It was a bit later than 10 in the morning when I found myself walking by Sutter St, close if not in Downtown San Francisco. I wasn’t running away from the green canopy- I was wandering aimlessly, giving my brain time to process the current events of self-deception that were deeply based on what I can’t define but as truthful memories of recent months.
I took a left turn on Hyde St. There was only one recognizable figure of a human leaned against the wall, trying to hide his eyes somewhat redden and swollen by tears with his hands covered by the sleeves of his jacket. I wouldn’t have talked to him if he hadn’t a familiar face. I guess familiarity drives empathy. Hell, even my new H&M pants looked like his. Compelling.
Tears. I started to talk to him, trying to calm him down. In the beginning he was reluctant to answer to my questions, but he soon recognized me. And he progressively opened his soul. As this was happening, I couldn’t help but to feel that we had been through similar storylines, though I perceived mine under a slightly more positive light.
Much like me, his life had been going through this series of reckless searches for love. A sequence of heart-striking endeavours, dominated by random attraction. Two times a year -that being a roughly average. His 2012 already had two, the first one particularly absurd. Some weren’t more than platonic. Most of them were not necessarily driven by desperation, but appreciation. He seemed to have been firing bursts of infatuation -sometimes aimlessly. A lot of them were just the ‘create your princess’ type- the infantile approach of projecting imaginary features onto her when barely knowing her. I had been there, too.
But his last and second of the year had been a bit different. He knew her much better than the usual, and the progression of their story had been weird. He realized far too late that he had ‘that kind of feelings’ for her and believed that she had moved on, forgetting equivalent feelings she once had. He seemed to be unable to accept the option of she never having had those feelings. Because it would have meant that he had been clueless, unconnected to her -victim of his own delusion. He believed that that level of miscommunication and detachment would have render most of their interaction valueless… even at a friendship level. It was hard to accept also because some of his memories supported clearly, in most interpretations, what he wanted to believe… for example, the time she was jealous and worried about something potentially happening with another girl. If I was to believe the story he told me, I would have said that his conclusions were coherent enough, and that the timing had not been appropriate.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t remember the last time he felt so sad. “When I lost my pet”- he muttered. Maybe it had something to do with that it was the first time in his life that he wrote “I love you” -and he had to be drunk to do so. The lost opportunity seemed another factor. Anyway, we kept talking. I started to feel like his psychologist. What initially was the declaration of a heartache turned out to expand into lots of underlying causes for his sorrow.
His search transcended the fulfillment of biological needs. It went deeper, into the core of his understanding of the reality. You are born alone, you die alone -he also unwillingly went through his life alone. He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t alone. Trapped in an invisible shell, he felt the uttermost loneliness… the one that deprived him from being able to express his emotions and feelings and kept him away from a real connection with other human beings. Paradoxically, as our conversation progressed, we realized that maybe we were developing an emotional connection. Precisely the kind of connection that he (and to some extent, me) was lacking.
Fears. A lot of fears. To see the time flee from the grasp of our hands. To lose what we had left there in the background, while seeking a life that didn’t develop as well as we expected. To realize that most decisions in life that we took were wrong. To be unable to find something special. To be unable not to be alone.
Interestingly, I shared also the trouble he had on understanding his own existence. The confusion, the lack of an identity. A slight kind of detachment from reality. Partially an effect of traveling that much and not having a family around.
His thoughts started repeating- circumscribing the shape of his own distress. There was an upside for this: he basked in sadness, in the comfort of his tears. With each tear he shed he earned the retribution of relief… like erasing temporarily a bit of bad memory.
He, in the end, felt worthless, unattractive, old. And worst of all, isolated in his own long-running delusion and stupidity. A coward that never had the guts to expose his feelings. A coward that had been always rationally repressing his emotions and avoiding real connections with other humans because, in the end, was scared of life itself. Because he had built a wall around himself, a mask that showed a harsher version of himself, partially a consequence of the social rejections suffered on his adolescence that may as well have been caused by random and superficial factors but rooted on the cruelty of others.
Doesn’t everyone feel sometimes a bit like that? Maybe not everybody. But I could understand him to some extent. I started adopting his position. What would I do if I was victim of his despair? What if I couldn’t avoid his fears and his flaws while dealing with life and the others? What if I felt the same loneliness? I deeply felt empathetic with him. But I didn’t want to be him.
I slowly swept my face with my hand. The next glimpse, he wasn’t there. I looked around… there was no sign of him. He had just disappeared. Or maybe he hadn’t ever been there. I dried my cheeks and went back towards the green canopy.
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