Marginalia

More than anything else, I think, what fascinate me are the sounds we make when we believe no one is listening.

Case in point: yesterday morning I sat behind a corner table at a coffee shop, very still & freshly released from school, & cried into a napkin within the yawning bustle of it all. I thought no one would notice. For a long while, no one did notice. Then - quite suddenly, it seemed at the time, though looking back on it now I'm sure he must have been listening for at least a few minutes - the man occupying the table next to me stood up, strode over to the napkin dispenser across the café, & came back to place a stack of new napkins on my table. Then he looked me in the eye, nodded as if he understood, & went back to his own table. No words exchanged. Nothing but echoes, a golden hum draining out.

The point here is not that I was sad (though I was, deeply so), nor that the man was kind (though he was, deeply so).

There are all these portraits we paint of each other in the split seconds we have together, letters never sent, quiet romantic snapshots that feel something a little fearless, a little holy. I have been remembering that man a lot today. I have been wondering if he will think of me forever as the sad girl in the corner of the café, & I have been wondering if I will think of him forever as the kind man who brought the napkins. It's ridiculous, perhaps, but no less gnawing: it frustrates & terrifies me, how limited our visions are of each other. I want to know this man when he is at his cruellest, his most mercury-sharp unforgivable. I want him to know me when I am every incarnation of joy.

How many oceans can a single person hold? How many galaxies? One for each moment they're alive, I suppose, one for every touch, every perception, every clock tick, every version of reality. I want so desperately to taste those worlds, those melodies that others sing when they do not think I can hear them. My mind swirls & aches, rewrites itself in too many dreams of sadness, & I feel too often as if every part of me that is not sad exists only on the sidelines. A shade of self that is foreign &, by association, wholly inaccessible -

but it's real. It has to be, that I might still know myself standing in the sun, without the shadow of illness threatening to overtake everything. Any alternative is unthinkable. I must believe that I am still someone, that I am still worth something, even when I am not sad. Even when a kind stranger in a café does not give me a second glance. Even when I have no chance to know his kindness, to find a space in my chest around every lingering hollow where I might finally understand.

Some days it feels as if every moment I am not hurting exists only in the margins of life. Erasing & singing to sleep, a bright bloom on the sidelines of every song I'm becoming, the intricate & inescapable journey towards someone unrecognisable to the deepest parts of myself. I'm trying to discover who I am in the absence of that marrow-deep sadness that never quite fades, that sadness like a low-grade fever. & meanwhile: all these crowds. All these people I will only ever see a sliver of, who will only ever see a sliver of me. All these somnolent faces, these dreams stretched thin across the page, & how we come in contact with each other by accident & take every note, every act, every whisper that did not exist before & somehow, beautifully, terrifyingly, make it real.

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p.s. tell me in the comments of your own understanding of who you are in the absence of whatever emotion defines you to most of the world. i would truly love to hear your experiences.

p.s.s. all of it is art & a sudden painful joy & love letters for more