You know, all my life, I’ve had the oddest feeling. And this is the first time I am voicing it.
Perhaps it only exists in my imagination, but much better is it to set it down in words, to give it shape, and, by breathing life into it, let it prance a familiar dance in the hearts of others.
This feeling is one of apartness, of being an observer rather than a participant, yet, at the same time, it is so much more than that.
Let’s see if I can put it into words.
It is as if, since birth, everyone else has been initiated into a grand, secret society, of dazzling rites and orgies and clandestine comforts and smiles and words, of which I have no part. This is sensation is accompanied by a bone-deep anguish, for I whirl in confusion about these people, glimpsing signs of this cult, yet unable to do anything but just that: look, and look, sometimes in hunger, sometimes in curiosity, sometimes even in brief flashes of understanding, but never in true knowledge.
Have I confused you?
I probably have.
I suppose it’s simply this certain assurance in people, this veneer of self-assured glamor and belonging. Most markedly, it springs up when I observe parties, elegant, glittering parties of adults with wines and loud talk, or even families, gathered outside their wedding-cake homes for a meal and then driving away in their gleaming cars for a bonfire down at the beach. I watch them, then, like a shadow, and I see their smiling, I see their knowing, I see the greedy strength of the parents who seem to hold the whole world on their shoulders and are strong and know their place in the world, seem to know it all, and fall asleep with security and safety in their hearts, for they have bloated wallets and built tiny empires with them, and look at how the dear pretty children scurry about their feet in high laughter…
…and I feel apart. I feel an ache within me, not for their castles and carriages, but for that laughing certainty, that clustered, close-knit belonging, that quiet steady knowing as if not a single star in the sky is out of place, and if it were, they would be able to flick their fingers to wink it back into existence.
It’s so nebulous a feeling, and attempting to describe it is like trying to grip an ectoplasm in one’s fingers, that I thank you for your patience so far. It’s just, I would so like for this to be understood, in some way.
When people party, and laugh, I wonder what could possibly be so funny, in that mad furor and noise and flashing lights. I wonder if they could possibly realise the fool’s gold they stroke in their hearts to make their dreams sweet. I wonder how they could not wonder, about anything, about the world, about life, and yet still twirl and spin and laugh over inane jokes to impress themselves and impress others and feel beautiful, all their loud and thrust-out egos pushing and shoving and mingling in a rough soiree.
Once, I visited my friend’s house while they were in the middle of a barbecue. She lived close by, and I had to return something to her for school. There they were, all chatting and knowing and sitting together, close and safe in their oneness, and I stood there, at the door, watching them with a wild, confused hunger, as my friend pranced towards me, hair curled and cheeks dusted with glitter – she looked like a fairy, and just as distant – and thanked me, profusely, for the papers, and I asked me if I wanted to join them. Then her brother appeared, I’d heard he’d already had a job at a law firm, and was raking in the big bucks and climbing up the ladders of the company, and I looked at this tall, long-limbed, steady creature that loped towards the door and I was impressed and yet I could not understand, I was wildly jealous of his knowing and assurance, yet I could not understand what went through his mind at night, when he worked through files and lived and flourished in a world, in a society, I often could not stand. I could see his whole life spread out before him: a beautiful wife, children, trips to the beach, a beautiful home and holidays and a retirement after years of being a successful member of society, rich and revered and with grandchildren scurrying about his feet. And I was painfully envious of this life, though I did not desire it for myself, and I was confused.
How do they do it? How do people do it? How do these adults, mingling in their grand parties, in their expensive dresses with their alcoholic drinks, these big people, these big, big people, at these conventions and at the White House and at Presidential meetings and at Oscar awards and at everywhere where one must smile and looking dazzling and put-together, how did they enjoy and do these things, how did they look so high and mighty and sure, how they could not be haunted the gruesome reality before their eyes?
And what gruesome reality was that? Did I see something they could not see? Was that it? But when I tried to tell them what I saw, their eyes gleamed like coins and they moved on, or their brow furrowed, their minds bewildered as to how far away mine had strayed, like a woman returned from the wilderness with straggly hair and torn clothing and dirt and blood rimming her nails stumbling into a king’s festival.
These people, they seemed so sure, within themselves, and yet I felt they had no reason to be, though I did not know why. They seem so knowing, so tied to others, so connected and safe, so belonging. Their talk is full of trivialities, and they laugh because they like the sound of their own laughter, and they like each others’ faces, and I don’t understand how they can’t see the corpses, the mummified gazes staring at them from shadowy corners, or hear the tingling song of the stars. Perhaps I am a peasant, peering into a ballroom, and seeing the puffed skirts skirl like so many dancing blooms, and my low thoughts could not possibly penetrate theirs: their thoughts of intrigue and money and family and the future of nations and feuds and hates and preserving the family, preserving themselves.
I don’t understand, and yet I want so desperately to be enfolded into their midst. I don’t understand, yet I yearn, hunger, for what they have, though I know it to be gold leaves that will dissolve into dust once the sun rises. I like this apartness, I do, for I can hear music where others hear silence, I pull up the tablecloth of the universe and peek beneath it, but it is a very lonely and sad thing all the same, to be without rather than within.