First human-imaginary friend couple breaks up – now he’s really, really alone!

Eli Hormel is sitting at the dining room table in his tiny raised ranch in the south end of Green Lake. He’s unshaven, wears a ratty “Yankees Suck” t-shirt and looks like he hasn’t slept well in a while. He’s eating a family size bag of “Fritos” snack chips and drinking sun tea. He looks up at the ceiling, sighs, and spills his tea all over the Fritos bag. “I’m not myself these days,” he says, with a touch of the obvious in the air. He leans his chair back, not realizing some of the tea has congealed on the floor, and the chair slips, sending him flying.

Things are hard for Eli, now that Carla’s gone. Now that he’s alone. Of course, he was alone then, too. Carla may have been the love of Eli’s life, but she was also his imaginary friend.

Thousands of Green Lakers have had imaginary friendships, but Eli and Carla were the town’s first case of an imaginary friendship that blossomed into romance. “They were so playful together,” says Maggie McDormand, a close friend of the former couple. “Eli would buy her flowers every Tuesday, and Carla would wear them in her hair, or at least Eli said she would, I couldn’t see her myself. But from what Eli said, she seemed nice.”

Carla came into Eli’s life when he was a nervous, socially inept ten-year old. “She was walking down my block one day after school and asked if I wanted to climb the big tree across the street and jump headfirst into the street,” Eli recalls. “It sounded fun, and once the bleeding stopped I’d found a real friend.” As they grew, so did Eli’s feelings for his formless friend, and he was ecstatic when she said she felt the same way about him.

They moved in together a year later, but cracks were already showing in their seemingly perfect relationship. “I thought everything was fine at the time,” Eli explains, “but looking back I can see the signs that we were drifting apart… she wouldn’t speak to me for days, or listen to anything I had to say. And our sex life was nonexistent. I was hoping it was just a phase, that things would get better, but then…” he trails off, sniffling and scarfing down more Fritos.

Other real people in life say they’re worried about Eli in the wake of his loss. “He’s upset about what?” says softball teammate A.J. Utterwing. “Dude, get a dog or something.” Maxine Hormel, Eli’s sister, says “the family knew Eli’s relationship wasn’t working out, but we figured it was because he’s kind of a dork. Now we know it’s cause his chick wasn’t real.”

The lack of two-way communication, paired with the strain of being from two very different worlds, may have been a factor in Eli and Carla’s breakup. “It’s hard to keep love going when one partner is doing all of the work,” says relationship expert Sylvia Hornung, “but it’s even harder when you have a mixed relationship like this one. The stress of dating an imaginary woman is tremendous, and very goofy. I hope Eli learns from this experience, in case he ever meets a real girl.”

But Eli says it’s still too soon to think about the future. “Someday I’ll be able to look back on my time with Carla and smile,” he says. “And someday, I might even be able to eat Fritos without spilling my sun tea.” But he inadvertently smacks his funny bone against the surface of the table as he speaks. “Well, maybe one step at a time.”

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