“You shouldn’t care what people think,” Mini-Theo says. “Not if you sprout a plump, red zit on your nose, and not if you carry around your ego in plush figure form.”
This is ridiculous. It’s almost sunrise and I’m having an argument with a doll. I need to be in my bed right now. I crouch, grabbing Mini-Theo.
“Hey! What are you doing?” he squeals, flailing his little arms and legs like crazy.
“I’m putting you away,” I tell him, and head for the closet. “Then I’m going to sleep for a couple of hours.”
“Oh, I see how it is! Police state! Ignorance is bliss! Sweep the problem under the carpet! Silence the little guy!”
I’m not listening as I toss him inside the closet. I slam the door, back up a step, bump into the TV. It turns on. That old The Twilight Zone episode, “The Passersby,” is on. It’s the scene where they show the wounded soldier’s face. Out of reflex, I reach up to take off my glasses, like I usually do when there’s something on that I don’t like. Of course, I have no glasses. Just my fancy contacts, my crystal-clear, 20/20 vision that allows me to see the poor soldier’s face in all its glory.
I hate this episode.