The only time I ever hear my roommate is when she’s laughing. That loud, full-bodied laugh that makes my lips turn of their sides no matter how I’m feeling that day. When I’m outside smoking a cigarette the woman across the street comes over to talk to me. I lock myself out of my house and go sit on the porch with my upstairs neighbor and talk until Sevnaz comes back to let me in. I never miss living downtown. Never miss people with blinders on who don’t notice they share the world with people around them. That we all have rich, vibrant lives full of heartbreak and lost loves and beauty and resilience. I do not miss being surrounded by people who are always seeming to forget or ignore that.
Finally in a neighborhood that feels like home. Finally home.
Sunday morning I stood waiting for the elevator. How funny. Waiting for an elevator to go down seven floors, so that I can go run three miles. “People are so weird,” I said aloud. Then realized I was talking to myself at 5:30 AM in an empty hallway and laughed. Point proven.
Dawn had just begun to sketch the outline of day on the sky as I made my way to the street. I walked past the church they built on the corner, towering. Sprinklers on, red flowers blooming. Light crept in around the corners of the skyline and I paid close attention. Listened to my footsteps. Fell into rhythm with my breath.
Every few minutes I turned up the volume on my iPod. Drowned out any specific thought that was trying to keep my attention. Changed the display on my watch so I’d stop checking my pace, my heart rate. Did everything I could to just run.
The world started to wake up. Gentle light coaxing pigeons, squirrels, people out onto the street. Everything dark red. The west is on fire, and the smoke hung thick in the air, cushioning me from the world. Haze. That’s how it’s all felt lately, anyway.
I climbed the hill back up toward our apartment, lungs heavy. Started listing things I should try if I want to get better. Run more. Meditate longer. Lift heavier. Go to more therapy. Change my doses. Stop calling my brain defective. Just deal with it.
I told myself, “I don’t know what, but I have to do something different. I have to make this different.”
As teenagers we knit ourselves tight. A collection of creatures people on the outside considered crass. Ruthless. At the time, that’s what made it validating. If they hate everyone, but they like me, I must have something special. If they are malevolent, but cordial to me, I must be a stellar human being.
It took me years to realize people are the same to everybody. The old first date adage of, “Pay attention to how he treats the waiter, not how he treats you,” is true. It’s rare that you are seeing the real person and everyone else is seeing a front. You are not the exception to the rule. No matter what part of the snake you’re holding, the teeth find a way to come back and bite you. Continue reading →