A note before we begin:
(quoted from Bill Watterson, the man himself)
The so-called "gimmick" of my strip- the two versions of Hobbes- is sometimes misunderstood. I don't think of Hobbes as a doll that miraculously comes to life when Calvin's around. Neither do I think of Hobbes as the product of Calvin's imagination. The nature of Hobbe's reality doesn't interest me, and each story goes out of its way to avoid resolving the issue. Calvin sees Hobbes one way, and everyone else sees Hobbes another way. I show two versions of reality, and each makes complete sense to the participant who sees it. I think that's how life works. None of us sees the world in exactly the same way, and I just draw that literally in the strip. Hobbes is more about the subjective nature of reality than about dolls coming to life.
So the reason for keeping Hobbes how he is, is to stay true to the spirit of the strip.
. . . . .
. . . . .
It was Susie.
It had to be. She walked up the steps and every male head in a fifty yard radius turned, even if they didn't know why. She was generating that weird kind of energy that girls do, but only thegirls, and her dark, honey brown hair kept flipping around behind her and catching the light. Hypnotic, some might say.
That's how I knew it was her. She kind of looked the same as she had in middle school, with the exception of some deity-crafted curves that most definitely hadn't been on her thirteen-year-old frame, and her face was more mature, more womanly.But that wasn't what gave it away for me. I knew it was her because of the way she caught everyone's attention. Every eye was always on Susie Derkins. Every beaming teacher, every drooling boy, every jealously worshipping girl.
Even I had fallen prey, I could admit it now. I served her with a different sort of attention than everyone else by insulting and tormenting her; ie: regaling her with my latest mind-boggling discovery, growing to great lengths to gross her out, or constantly insisting that my ever-poorer grade was more notable than her never-faltering A+. But it was attention, nonetheless. In all actuality, I was probably the worst offender. I didn't have a lot of other friends at school, so most of my social-energy had been directed toward her.
I now considered myself cured and it was why, seven years later as I started my senior year of college at NYU, I could defy the laws of universal gravity and turned deliberately in the other direction, facing away from her and shoving my nose in my worn copy of War and Peace.
She walked right past me and I lowered the book just enough to peer at her retreating form over the pages. Even though I tried to tell myself that I shouldn't be, I was a little curious (and not just about the newly developed sway of her hips). The two of us had parted ways in high school, since she had gone to an all-girl private school, but I remembered my mom saying something about her getting accepted into Harvard. Transferring to NYU from an exclusive ivy league school didn't make any sense, if that was even why she was here.
She disappeared into the sea of students and I pushed all thoughts of her from my head like toothpaste squeezed from a tube.
. . . . .
"Cute Susie?" Hobbes didn't even look up from my old comic book, slurping loudly from the drink in his hand sorry, paw.
"No," I replied with a grimace. "Those two words can't coincide without creating an oxymoron. But lest we forgot, you always did seem to cozy right up Hey!"I slammed the fridge door shut and turned, glaring. "Is that mymilkshake from the diner?"
"Oh yes it is," I snarled. "I was looking forward to that all day." I was too lazy to fight him for it, though, so I settled on a column of stale Ritz crackers instead. I plopped next to him on the couch and shoved about six of them in my mouth. "I can't believe how much food you go through," I muttered, but it came out sounding like, "Ahcuhnt bfff 'ow misssh oo-oo- o cssshtooo," crumbs spewing over my lips.
He ignored me, lost in blissful technicolor action, but the amount of food that "I" consumed was honestly becoming an issue with my roommates. Not that they cared, it was my money after all, but I think they were starting to believe I had some type of parasite or OCD disorder, considering I ate double the amount of a normal person, but stayed thin; or the fact that at least one third of all my groceries were fish-based. It was a good thing tuna was so cheap.
I'd realized long ago that people didn't see Hobbes the way I did. But it wasn't until around six grade that I realized I might actually be crazy.
Dozens of psychologists told my parents that imaginary friends were something kids grew out of. I didn't—and what had once been a childhood quirk became something that brought a touch of fear to my mother's eyes when she watched me conversing with someone who, in her perspective, was made of stitched cloth and stuffing.
God knows I loved Hobbes. But I didn't want to be crazy. I took him to the woods and my scrawny, twelve year old self told him to leave me the hell alone—to get away from me and never come back. In response, he reached back a paw and slashed my tear-stained cheek.
Now twenty two, I still had the faint lines on my face, scars reminding me of my version of reality.
If my mom hadn't thought I was insane before, she was sure of it when she found me in front of the mirror, laughing with joy as my face poured blood. As she drove me to the hospital and the doctors bandaged my face, I understood that my wound was real to me, to my mom, to the doctors, and to Hobbes. But the explanation was an unmapped plane, not entirely possible, and yet perfectly imaginable.
It wasn't explainable, but I tried to explain it. I spent most of my teen years conducting experiments to prove that A) Hobbes was imaginary, B) I was totally off my rocker, or (something that I hadn't thought to include at all at first) C) something special was going on and knowing why might not be important just yet.
