A Secret Obsession

In a city of 8 million people, all of them going somewhere simultaneously, I tend to look less AT people and more towards people; it’s out of street necessity, to be able to guess will they slide left or right? Will they stop like a friggin’ tourist to look up in the middle of the friggin’ sidewalk or look down at the friggin’ map? Or will they hear the silent rhythm of the Bo Diddley beat of the streets we stride to and dance the pas de deux at all the right moments, unknowingly blocking for you while you carry the ball, or briefcase, or Whole Foods bag?

But when you stop, at the light, on your subway or bus seat or out the window of the cab, you then cant help but look at and sometimes THROUGH people, and judge, or at least, decide. By their slouch or by their shoes, by their coat or by their hair, you judge, or at least decide, just as they judge you, or at least decide.

But how often are you wrong about someone? Not only wrong, but dead wrong in your judgment, in your moment of decision. Can you really tell who they are, what their secret obsession is? It’s not just the millionaire bag lady you were wrong about, but your neighbor the pedophile. Your dry cleaner, the S&M freak. The grandfatherly crossing guard dope dealer.

Their mug shot made them look dirty now, as if we should have seen it all along. But we knew them as NORMAL – that was the judgment we made in the little time we had to make it, yet here they were on the perp walk.

I once worked with a guy, a nice, overweight, glasses-wearing editor kind of guy, who was fired for sniffing his secretary’s chair. I knew a guy who wore leopard thong underwear – he was 6’8 and ripped. Wait, I guess that one I could see coming.

I generally suspect the worst, the weirdest, the bizarre and the abnormal about others. I don’t actually care, directly, I just tend to paint an awful picture so I won’t be shocked or feel duped when they issue the search warrant and find what no one had suspected.

No one except me.

I watched a woman on the train the other night. She seemed to be writing the same sentence over and over in a note book. I imagined it was “I must obey my husband” “I must obey my husband”. Then she packed her bag, got off at Mt. Vernon East, walked home through the snow and let her husband beat the crap out of her for being late.

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