I’m not crazy.
I’ve been examined by every psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, and counselor on the Eastern Seaboard since my parents split up – or at least it feels that way – and every single one of them has declared me sane. Usually I got diagnosed with ADD, occasionally depression; generally it was just an unusually vivid imagination.
So I know I’m totally sane.
Which means that the guy at the corner table sculpting a cannon in his mashed potatoes actually has a tiger sitting across from him, leaning over to add details with a careful claw.
And if the guy at the corner table actually does have a tiger sitting across from him, there’s only one thing to do.
I go over.
Of course I do, because what else could I possibly do?
If he has a tiger, then it might not just be my unusually vivid imagination. If he has a tiger, maybe he can show me how to get back.
He looks up at me, eyes narrowing slightly in suspicion. “Hi,” I say. “Can I sit here?”
“Who sent you?”
I look around at the crowded cafeteria. No one’s paying the slightest bit of attention to us. Not that I expected them to; one of the things I really like about college is the ability to disappear. After spending most of my school career being scrutinized by everyone, all the time, I was perfectly happy to fade into the woodwork. Most of the time. “I just saw you and –“ the tiger, say it, say ‘the tiger’ – “you had an empty seat. So I thought….” I trail off, spreading my hands.
He shrugs. “Free country, I guess.”
Finally I ask, “What’s your tiger’s name?”
The tiger looks surprised. The boy looks even more surprised. “Wait, you – can see him?”
“He’s a tiger. Carving shapes in your mashed potatoes. Of course I can see him.”
They give me genuine grins, similarly toothy. “I’m Calvin, and this is Hobbes.”
“Hi. I’m Max.”