All things considered, I thought Hobbes and I had taken life in stride, and I'd turned out to be a semi-functional adult. I was a psychology/philosophy double-major and I planned on doing my masters thesis on imaginary friends.
"Why is Susie Derkins at NYU?" I asked after I swallowed. "It's not the usual place the first woman president gets her degree."
"Are you going to call her?"
"Of course not!" I snapped. "She doesn't even know we're on the same planet anymore, let alone the same campus. Besides, I don't know her phone number anyway. Not that I would call her if I did."
Hobbes shrugged. He muttered something to himself that I couldn't really hear, but I thought I caught the faint melody of K-I-S-S-I-N-G…
Before I could make good use of the throw pillow next to me, I suddenly remembered Chemistry class and jerked my wrist up, blanching as I caught sight of my watch. "Great! I'm late."
I jumped up and grabbed my backpack, swinging it over my shoulder. "Don't eat my ding-dongs!" I warned as I flew out the door.
. . . . .
Chemistry was boring. Really, it was just glorified math. And math and I, we'd never gotten along very well. Also, the room was stuffed with freshman and budding science majors. I needed chemistry as one of the base points of my major, but . . . due to lack of interest, I'd failed it twice already. This was my third and final shot.
I doodled in my notebook as the teacher droned on, when suddenly and unexpectedly, the blessed word 'lab' left his lips.
I perked up, straightening in my seat a little. I hated chemistry, but I loved explosives. Naturally, the only thing I'd ever learned in any science class is how to best make things blow up. In fact, when it came to bombs, bangs and lethal detonations, I was quite the expert. Who cared if we were only trying to make some kind of liquid turn a different color? I knew how to make it explode.
I was almost getting kind of excited when the teacher then said one of the cursed words, and although similar to the blessed word, they were not to be confused. Lab partner.
I sulked, glaring around the room, wondering which yuppie I was going to get stuck with.
And then, shewalked in.
"I'm so sorry," she apologized (of course) to the professor, her cheeks flushed red. "I got a little lost trying to find this place…" And she said it so adorably humble and embarrassed that the professor instantly melted.
"That's all right," Mr. Berkenstien (yeah, that was really his name) replied. "Class—this is my new TA, Susan Derkins.
"Hello," Susie said, all ambassador-of-the-world like. "I just transferred here from Harvard Law."
"Come in, Ms. Derkins. We're doing a lab today, please take a seat. I was just about to assign partners."
"Perfect." Susie rolled up the sleeves of her cardigan and smiled too-charmingly at the students. "Labs are the best."
I felt—literally, like it was a tangible substance—as the inevitable liking-of-Susie-Derkins infected the class.
Mr. Berkenstien cleared his throat. "Avery Anderson? You're with Christine Tanner. Benjamin Frank? You're with Kishma Ash." And so, it went, until after several names had been read. I was wondering how Susie's face would look when the professor read my name. Surely she'd recognize me. She'd be surprised, no doubt, that I'd even made it this far in college. So, I waited, and Mr. Berkenstien went through every name until everyone had a partner.
I sat there, in my stupefied silence, as everyone stood, separating into pairs, and then walked into the next room which held the lab equipment. Namely, the burners and toxic chemicals. We were the last two people in the room and Mr. Berkenstien was arranging papers on his desk, when I spoke:
"Um, Professor? You forgot to give me a partner."
He didn't even look up, cleaning his glasses on his lab coat. "I forgot nothing, Calvin." He looked at me, carefully placing his glasses back on his nose. "You are, as you may recall, banned from the chemical lab. In order to receive credit for this lab, you will observe, and do nothing else,with another couple and then write a two page—"
"A two page paper accurately describing the chemical reactions, due next class period."
My jaw flexed with the effort of holding back the (witty and devastating) reply that would only make my situation worse. "As you wish," I ground out, turning and stalking into the lab room.
I entered the lab and saw Susie bent near a kid named Daniel Jenkins and his partner. Her finger trailed along the edge of a beaker, probably explaining basic counting skills to him, but he didn't pay attention, focused instead on the line of her blouse—even modestly high cut as it was.
I could intrude upon the dashing Mr. Jenkins and his consort, and then wouldn't Susie be surprised. But I wasn't going to break my 'defying the laws of universal gravity' streak now. Besides, I had just spotted the perfect pair. A shy English major girl and a too-cool-for-school goth kid. Perfect for manipulating and molding.
"Hi," I greeted, plopping into the seat next to them. They both, predictably, stared at me without a word. "Mr. Berkenstien assigned me to observe," I continued, undeterred.
And so I urged and encouraged, maybe switched a vial with another vial, told Mr. Black Soul to go ahead and get lost in his screaming (music to him, I supposed). It gave me an undeniable satisfaction to watch the room fill with green smoke and a horrible smell. I inhaled a lungful, smiling blissfully, while next to me students were shrieking and covering their noses.
"Calvin!" the professor screeched. "I don't know how, but I know you're behind this!"