Two drunks are sitting on the low wall next to Lidl. Skinny legs crossed, beer can in hand, puffy face turned to look at the store-goers and sneer at those better-offs getting our of high-end cars like BMWs and Mercs. People like us. When we come out, they have vanished.
Driving out of the parking lot and turning on to the main road, we see a fragment of a hat, a glimplse of a face, a ray of light reflecting from a beer can. The dudes have migrated to a nook in the little patch of forest on the other side of the road. “That’s one kind of a life, I guess,” I think to myself as I wonder if they have a family somewhere, wishing they were home instead.
A young woman sporting a backpack running down the street in jump shoes. Is she out for a workout or in a hurry to get somewhere? “Would be fun to try out jump shoes sometime,” I note, as another thought enters my mind: my family would not let me put them on, in fear that next they need to call an ambulance.
Middle-aged man in an electric wheelchair in the hardware store with his wife. Wife is browsing the shelves while the man sits helpless in the wheelchair, waiting. Wife finds whatever tool she was looking for and they go through the cash register. “How would that feel? To be bound to a wheelchair, not being able to contribute,” I wonder and recon that it would still be different for me and for my husband. I might take it as a relief from all this *doing*. He might go down in despair.
Three teens sitting in swings in the park, just loitering, being teens. For a fleeting moment I think: “Ah, that freedom of being young! With no care in this world!” Then I remember it’s just an illusion. Teen years are harsh and probably more difficult than anything that comes later. Unless you’re BPD and have a permanently underdeveloped frontal cortex.
The tram starts from the traffic light. It was all predictable, but I fall down on my ass all the same. My balance has failed me, again. It was less than a week since it did it in a bus. I find myself sprawled on the tram floor, in my clunky heels and in my dress. Less than gracefully I gather myself up as fast as I can. People look away demurely. Only two young ladies seem worried as they ask if I’m ok. I decide not to be embarrassed, smile at them and tell them I’m fine. With an aching ankle I step out as we have reached my stop, and hold my head up high as I walk towards my destination.
Stories. We all have our stories and when we see other people out and about, a small fragment of our story is revealed. Most of the time it is puzzling to anyone watching, because the short moment is out of context. Only when you get to know a person, talk to them for some time, do you get to know the outlines of their story. Only when you spend time with them for years on end, might you actually learn their story.
Take a random excerpt from a book. It may intrigue you, it may be meaningless, it may sound completely insane. Read the book flap and it may make sense. Maybe you want to read more and decide to get the book. Maybe it is disinteresting and you will never find out what lies beneath those covers. Obviously, you will never be able to read all books in this universe. Obviously it’s not necessary either.
In her book called “Outline” Rachel Cusk delves into people’s stories in a way that the main character remains practially unknown. All of the characters do, really. It’s all about fragments, pieces of life, that get told. Some stories you can relate to, some not so much. It is an interesting read, but so intense that it felt like overload. Like being trapped in a social situation, forced to listen to people cite their life to you. In the end, I wouldn’t have cared to learn more about any of them. I also decided that I didn’t care to read the rest of the trilogy.
This blog of mine, it too is just fragments. Little bits and pieces of my life, crumbs and morsels of my mind. We all choose what we share with the rest of the world, irl and online. We all construct an official story to show the world and conceal the real one lying beneath. Occasionally the curtain flutters, occasionally you might see through someone else’s curtain. You will still see only a little bit of what’s beyond.
So be kind, do not judge. For you don’t know the whole story. You don’t know what the smile covers up.