faces in the fringe

faces in the fringe
image by dall.e 2

I was walking back home today at around 7 pm and saw a man standing by the metro gates. He was wearing a dark blue shirt, tight jeans, and a rough (read: well-loved) pair of sneakers. He looked … ordinary. average. prosaic. His face … with no nominal emotion. But neither did he look apathetic, though. He looked like another face in the crowd, like the type of blurry, low-effort silhouettes in the edges of a large painting. So I studied him. In the seven or so seconds that I spent staring at him (in a non-creepy manner, of course), walking by hurriedly to get to the travelators…  I wondered to myself, “Is this really what he wants to do?” “Will he really rest in peace if the headstone on his grave reads, “Here lies a man who sold sim cards to metro users”?” 

I rarely do so though. I think these thoughts about myself for the most part. Granted… I have been accused of being self-centric, yet what is one’s brain for if not for thoughts about oneself? Wouldn’t it be ironic, nay, comedic, if the network in my brain told another woman’s heart to skip a beat when she saw [insert conventionally-attractive man]? Nevertheless, one could also argue that perhaps the subjects of our thoughts are what distinguish remarkable minds from inferior ones. And no… I am not making a case for selfless versus selfish thoughts. Neither am I claiming that “it’s just about finding that balance that works for you”. I doubt that I am making an argument about subjects and balances at all, as I question whether it is truly possible to separate thoughts about oneself from those of the “other”. The multiple faceless, and therefore emotionless, others that make up our lives. The others that vacuum the floors that we hurriedly walk on on the way to classes and meetings. The others that dangle in the air to clean the skyscrapers that we travel across the world to take photos with. These are the others that ride in 49 degrees heat, government-alert-worthy hail, and sandstorms to get us food to our doors when we work from home. They are those that do the menial and whose kind will never receive recognition from the active masses of the world. Indeed, they are those whose jobs are absolutely necessary yet no one can claim that these people were “made for” these tasks the way we casually assert that Elon Musk was born with a mission to send human beings to Mars or Isaac Newton was created for scientific inquiry or Jesus for… you know, saving mankind from eternity in hell. I suppose this is why in that instance at the metro, I could not help but notice one of these “other” people whose lives may forever be spent in pursuit of tasks that are, by their nature, undistinguished. 

This occurs to me as a curious thought… for who am I to judge the labor of another man’s hands. For we all do what we are let to do, with what we are let to have. It seems that the idea that we have some kind of choice in what our hands get to do is a fallacy. Clearly if I had the will, and therefore a way (hello!), I would either be drinking mojitos on the very surface of the sun or sleeping in a warm cabin somewhere in Alaska. But alas, I find myself in my present blessed state of plenty of city lights, noise pollution, and busy homegoers. People in constant motion. Yes, in motion but with no clear destination. With hurry packed in their shoes, but with no purpose to make the lifting of their legs lighter. Dragging themselves from home to work. From work to home. From church to home. From home to the hospital. From the hospital… if one is unlucky, back home or to work… if lucky, to the grave. 

Certainly, I have wondered whether the dead envy us. I am curious whether, in their rotting germ-infested brains, they too wish that they had the anxiety of missing morning alarms. If they too yearn for the uncertainties of everyday life. One day you’re a promising teenager and the next, a used-to-be with no distinguishable career to stand out. This is perhaps why, at this moment, it appears to me as a paradox(?) that the man in the metro was noticeable to me. Because I should’ve been immersed in the podcast I was listening to. I should’ve acted like I didn’t care about whether or not people were staring at me, like I always do. Instead, I gave my self-centeredness a break and I can’t help but feel that my brain immediately picked on this poor man whose name I will never know. 

And not that knowing his name would change the story. For the plot has already been decided. Certainly, when I sat down to write, I set my intentions on employing this ephemeral scene from the vapor that is my life to share something useful with you, my dear reader. And as I wrestle to schedule my trains of thought, I find that perhaps what I’m trying to say is that we learn more about life from observing others and not ourselves. 

See, my pseudo-narcissistic personality affords me the right to say that I am a master at introspection. I could write a book about what goes between my backhead and forehead, and that would just be the tip of the stalk of the cherry on top of an iceberg. Yet even I find that there is an end to all the icebergs that float about in the cold sea that is my heart. To each thought… no matter how deeply buried in my subconscious, there is only so much I can pull from it without getting bored by the sameness in all of the factoids that make up the block of bones and flesh that I am. Yet as no two people are truly duplicate, I imagine that we all have about eight billion (and more) seas to voyage … opportunities of learning how it is that our brains can do what they can do on a planet such as ours at a time in history such as this.