Sunday, 9 February 2014
I'll see a woman in the street and I'll think, Does she have a boyfriend or a husband? Are they happy together? Are they unhappy? What do they love about each other? What do they dislike? Is she well-off? Is she broke? What's her favourite activity? What does she totally hate doing? What are her obsessions? What are her phobias?
I shall never know because I can't ask. She's a closed book, an enigma, just another person on the street I'll probably never even see again. The perpetual pang of unrequited curiosity.
Sometimes I feel other people are asking similar questions about me. They stare at me quizzically, appraisingly, as if there's something they're dying to know. I wonder what's going through their mind. But just as I can't question them, they can't question me.
Even when I'm alone with someone, they seldom tell me very much about themselves. Either they prefer to keep things private or they don't think I'm trustworthy or sympathetic enough. Unlike some people, who find that everywhere they go, they attract astonishingly intimate and heartfelt confessions. So much so, they start to think it might be less of a burden if they looked a bit more off-putting.
As it is, most of my information about other people comes from the media. I eagerly devour the agony columns, the gossipy interviews, the heartbreaking stories about refugees, flood victims, premature deaths. It's odd that I know more about all these complete strangers than I do about the next-door neighbour or the greengrocer. Or the sad, defeated-looking woman who just got off the bus.
PS: There's another explanation for people not confiding in me. They think I look over-sensitive and possibly easily upset by whatever harrowing story they might tell me. So they keep quiet.