Sanity: A Matter of Perception

It was a perfect June day! As I sat, alone, on the bench outside my husband’s office building, the sun warmed my shoulders, and a gentle breeze wafted through my hair. I waited for my lunch date with my husband and enjoyed my favorite past-time of ‘people-watching.

A well groomed, soft spoken young man approached me and asked if he could share the bench with me. Of course, I said yes and went back to watching the pedestrians as they passed by. However, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the young man sat closer to the middle of the bench, leaving quite a space at the opposite end. Then he leaned over and mumbled something to the empty space.

I was not alarmed at all, as I realized this fellow might (only might) have a ‘problem’. After all, everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter what, I thought. I felt so peaceful and knew that this man meant me no harm.

Suddenly, the young man said in a loud voice, “George, you should thank this nice lady for allowing us to sit here”. “This is my friend, George,” He turned to address me directly.

No judgment call from me … after all I’d had three imaginary friends as a child…with the most unlikely names of Henny Penny, Barley, and Taski. There were as real to me as any of my relatives. My entertaining these thoughts gave George enough time to thank me.

“It’s nice to meet you, George”, I said. “And you’re welcome”, I responded as I leaned over to address the empty space. I thought that shaking hands would be out of the question.

A few moments passed. The young man turned to me and asked earnestly, “Tell me, Ma’am, can you see George?”

As I was quite unwilling to fall down someone else’s ‘rabbit-hole’, I answered truthfully. “No, I can’t see him, but you can, and that’s all that matters.” I smiled my best understanding smile, and broke eye contact.

Another few moments of silence. Suddenly that young man leaped from the bench, turned to the empty space and firmly announced, “C’mon, George. Let’s get out of here. She’s crazy!” He abruptly stomped off, without so much as a backward glance.

There is a p.s. to this tale. When my husband finally came to meet me, he found me alone on the bench, doubled over with tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks. Between snorts, gasps, and giggles I tried to explain what had just transpired.

The look on my husband’s face was one of first, horror, then anger. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to talk to strangers?”, he snarled. And the fact that he totally missed the punch-line of my story set me off into another fit of uncontrollable laughter.

In fact, I am laughing again as I write this.

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