I never know what to do when a person is staring at me, so obviously waiting for me to leave, whether it’s my vacating the register as soon as I receive my change or turning over to her the restroom sink in a punctual manner.
I try to be quick. Considerate. But my desire to consider others, and to avoid eye contact, is continually conflicted with my mental urgings to slow down and let them wait.
People are rarely concerned with the time they take to put away their change at the checkout counter, I repeat to myself, becoming increasingly hostile. My fists balling up as I grasp for my purse.
I have spent countless minutes awkwardly staring and then looking away, staring, looking away, at the girl occupying the only mirror in the bathroom. While she is more than content to blot and dab her lipstick as I fidget with fire in my eyes.
Maybe my awareness of myself and others is just more heightened than other people’s, I say to myself.
I feel the eyes boring into my neck. I imagine the long line forming behind me as I move faster and faster, hurtling change into my wallet.
Or maybe it’s not concern for others at all. Quite possibly it’s my fear of being looked at.
This desire to go unnoticed spans all the way back to birth. I swear I came out of my mother’s stomach with a trenchcoat over my head and squinty eyes, quiet as a mouse, praying no one notices me.
I have never wanted attention. I despise it. I always pushed it away like most children push away books and vegetables.
If I were crying and someone noticed me, my mom would push me into her leg as I only sobbed harder. The only thing worse than crying is having some adult in your face asking if you’re okay. I was 15.
This quality continues to haunt me today.
Instead of going to parties, I read. Instead of making human friends, I walk dogs. Instead of speaking, I write.
A couple of years ago I learned sign language in preparation of the day I would give up talking all together. But once I realized that signing was basically acting, I tossed it away in contempt.
I’m currently planning to take up braille.

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Books have always offered a way to escape. In more recent times, while they may have had to yield to movies, TV and video games, nothing quite matches the growth in imagination, the building of vocabulary and general peace that comes with a consuming novel.

Just another precious gift that most youngsters today will never receive.

However, as I get older and the world becomes a little scarier, when I run for a bookstore, I find myself gravitating more and more to cookbooks, health magazines and travel guides. Three hobbies I adore. And yet, just once, I wish I could come across a book without teenage vampires, five obscenities on every page, descriptive intimacies and violence.

Books are supposed to be about escape. About fantasy. Who wants to fantasize about sadistic terrorists and unthinkable rape crimes? Unless you are in fact a sadistic terrorist. In which case, you got bigger problems buddy.

Both of the aforementioned books are currently found on the bestsellers lists, might I add.

Truth be told, these types of books have always been on the shelves. Although maybe not as blatantly explicit: Invisible Man, The Great Gatsby, The Fountainhead, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Jane Eyre. All depictions of real life for colored people, privileged debutantes, social outcasts and orphans.

Fact is, humans have always enjoyed learning about life on the “other side of the tracks,” strolling in someone else’s shoes.

I guess things haven’t changed so very much over the decades. What has changed is our idea of reality. We’ve moved from reading about the abuse of the poor and under-priveleged to unflinchingly evaluating a 2-day-old bloodied body and then reliving the murder through the killer’s mind.

The human psyche is continuing to disintegrate into an oblivion of blood, sex and anger. And we have the books to prove it.