There is an unseen world all around us. Most people pass through it, like fog.
Then, there are others, like me, and instead of fog, it's a tangled web of invisible wire.
I've tried running from it, tried pretending, tried hiding. But the one thing I know, the one certainty in my life is this: you can't run from who you are.
There will always be something, or someone to drag you right back. You'll always end up facing yourself no matter how far you run.
No matter how far you run, you're only fighting yourself.
I wish I didn’t know that. I think of writing this, and I think of the disbelief of someone else finding it and reading it. Maybe shaking their head, maybe rolling their eyes in disgust, and I envy them, I envy them in their disbelief.
From what I’ve pieced together, there is a long history of that sort of thing in my family. It was the great unseen. That which never was spoken of.
There was the way my dad and my grandpa could speak to each other, without saying a word. The way they’d talk about me, sometimes thinking I was already
They’d talk in whispers about this thing called ‘it.’ About whether or not I had it.
They’d discuss it late into the night.
I remember laying in bed, trying to figure it out, trying to understand.
Whatever ‘it’ was, I didn’t have it.
I’d puzzle it out during class, or recess, or anytime I had a spare moment to think. It was always there, waiting for me to turn it over in my mind, trying to make those puzzle pieces fit into a pattern that I understood.
On my last day of fourth grade, I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the recess bell to ring, once again turning it over in my mind. Trying to give it a name, so it was manageable.
The bell ringing startled me out my thoughts, and I started walking behind a fifth grader, noticing the contented humming of bees, the smell of honeysuckle, the drowsy warmth from the sun.
I watched her walk up the steps in front of me, and this dread, this terror seized me.
It felt like my throat was full of hot, packed glue. I tried to yell at her, I reached forward to grab the back of her shirt, but I was frozen in that spot.
The heat, the smell of flowers, it was too much. Every one of my senses was in the red. I knew what was going to happen, could feel it in every part of my body. Worse yet, I couldn’t do anything, all I could do was watch.
As soon as she reached for the door, someone else slammed it open. Her hand met the thick, tempered glass with a sickening crack. Time slowed down to the point of insanity, and I could see the drops of blood as they fell from her arm.
Time surged forward again, and slapped me back into reality. I remember my knees just folding and spilling me to the grass. I sat there, trying to breathe, trying not to throw up.
That was the day I found out what ‘it’ was.
You’d think something like that would be a gift. Who wouldn’t want to know things like that?
Me. I don’t like knowing things like that.
The upside of it is knowing when your friends or family are upset, and knowing what to say or do. Knowing exactly what they need. Knowing what they need to hear, and being able to say it. Those are the good days.
But the bad days, so many of them, so many thoughts invading the privacy of your mind. Most people know what it’s like to be alone with their thoughts. Imagine someone else’s thoughts, or panic or anguish invading your head. It feels like an ice pick lodged in tender flesh. It’s intrusive, and it burns. The more intense the emotion, the more intense the pain it brings.
You get used to it. But you never get completely comfortable with it.
It’s having something inside you that you can’t share with anyone else. You try telling someone “so, I can hear your thoughts.” Because most people don’t believe you. That’s okay. The ones who actually do, are even worse. It makes you a bad person, prying into something, being something you don’t want to be. And the worst thing is the look in their eyes. Like you chose this for yourself.
The worst part is knowing things, and knowing you can’t change them.
The first couple of times, I went through stages of grief and denial. Played accuse-a-palooza. Blamed who I was for what I couldn't change.
Now, I change what's in my power to change, and what I can't change, I think of on sleepless nights when there's nothing but the tick of the clock. Those nights when there's no such thing as minutes or hours, those nights when there's no time, only darkness.
The janitor, the one who has a smile for everyone, is going to fall down the stairs and break his neck. He'll lay there, the last few seconds of his life draining away, and his last thoughts will be of the daughter he never sees.
The girl I work with, three desks down, is planning to kill herself tonight. We’re not friends, we’re not even close, but I’ve tried to talk her into going out and having a few drinks. I’ve tried to do everything I can to distract her, but the thoughts in her head are getting louder and louder and I can’t drown them out anymore. She’s aching inside, her heart feels like someone poured gasoline over it and set the entire mess alight. My hands are shaking at how much she hurts.
There’s the woman who rides the same elevator I do everyday. She doesn’t know that today is her last day here. When she goes home tonight, she’s going to die. Aneurysm. I told her she looked beautiful this morning. Her eyes lit up like I was the best person in the world. I should've told her that everyday, just for the look in her eyes.
Days like today, I want to jump out of a plane with no parachute.
Instead of lunch today, I have errands.
The janitor first. I meet him on the staircase, just as he slips. I get a taste of his elbow in my side, as he falls into me. He's still thinking of that daughter he never sees, the one he abandoned; she's never far from his thoughts.
He thanks me when I keep him from falling, and I nod at him and go on.
Two phonecalls later, and I've ordered flowers for suicidal girl (The card is what will make her change her mind, I'm sure of it) and for the lady who's going to die.
I know flowers won't make up for the fact that there's nothing I can do, but I want her last day to have some distinction. I want to do something for her, as if that will make up for her forever nap.
Passing people on the street gives me a headache. It’s picking up the minor things that ride on the top of everyone’s subconscious. It’s like having a hundred radios tuned into the static, so loud, it drowns everything out. And no matter what I do, I can’t run away from it.
It’s like a fire, it rages and raves, and nothing can put it out. I walk past people and their lives just seep into me.
I used to want to save them all, and I ran myself ragged the first couple of years, just trying to do that.
And then I met him.
I was walking in the park, at night, the only time I can get away from things completely. I saw a man on the opposite side of the sidewalk, walking north to my south. As I passed him, I braced myself for the normal onslaught of thought bleed.
As soon as we passed, nothing.
Uncomfortable, church quiet.
When I turned to look at him, he was looking back at me.
“You can see me?” I nodded to him, slowly.
He ran back to where I was standing, and that awkward silence descended. I couldn’t hear anything he was thinking. Nothing.