This is the second installment of a running fictional series. Just something to nibble on when you’re alone. When you just want to stay inside, under the covers. When you could use a friend.
What we (cannot) see
“Are you even listening to me?” I asked.
We’d been doing things that she had liked. Like stopping by the convenience store adjacent to her office so that we could pick up a pack of her favorite candy before I drove her back home. Or binge-watching episodes of HGTV while very carefully but unsuccessfully avoiding conversation on a future where we settle down (ideally together). Or just taking a walk around the apartment complex until it was too cold.
We traded our time for the familiar. But perhaps we had allowed the familiar to become merely routine. And yet even in the most mundane routines, we found ourselves as strangers. Strangers to each other. Strangers to ourselves. Strangers to what used to be ours.
“Of course,” she said.
Why had I asked? I wasn’t going to take her answer at face-value.
It’s been years since I laid my fingertips on the piano.
Time had taken away the music, but my body remembered the rhythm: Press. Press each block on the scale of tunes and exert force with the tiny joints attached to my hands.
Press. Let go. Press. Let go.
As a writer, I type more than I eat. I type more than I sleep. I know how to press. Even if my words rarely make it to the press. I know how to press.
And yet why couldn’t I get my fingers to skid across the black and white keys? Why were these keys so difficult to unlock than those of my keyboard?
Set. Press. Enter. Set. Press. Enter.
Was it the absence of an escape button? Or the delete key?
Perhaps it’s time to switch to a different note.
On any given day, I probably see my own face the least among any others. I see my neighbor J as I drive out of the driveway. I see my editor K as he tells me my words won’t sell. I see M and wonder if she still sees me. I wonder what she sees in me.
When people smile at me, I assume I must be loved. When people don’t look at me in the eyes while I talk, I assume I must be boring. I put these faces together to create a paper mâché of what I might look like.
But maybe I’m not smiling. And maybe I look nervous and they’re sparing me their glance.
But how would I know? I rarely see myself. Unless I look in the mirror. But that’s supposed to be vain. Or at least, Snow White and the public who adored her thought so.
Contact Inyoung Choi at ichoi ‘at’ stanford.edu.