Today I had a grilled cheese and jam sandwich for lunch and I sat down at a table outside the Daley Center. An older gentleman sat at my table. I have never met him before, but he seemed so kind and gentle; I probably invited him to sit down with my stare. That happens a lot.
This is why I like arriving to work early when I can, and why I like having no where to be at particular moments. The magic of being alive.
And I mean that he was genuinely kind and gentle, because that is the vibe he gave.
He had acromegaly and periodontal disease, but also the gentlest blue eyes. Some people are so beautiful in their being that it is a shame they must be encased in bodies.
He made chitchat, but I was about to head off to work. I felt bad walking away, but I genuinely had to go. I can tell when someone is good. Or when they are not. Or when they are hurting. It used to be that I wouldn’t trust myself, because other people only seem to see people with their eyes and hear them with their ears.
People like that just float to me, it seems. As do children, as do dogs and cats. People just either expect me to be gentle, or they think I’m a ghost. Or maybe they think I am a dog or a cat, or a child, or least something like a pet.
And sometimes, people are confused when they get to know me. No one knows my true motivation. Not even me.
Sometimes, strangers ask me if I’m lost even when I’m going where I’m supposed to go. Then I wonder if I am going the wrong way, and then ask them for directions, only to get confused. Then, I end up lost as I follow their advice.
Honestly, I think that everything in life would be more clear for me if I never spoke to another person, and sometimes, I really do need to let the voices fade from my memory to be myself again.
And I used to hate touching people I didn’t know. Handshakes are the worst. They are like a straight line to the heart: I can shake your hand and size you up in a minute and every time, it scares the piss out of me. I don’t want to know that much about you. I want to go back to my drawing, or staring at pretty colors, or wondering how anyone manages to actually walk in 4-inch heels, which I love but could never wear.
That is another problem of mine. I love pretty things. I can stare too long at a pretty face, male or female. It’s not sexual. It’s admiration. I can stare too long at a starry night. I can stare too long at a beautiful painting, and I can stare too long at the beautiful landscape ahead of me while driving in rush hour traffic. I can listen to intensely to songs, and some of them simply carry me away.
I used to make art, but now, there is little time for that. I write when I can, or muse on the little things. Not important things, like housework. There is nothing to be found in my house that is not in plain sight.
As I get older, however, I came to an epiphany: I realized that nothing is the way it seems, and that reality is malleable. While perception is malleable, it goes beyond that. Magic is real, and there is magic in the world. We created this world through the power of imagination, through the manipulation and transmutation of the geography around us. It may not be the world other creatures experience, but we put into it what we get out, and we make magic.
I grew up in a religious home. It was rife with superstition, but I loved some things. I loved the veneration of the Mother, the saints, the angels. This would be a family that I would not otherwise have, deep in the mind, where I could find peace and quiet in a world that had no peace and quiet, and where seeking peace and quiet made you subject to suspicion. wanted to be near water, near woods. I wanted to forget who I was, and to stop being who I was — whoever that was — and just be. That is the trouble with being around people: you inevitably end up having to be someone to them, with a name, an identity, a reputation, a set of expectations.
But even then, I was drawn to the Old Ways. But at the time, I didn’t really know that they were old, and I didn’t really know what they were. Gods were in the trees, the sky, the wind, and the flowers. Divinity was the calm quiet of a sparkling blanket of freshly falling snow twinkling under a cloudy violet winter night. I read my horoscope. I read the sky for weather, and I collected leaves, rocks, and shells because I was drawn to them. I then learned about witches maybe when I was 10 or 11. I told my mother I was sure this what I was supposed to be. She thought I was possessed.
I have been so many different people at different times and places that I could never, ever have all my friends and acquaintances in the same room. It never works. They balkanize. Also, I have no idea how to host a party anyway, as crowds make me nervous. Too much buzzing and energy in one room. Too much noise. Too much attention-seeking. And what the hell is networking? Has anyone really made friends from such inorganic foisting of people in one room?
I have never, ever made friends this way, and this is how I started law school at a disadvantage. But if I ever really knew how people saw me all the time, whenever, then I could do something with it. But mostly, I become whomever I need to be, whatever the occasion calls for.
I’m not sure what shines in my blue-green eyes, or why people think I am younger than I really am — childlike even — but I can catch them in my sight and hold them.
And when a time calls for me to be an extrovert, I do it, then spend three days alone if possible. Sure, I need to recharge, but I also need to make sure that people don’t expect me to be one thing or the other, because, before you know it, you’re playing the same role over and over again.
I spent the summer before law school not preparing for law school. I let my job fade away, and I moved, and I indulged in all the unstructured time I could find. It was wonderful. I got to indulge my imagination, sleep in. The world makes me tired, as does anticipation. The problem is that I am never really sure what will come out of me because I am never really sure what will happen from one moment to the next.
