I put more effort into avoiding talking to people than I do when a conversation actually has to happen. Of course, there are people I love talking to, people whose company is profoundly welcome and pleasant and invigorating, but the cashier who gives me a weird look when they see I didn’t buy a mango and did, in fact, just buy a mango-flavored salty candy is not invigorating or pleasant or welcome. They’re exhausting. I think about that kind of person a little too much.
I’ve developed this–probably unhealthy–way of picturing how every interaction beyond those with a select few people is uniquely draining. Everyone’s got a needle, and depending on the interaction, maybe they only stab me once, maybe it’s a few times, maybe it’s in an artery, but no matter what, every time there’s another hole and a little leak. It’s not much, but as the day wears on, I get closer to empty. Chatting with a friend or taking a nap can seal a few breaks in the hull, but everything closes when it wants to.
The little things add up. Some days it’s just that I’ve had to talk to a lot of people I didn’t want to, or slept too little so my skin is thin, or maybe it’s just that the grocery store was too crowded and everyone was moving and swarming and talking and talking too much so it’s hard to focus on what the person you want to listen to is saying and everyone has all these needles and then you’re the proud owner of a puddle of yourself. At least, that’s my experience.
I started hating crowds when I started realizing I was a person. Do you remember that weird time when you suddenly started being aware of yourself being aware, when you kind of woke up and noticed you exist and can think about that existence? That’s a weird experience that apparently a lot of people remember with strange clarity. Imagine little Thomas or Skyler or Jessica sitting in a classroom struggling through math when their eyes widen, they look around, and they notice they can remember the last few years but feel almost no connection to the person that lived them. And they realize every other person everywhere feels exactly the same way, that everyone is aware of themselves, makes decisions based on that awareness, and is constantly evaluating the information given to them by whatever they witness. That every person is a person.
If this thought makes you anxious like it does for me, it might help to imagine a turtle coming to this startling and life-changing realization. Just picture its little turtle eyes widening, it slowly craning its little turtle neck to look at its little turtle peers, and then it whispers “holy shit I’m a turtle.”
I have heard there are people who thrive on conversation and interaction and probably crowded Wal-Mart produce sections. I want to find one of these people because I’ve got a question: when you “woke up,” when you realized you and everyone around you was a person with thoughts and feelings and favorite episodes of Seinfeld, were you excited? Was your moment an “Oh!” instead of an “Oh no.”