I’m driving from the museum and there’s this guy standing on the median. young, with a beard and floppy longish brown hair. and a sign. he’s holding a piece of cardboard that says something like, $1 for a burger. there’s nothing unusual about this; I see a lot of people like him driving to and from work in the city. but he’s probably not much older than me. and he could be anybody. he could be somebody I know. or could have known. and he’s probably got something to be sad about too.
something inside me constricts, and before I know it a crinkled piece of green moves from my hand to his through the window. his hair is a little greasy and his nails a tad bit too long and his thank-you sounds sincere. I want to ask his name, feel a need to know it, but don’t or can’t, I’m not sure which, the desire gets stuck halfway up before it has the chance to turn into words. and the light changes and the car moves and all of a sudden I’m crying and I don’t know why. that in itself is not unusual for me. but often it has nothing to do with other people. usually it’s about the pain I keep bottled up inside and buried where it’s the hardest for me to see it until my body says that’s it. and this moment is about that. and it isn’t.
usually, pain isolates. at least, that’s what it does to me. it wraps me in an atmosphere of alone and helplessness and misunderstanding and I can’t–or won’t–reach through and no one else can, or I won’t let them. but I’m either a nonfunctioning rain puddle on a gray day or a vibrating mess of scribbles on a forgotten sticky note or a hard, hard shell of armor that’s as brittle and unfeeling as a bone found in the woods in last year’s leaves. but no matter what it feels like, my pain isolates. because it’s somehow too much to deal with and so my heart kicks into emergency protocol–stop feeling for other people. better yet, don’t feel at all.
that’s just how it is.
but I’m becoming aware that perhaps there exists these other moments. ones where, instead of drawing me inward, folding me into myself, pain suddenly flips my insides out, throwing off my plodding mental equilibrium, and all of a sudden it is the opposite–
I’m feeling for the whole world.
the whole beautiful, terrible world.
and it’s saying, everything hurts.
but then after a blinding second everything collapses down again and I am just left with myself, my own world, my own missing, my own hole that I can’t seem to fill, and I wonder, maybe I just imagined it. maybe I just wanted to feel connected to something other than myself again. because in the end, myself is simply not enough.