Used to

I used to think about other people, strangers really, as if they had the exact same life as me. Behind their closed doors they were being loved and they were loving their children. Behind closed doors they were making lists, doing laundry, timing themselves on bath-time duty and anticipating quiet. Behind closed doors they were naive and held innocent beliefs about grief and love and loss. I would pass cars on the road and think, they must be going to the store, too. Running errands, ticking off responsibilities, like me. We were all floating; tethered by my experiences. I was driving my white honda civic stick shift with a toddler in the backseat, listening to music that likely wasn’t for the baby but I also didn’t worry after the lyrics yet, when another car, similar to mine, passed me from oncoming traffic and I realized: we’re all living our own lives. A sliding door moment I can never forget and suddenly everyone was interesting.  I would look people in the eyes at the grocery store or stop sign, while waiting for a train and I would ask them in my mind if they were looking for their answers, too. Some of them seemed to understand my question with their softening looks and small smiles. Were they seeing me, then, like I was seeing them? Wholly apart from who I was and also the only thing that mattered? When they looked away I would evaluate the information I had taken in. If they looked down and to the left to avoid my inquiry, they knew something but couldn’t share it with me. If they darted away at the sight of my wonder, they were practicing invisibility and wanted to be left alone. If they peered back at me, unwavering, I knew we understood each other. Right there in the middle of our mundane: being seen. And I started asking different questions: are you happy here? are you safe? do you know how loved you are? has anyone ever cried over you, like I’m about to? has anyone ever believed in your dreams or taught you how? did someone wake up loving you today and you just don’t know it yet? are we all going to be ok?

This post is part of a series called 100 Days of Poetry.

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