You know who I am talking about. Those people. The people in public. Waiting for the metro. Pressed against your shoulder blade in the elevator. Standing behind you in line at the grocery store. Those people who talk. You don’t realize it until it has happened and suddenly they’re having a full blown conversation not with you, but at you. You stand there, politely, because you’re taken by surprise and you’re not quick enough to figure out an escape plan. It’s not the right time of day for this, you think. You’re sweaty from your walk to wherever you’re going and you’d rather no one acknowledge that you look like this, you think. You’re running errands in peace, running through the day ahead of you in your mind, until you can’t ignore that someone else desperately needs you to acknowledge that they exist.
And they talk like they know you. Or maybe it’s that they talk like they want to know you. But actually it’s more like they want you to want to know them. To validate them. To let them know that their problems are your problems too. That we’re all in this world together and it’s going to be okay. Together we will make it through. Their eyes plead for you to utter words of acceptance. They want you to hug them with your words. Probably they wouldn’t mind if you reached out and hugged them too. Because now you’re best friends. And you’d go to coffee right this very second so you can continue to share in this human experience together but you’re in the middle of going to work and they’re in the middle of… Do they work? you wonder. No, probably not. Or maybe they do and it’s in a place with lollipops and rainbows and no clocks to alert their bosses that they’re late. You’re late. You look at them again and think, yes, that must be it because it is 7:45 in the morning and no one can talk with this much enthusiasm unless they’ve had too much sugar and cheer in their life. Right? People aren’t like this, right? It’s just those people, right?
And then as you depart–because finally, finally it is time to go your separate ways–you are left to wonder whether it is not those people but instead you, a lonely shell of a person, unable to connect with the strangers around you, those people who have stories to tell and experiences to share and you, you’re too self-important to share with them.