The Stranger Side of Fantasy

by Tess Adair



Everybody has fantasies. Every range of fantasy exists--some fantasies are purely sexual, and some aren’t sexual at all. Whenever you idly wonder what you might do when the zombies come and end up outright mapping your escape over mountainous terrain with a backpack full of canned goods--that’s a form of fantasy. (Yes, everybody does it. Everybody has a zombie escape plan. Yours is not special and you will not survive.)


Every once in awhile, I come face-to-face with some kind of proof that not everyone’s fantasies are as elaborate, involved, or numerous as mine are. I have a few that are more mundane--I fantasize about the first time I’ll do a real, full pull up on my own. I fantasize about getting a move in pole that feels beyond my reach, and I fantasize about setting pole routines to various songs I like (using power moves I cannot do.) I fantasize about quitting my job. You should all take it as a given that I have fantasies about being a Starship Captain with the Federation. Fantasies where I get my Hogwarts letter. Fantasies where I makeout with someone and accidentally kill them with my newfound mutant power (which for some reason skipped the first, idk, 20 or so people I’ve made out with and just went for this one.)


I have other fantasies too, of course. Fantasies involving Ian Somerhalder, or his character Damon Salvatore, or some alternate universe where both exist and I meet them at the same time. (ELABORATE.)


Maybe other people grow out of their fantasies after school. I didn’t, and I don’t really see myself ever growing out of them. Maybe I have an overactive imagination. Maybe it’s just a side-effect of spending most of my free time making up stories.


I don’t know why I have so many and I don’t know if it’s normal, and I don’t care. I actually think it’s my healthiest idiosyncrasy. Escaping into a fantasy allows me to live and breathe in this sphere of endless hope and possibility that I don’t find useful in everyday life. Not to get too Rust Cohle or anything, but while I would call myself a realist, in philosophical terms, one would call me a pessimist. I have a tendency to go through life braced for the worst possible outcome in any given situation--because, honestly, that’s what past experience has taught me to do.


See, I actually have a lot of recurring fantasies that involve surviving extreme conditions of some kind. Sometimes the fantasy is about trying to find a temporary safe haven in the apocalypse; sometimes it’s about setting up a tent on a snowy pass in the middle of an ice storm. Oddly enough, these are often the fantasies I’ll employ when I’m having trouble going to sleep--they help, somehow, to lull me there.


I’m not totally sure what it is, but it happens more often when I’m stressed out about anything. I think a small part of it is the simple comfort of knowing that this weird terrible fantasy I’ve cooked up is far worse than my reality--my reality is my own mattress and sheets and and the walls of my apartment. However stressed out I am in that moment, thinking about some far removed adventure place helps to ground me in the fact that, at the end of the day, I am safe, I am fed, I am housed. I am lucky.


But I think there’s also some promise in the fantasy itself--in the fantasy, I’m always doing something to ensure my safety. The aesthetics of the fantasy is threat, but the core of the fantasy is comfort. It’s the warm fire in the middle of the snow storm. The high ground above the zombie hordes.


In a way, I’m fantasizing about the fantasies themselves. My fantasies are the safe space I can make for myself whenever everything feels out of hand. No matter what else is happening, I can always close my eyes and disappear into some far corner of my mind, where I’m perfectly safe. It’s like an extra convoluted form of meditation.


I’ve had someone tell me that they didn’t have any fantasies. It’s hard to imagine that anyone else’s brain works differently from your own, so my first impulse is to pity them. How do you entertain yourself without fantasy? How do you learn about yourself? Perhaps other people don’t learn about themselves through experimentation, but I do. And fantasy is the safest kind of experimentation--and, really, the only kind you can do by yourself. Which means it’s the closest you can get to experimenting in a vacuum.


Of course, sometimes I wonder if I take it too far. At what point do I get lost in a fantasy? At what point is its continuation a detriment? Fantasy can get too personal--after all, if you fantasize as often as I do, you will inevitably fantasize, ever so obliquely, about someone you know. What happens if you fantasize about someone...and you enjoy it enough to do it again? When does fantasy turn into feeling? Can you accidentally talk yourself into falling for someone? Or do your fantasies only reveal what was there all along?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s been a very stressful week. And I’m thinking a lot about mountain climbing.