A moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored, an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknown to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where to begin to explore.
I have a game I’ve been playing since I was very little. Where I watch people out in public and wonder what it must be like to be them.
While everything you come up with as a possibility is strictly imaginary, the rabbit holes you fall down can be pretty fascinating. I can easily lose hours this way. In wondering about the inner lives of strangers. Of people I do not know now and will probably never know.
Each person is an undiscovered expansive universe that I will never get around to exploring.
Oh, sure, I’ll get to know a handful of people well in my life and several handfuls more I’ll get to know to a lesser degree. And my life will intersect with many others in a brief, finite way.
But for the most part, the people I share the Earth with will remain strangers to me. Even if everyone were amenable to getting to know me (and frankly a lot of people just want to be left alone, and so do I sometimes), there’s simply not enough time.
I suppose it doesn’t help that it’s truly hard to really get to know anyone. To know them completely anyway.
It’s been argued we don’t completely know ourselves. That each of us is a mess of contradictions that we’re not exactly eager to claim. And that we tell ourselves tidier stories instead about who we are, ones that emphasize certain details and forget others, making a more cohesive narrative.
A simplified sense of who we are. Of a personal identity.
I’ve had to accept on a certain level that I will never completely know anyone — even those I love. Not in the way that a spotlight illuminates a tiny unfurnished room. And that I’ll have to be content instead with wondering what’s inside. Imagining what could be hidden away behind locked doors that maybe they don’t even want to open.