I am still, at nearly 37, fascinated by the power of my own nighttime dreams. I now never, ever watch dramas. Horror, action, fantasy, sci-fi, and anything with beautifully insane productions, like kung-fu period films are my bag now.
I used to be a poet, but then I realized that my poetry was terrible. I used to be a painter, but I then realized my artwork was marginal.
But music always, always takes me away. It is not just pleasant sounds. It is not just lyrics. It is a whole world, a cocoon made of sounds. This is not so strange. We chant and pray in every culture to insulate ourselves from the stimuli all around us. The modern world is lousy with people attached to earbuds.
I simply cannot explain in words just how big the universe seems to me.
And that is such a pity, because music is more than mp3s. It is the cadence of a familiar voice greeting, the intonation of an exotic accent, the sound of a bird singing, the thump and screech of the L rolling into another stop. Do I live in my own world? Well, it is nicer than yours, probably. Maybe quieter.
And yes, I like alcohol and spirits and psychoactives. I don’t do them all the time, and many of them I haven’t done them since high school. I like the whole shebang around a glass of wine and beautiful music and moving into the night.
But I hate bars, and I hate wearing the kinds of clothes you have to wear to bars. Too tight, too cold, too revealing, too much like everyone else’s. If I could, I would buy all my clothes at the Pyramid Collection and swish around like Stevie Nicks, but for now, I just simply refuse to cut my soft, long, shiny, strawberry blonde hair.
Human hair is an extension of the central nervous system. It heightens my intuition. It makes me feel untamed. Plus, my hair is too fine to handle heat or products.
My feet are too bendy to fit into shoes well. I hate them. I mean, I love the way shoes look, but my feet are tender. My skin is tender and soft. My flesh is fine and elastic, and I will never be tight-bodied, and I never was even when I was skinny: I was always short, with sloping curves. But I also don’t wrinkle, and it wasn’t until I was about 30 that I lost most of the baby fat on my face and my cheekbones started to show.
There is so much beauty in the world that I simply cannot understand why we all spend it from one distraction to another. Sometimes, just looking at something lovely, like a well-matched outfit or a glass sculpture or a waterfall, hypnotizes me and moves me to tears. Or even a haunting song, or the perfect autumn apple, or the softest duvet. Because the outside world is awful, and yet it is beautiful behind the veils.
The inside world is nothing to snuff out. Every night I go home, and while I ought to be studying the finer points of the laws of evidence, I am someone else. I am the reincarnation of the goddess Maeve, my red hair in the wind, or Diana, under the moon of night. Or maybe I am actually a successful writer living an unstructured life, out of a suitcase, house sitting from place to place, discovering magic in the mountains of Appalachia as a part-time hedgewitch and full-time astrologer. Maybe I am a time traveler. Maybe I am a ghost no longer concerned with the trappings of being alive. Or maybe I am an amazing trial lawyer who just magically knows and applies all the rules of evidence without having to learn it the hard way.
I went back into my past some years ago and I found out the truth of my ancestry. I found out that no, I am not the descendant of Irish and Italian and German immigrants only. I discovered that I am Old Stock American, and my first ancestors came here in 1635, and this is actually the bulk of my heritage. And we carved out the woods, and we killed, and we were Puritans, and then rabble-rousers who broke free from them, and we were mixed-blood Appalachian white and Cherokee Mountain People, and we have fought in every war this country has ever had. I have roots. I have no strong ties to people who are blood relatives, but I have roots.
And this terrifies and excites me, because I romanticize my heritage and honor none of it because it is so removed from my actual experience. I do not want to have roots. I want to be the seed that flies away with the wind. I know that all you have to do is look at me and you can guess I have Anglo-Saxon heritage, but I would rather not accept it. Though, I must say, the gods and goddess and folkways of my ancestors are more interesting to me than Catholicism, and I must say that I understand Hera better than the Virgin Mary. But knowing who came before me, I can only wonder who I was before.
Because of all things, I cannot tap into that. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out who I was in previous lives. Perhaps it is all a hazy collective memory of so many lives. And that is, globally, a problem for me: I can tap into you. I can tap into everyone in the room. I can tap into people over the Internet, and people whom I have not met. I can feel what they feel, know what they think, and can be overwhelmed by it at times. I can extend psychic tendrils into others and find out what they want and need.
But I cannot tap into me. I will spend a lifetime in wonder at this.
Perhaps the truth is that there is no me, or that only me exists, and I is a construct of my imagination at any given moment, created and dissolved repeatedly every instant, and everything is new all over again: the world, the people, the experiences, the perspectives, and even the grilled cheese sandwiches, which are a delight to eat at a table by the Daley Center, open to the possibility of being touched by the soul of a kind stranger who makes small talk with you and seems genuinely interested in connecting before I have to transform into the sharp and capable law clerk who is on the ball for at least four hours.