Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Did You Think About Today?

Who are you thinking about? A friend? A family member? A crush? A spouse? A stranger you met on the street? A party? A person you haven't seen in months? Years? Perhaps someone who hurt you? Or someone you hurt?

I have a huge fear. That no one will like me. That no one will talk to me ever again. No one will remember me. I always wonder if someone is thinking about me this moment. Or at the very least, if someone thought about me once by the time I'm in bed. Staring towards the white wall, but really, staring at complete darkness. The kind of darkness where it makes no difference whether your eyes are opened or closed. You can't even tell really.

But then I wonder, who have I thought about today? And it surprises me that I think about a lot of random people every day. Today, I thought about an old man who randomly talked to me on the street. My dog barked at him and he was startled. He told me he was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye. He couldn't tell where sounds were coming from, so my dog made him jump. He would turn around rapidly every time he heard my dog. He said, "A dog bit me on the face one day when I tried to pet him. The owner told me he didn't bite. I got eight stitches." He pointed at his face and stared at me with his good eye, bending down slightly because he was very tall. "So keep your dog away from me," he said. He looked odd to me. But I saw him walk away and that was that. This was five months ago. And here I am thinking about him. So if that man is ever worried about someone not thinking about him, then he shouldn't, because I just thought about him.

I felt terrible when a girl I had a crush on didn't talk to me. Her and I were friends and she talked to me less and less. When one day I told her, "Why don't you talk to me anymore?" And my heart sank when she told me, "I don't know, people change." We began texting one day and soon, she didn't reply to my last message. Random thoughts came in uninvited. That's how I am. I played in my head different scenarios of why maybe she didn't reply. I felt like a mystery fiction writer. The writer of Sherlock Holmes. Thinking about it now, I'm ashamed to even mention it. But at the moment, it always feels like a good idea. And being the distraught, weak person that I was, I texted her again. I thought I was being forgotten. I thought she didn't care enough to even say bye. The dark wall came back that night.

A good friend I had when I was a child moved away to Arkansas about ten years ago. I still think about the things we did together. Especially the time he punched me and left a huge bump on my forehead. But I wonder if he ever thinks about them as well. I can't even remember his last name. I think about many people every day, I just wish the thoughts were reciprocated. 

But if someone as random as the old man with the stitches on his face can get people to think about him months later, then maybe we're all being thought about. By someone. Maybe the least we'd expect. I think about people I never even talked to. People who probably have no idea I exist. I always think, maybe I'm the only one who does this, but that can't be true.

It's nice to be remembered. Whoever you're thinking about right now, say hello to them if you can. You never know what new beginnings sprout from the seed of a hello. And once you do, they'll remember you as well. They'll remember you because you were the mirror who reflected their face into your thoughts. Even though time tried to dull and scratch the mirror. But a real friend's connection is like Windex. 

They'll remember you when you're down on your luck and sitting in an alley with alcohol in a brown bag, deep in the darkest alley.

Then maybe, the mirror will be as shiny as a gem that brightens up the whole room. Even as you sleep and stare into the darkness. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Am Always Late

No matter how hard I try to stop myself, I am always late.

When my friends call to pick me up I say, "I'm not home, I'll be home in 30 minutes." But really, I just haven't showered yet. You might say, well at least he's going to use those 30 minutes to get ready. Wrong. I sit and do nothing for about 20. Nothing. Well, you know, the things people do when they say they're doing nothing. Watch T.V., check my email, things like that. Then I realize, "Oh shit, they're going to be here in 10 minutes." Then my friends have to wait outside for another 5 or 10 minutes. I'm totally a bad friend. And what's worse, they don't know I did nothing for 20 minutes. They think I just got home. Now you all know. Sorry.

I would be 10 minutes late for school every single day. And it was no accident. I planned my day that way. I timed exactly how long it took me to get to school and into my classroom so that I could have more sleep. What's 10 minutes? Nothing interesting happens in the first 10 minutes anyway. The lone, quiet walk to my desk was shameful. Everyone always stared at me. I was a frightening monster with bad skin to them. Or maybe they noticed a zit on my forehead. I don't know. As if they've never seen a late person in their lives before. This is the most attention I've gotten in my life. And in the winter, my shoes would squeak from stepping in the wet snow. It's such an annoying squeak. Announcing my presence. My shame to the whole school.

I sent in a college application once to some school in another state. I didn't really want to go there, but I sent it in just in case. The deadline was tomorrow. Weeks later I got a letter from them. They said, nope, sorry, you were too late. Well damn. 

I feel bad every time I'm late. I hate it. It makes me feel lazy. It makes me feel like I don't care. It makes me feel like people will think that I don't care. 

But I see it every day. Everyone is rushing to get somewhere on time. I was walking in downtown Chicago one day. I was meeting a friend for Chinese food when I saw a man with a suit holding a Starbucks coffee, walking really fast towards me. I don't know why, but I decided to say hello as we got closer. He looked at me and kept walking. In my mind I thought, screw you then. But he was just in a hurry. Probably late to get to his office. Worried his boss will yell at him because on top of being late, he forgot the donuts. Who forgets the donuts.

Life is a rush. It's a slave to time. It's filled with people trying to get somewhere. And once they get there, they're trying to get somewhere else. It never stops. It's a connect the dots puzzle of people trying to get from A to B. And from B to C and so on. Trying to form the bigger picture before it's too late. Nobody wants to miss the bigger picture right? What is that anyway.

When I was 8, I walked outside my house and walked around by myself. I saw some friends, played some cards with them, and saw strangers walk by me on a main street. 26th street. Some older kid was hiding cards around his backyard and we had to find them to keep. Like a scavenger hunt. I had lost track of time. I looked up at the sky and the sun was almost gone. The sky was purple. Not quite black yet. I was all muddy and had gotten a hole on the knee of my pants. I remembered I had fallen. I walked back home and was surprised my parents weren't mad. I lied down on the couch and emptied my pockets. A bunch of folded, useless cards I had found on a gutter I had climbed to get. I didn't even look at the time. It felt like I was gone for days. It was the best day of my life probably. I fell asleep on the couch, didn't even shower or change clothes.

I woke up to this. Years later. Every day is a speedy blur now. It's the middle of September already when I clearly remember being shocked when it was July first. I find myself trying to keep from being late everyday. I think, if I'm late, someone will beat me to that promotion, that job, that opportunity. Just like at school when we were kids. The teacher would hand out crossword puzzles to the class to do for fun. And I furiously and meticulously scanned the page to beat everyone. Show everyone how good I was. How fast. Early I was. What a terrible way to live.

Today, I'm just going to be late for everything. I want to go back downtown and say hello to all the late people. Because even  though they wont answer me, I'll know what they're thinking. You and I know. Because sometimes, if you're in a hurry, you might miss a new letter while you were heading for B. One you've never even heard of. And oh, what a beautiful letter.


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