An uncomfortable thought hit me today as I sat in the cafeteria, one-eighth of a round formica slab, fiddling with my plastic white spoon and fulfilling my childhood need to rebel as I played with the apple sauce in its container.
Who actually hears what we say?
This past hour alone I have carried out dozens of conversations with friends and acquaintances alike. Always, there is eye contact, and a pleasant exchange of smiles, and sometimes even the echoes of a giggle reach my straining ears. There are all the signs of human interaction, and I see them and I hear them. But I have no way of knowing which parts are real and which are simply customary responses to vocal communication.
Sitting at the table, I admit my frustrations regarding my more than slightly incompetent physics teacher, and I watch as you nod, and sympathize, and agree. In the moment it feels so real, not at all fabricated but genuine. You know what I feel because you feel it too.
And now, not an hour later, I am sitting in the library, one-third of a new chain of seats, staring (mindlessly, no doubt, to anyone who throws a passing glance) at this computer screen, wondering if the connection I built with you minutes ago even happened. Of course it occurred, because I talked and you talked and we both reacted. But did you listen to me? Did you hear me deep in the pit of your stomach, or knocking against the outer walls of your head, or jumping up and down on your shoulders? Or did you simply hear me, the way you hear a response to How was your day? or the way you hear your friend tell you the story about her first kiss for the eightieth time?
Maybe our conversation was a placebo. I emerged believing in this new brick of our foundation, but you exited unconsciously snickering at the artificiality of it all.
Everyone possesses a window within themselves. The outer side, closest to the dirty and contagious atmosphere in which we live, is cramped with false connections. They push and bump against each other, trying to squeeze their way through the tiny wire squares of this screen barrier. And on the other side, so near to our privatest selves, float the few stragglers who somehow wandered off the so-beaten path and underwent this beautiful transformation. Small in number, they appear inferior to their crowded counterparts.
They are infinitesimal in size, but they travel closest to our hearts.