Writing, for me, is like a MacGyver trick, I suppose. It’s an amalgamation of the random pieces of thought around me. It’s sitting looking at all of them until I see how they all connect to express what I’m feeling. It usually ends with the declaration of, “Maybe it’s about the…” followed by the frantic sketching and outlining of all the bits of things I’ve written down over the past several days, weeks, months, or years. It usually takes place over chai tea with my computer, an absurd amount of journals, and an array of writing utensils close by. But, sometimes, it happens while I’m out. The genetic code that makes me a closet recluse gets saturated with its surroundings and can no longer filter all the socialization. In turn, it defaults to pensive pondering, putting the rest of my body on autopilot until I can return to a cave of seclusion to process.
Earlier in the night, I had gone to the DC Public Forum on City Leadership hosted by the Washington Post. When I was there, I was in my element. Words of change gave me goosebumps. Young leaders having the intrepidity to challenge business-as-usual ideas presented by the graying of public service itself gave me the urge to stand up and yell, Preach! Oh, to have a mind that is engaged and a heart that is impassioned — how beautiful life can be.
After the event, I met up with some friends at a bar. I was teeming with the desire to discuss the instance of civic engagement that had just taken place downtown that evening. I was also ready to analyze its flaws and the disheartening reality that community change in the twenty-first century appears to be unable to fill a room anymore. And, although this was discussed on individual levels to some extent, the place was full of so much stimuli that meaningful intellectualism and connection could easily be swept away in the enticing breeze of it all. And this was all ok—until, that is, the artificiality of some conversations became starkly apparent to me.
There was this middle-aged man at the bar who started to talk with me. The conversation was erudite enough for me to be open to responding. I mean, if you ignore all interactions with people outside of your circle, you will miss out on a lot of good opportunities for character development—and, boy, oh boy, there are some good characters in D.C. So, the conversation was fine, and so was I, until the moment I recognized its superficial depth. What neighborhood you live in is oddly enough a fairly frequent topic of conversation amongst new people I meet in our nation’s capital. So, this person asked me what part of the metro D.C. region I lived in, and I was quick to beamingly announce my recent move into D.C.’s actual borders. The first question was followed up by a second question of, “Where had I moved from?” Maryland, I began to say with disdain.
And his face lit up before I could go any further. “Oh, that’s great!” he said, “I live in Maryland! My, isn’t that great?” and as if this was some grand coincidence that I used to happen to live in one of the two other states bordering D.C., he went on, “Wow, which part?”
Every bit of his body language spoke with the voice of someone who believed that they had just found the point over which we could be bonded, by which we could get closer, with which we could form a lascivious, inauthentic relationship. My first reaction was of repulsion and disappointment in people. Dear Sir, I thought, I was lucky to grow up with a dad who loved and cared for me. I don’t have some psychological daddy void that needs to be filled with your “experience.”
I slowly began my drift into autopilot, exploring the inauthenticity of some human interactions. For, as this man tried to pull teenage perversions of out brief conversation, I thought about how if someone really knew me, they’d know that I fully loathe the state of Maryland. They would know that I view my year in Rockville as a hard-fought war I managed to come out of victoriously.
But, then my thoughts moved on, they drifted to other recent interactions with people. And although I could manage them at that time, in this moment, they started to overwhelm me. In one, there was a response to my, How’s your week going? with a painfully honest and mundane, “Hey, at least it’s Wednesday, right?” This response was given without the responder having the knowledge of my ongoing inside joke with myself on these types of responses because the conversation never got, and never would get, that deep. And then there have been the “you must be like this because you look like that” conversations where it is supposed to entice me that you are so perceptive as to “analyze my true being.” But, you never actually ask, so you’ll never know how wrong you are and how much I could care less about how people look. There are also the conversations where I could easily be rambling to a wall. No counterargument, no push back, no challenge, just the feigning interest in what my rambles deduce.
“So, who are you here with then? Is that a boyfriend over there? A coworker? Or…?” the man at the bar then asked. And, in a flash quicker than lightning, the level at which social saturation occurs was hit. The fakeness of my recent series of social interactions was too much for me. I needed to escape. The falsity was near suffocating. I hurriedly walked outside into the night air to breathe. It was raining, and the coolness of its drops felt like heaven on my quivering soul. Big breaths, slow paces.
With so much surface-level existence around every corner, could you ever blame a girl for being skeptical? But when a moment of fidelity actually looks her in the eye, and she accepts it, then what happens?
Whatever do I do with myself now? I thought, as I walked to the metro in wet stilettos. The rain was steady. It felt as real as it all once did.
While my stilettos clicked faster to make the lights at the crosswalks before they changed, I kept trying to piece together all of these thoughts, memories, and emotions. What had just happened back there to throw me into such rumination when the night had started out with such grand intentions? Somehow I had fallen from civically induced heights to base-level sordidness.
Thought one, thought two, feeling three, memory four. Where did it all amalgamate? I kept walking until finally I declared to myself, Eh, fuck it, maybe it’s just about the rain. I escaped to the rain and it feels real. Great. Done.
But then I saw little piles lining the different city blocks leading up to the metro. They looked like garbage pickups left for the city services to grab on their morning dump run. They looked like discarded clothes that didn’t make it to the Salvation Army drop-box. Anthropomorphic shapes were the last things I could decipher from these piles. But, I quickly realized that these piles were, in fact, people. They were somebodys who used to be somebody’s somebody. So, it couldn’t be all about the rain—because to love the rain is a luxury. Try to tell to someone whose pulp-woven blanket dissipates in the rain that it’s all about feeling the realness of the rain.
I plopped down on the metro like a wet Maltese, my hair dripping and my paws soaked. On my walk home, a college kid offered me his umbrella, and it seemed genuine. I, of course, opted for continued precipitation, but the caring act somewhat lightened my mood. I went to sleep feeling faint and woozy with no answers.
I woke up with a fever. So, maybe this was all fever-induced then, I thought. But, that would be too simple, too. For I think it was always more than the fever for us.