“I’ve been thinking lately.”
“A lot of things. And very few things. Does that make sense?”
“It does to me.”
“I thought it might.”
I wonder if this is what we’re looking for, understanding.
It’s our first time out alone. I knew her friends, she knew mine. Every now and then we’d bump into each other and exchange small talk.
Hows your day? Hows work? What have you been up to? Anything new?
We spoke, but never really said anything.
Still, I was drawn to her.
I knew she had more to say.
With some people you just know.
“So what’s something you’ve been thinking about?”
She shuffles through her thoughts, trying to find the right topic.
“Buildings? What about them?”
“I live on the 12th story of my building and it’s 19 stories altogether. That means there are seven floors above me. Seven.”
“Well each story has several apartments. These apartments are filled with beds, couches, televisions, desks, chairs, rugs, all sorts of things. So much mass and weight just there, floating right above me. I realized I never give it a second thought. I go about my days without a worry, oblivious to what’s just above my head. It’s one of the many things I take for granted.”
I wonder why we never notice how much weight everything and everyone around us is carrying.
I imagine her lying in bed at night thinking about this. I try to guess what sparked her train of thought. Was it the sound of the neighbors television? Somebody moving furniture around? The comfort of her bed? The sight of her dark ceiling?
Thought works in weird ways, I think.
“I’ve never looked at it that way, it’s pretty profound.”
“It’s not profound, it’s just rambling.”
“It’s essential rambling.”
“Your turn then. What do you see when you look at buildings?”
I shuffle through my thoughts, trying to find the right answer.
“Yeah. When I look at buildings I think about the people living inside them. Everybody has a story. I wonder how many untold stories are trapped behind the concrete walls. Sometimes I even try to guess what type of story is hidden behind each window. A drama? A comedy? A romance? I’ll never know.”
I realize I’ve thought more about buildings than I thought I did.
“Seems like you’ve been doing a lot of thinking too.”
“I’m just trying to make sense of things.”
“That makes the two of us.”
I think about us.
I’m 25, unemployed, and single.
She’s 28, works a 9–5, and is in a relationship.
She says it’s complicated.
She says talking to me isn’t.
I wonder where “us” is going.
“I love watching strangers.”
“You mean people watching?”
“Yeah, but specifically strangers.”
“Why specifically strangers?”
She turns to look at the few people walking around us.
“They’re blank canvases. They could be anyone, doing anything, going anywhere. Their possibilities are endless.”
I turn and look at them too.
I see mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, lovers, and strangers.
The covers of books I’ll never read.
What they are is clear, who they are isn’t.
I turn and look at her.
No cover, only words.
Who she is is clear, what she is isn’t.
“Sometimes when I’m stranger watching, I fantasize about being able to know their entire stories by touching them.”
“Wouldn’t that be counterproductive?”
“Learning their story would mean they aren’t strangers anymore.”
“Doesn’t that mean you’d lose interest in them?”
“Depends on their story.”
“That’s fair. And what about their endless possibilities? Do they lose them?”
“No. We’re all strangers in someone’s eyes.”
I wonder what I am in hers.
She turns and looks directly at me.
She’s peering through a window.
I’m a stranger in a building she’s trying to touch.
She reaches out and puts a finger on my hand.
“No. Not yet.”
She pulls away and smiles.
“It’s only our second time out together, I’ll know your story eventually.”
I know she will.
I wonder what type of story this is turning into.
A romance? A tragedy? A comedy? An epic?
A poem? A short story? A novella? A novel?
I wonder if she’s going to leave her mark on it.
I can still feel the warmth of her touch on my hand.
I wonder if she already has.
“Do you know how airplanes fly?”
“Engines, wings, air, speed, that type of stuff?”
“I said something similar when I was first asked. Not too far off. It’s more lift, drag, thrust, gravity type of stuff though.”
“No idea what any of that stuff is. I imagine this is the part where you enlighten me.”
“You have a pretty realistic imagination.”
If only, I think.
She starts talking about Newton’s Laws, air molecules, upward force, downward force, and of course lift, drag, thrust, and gravity.
She says that in order to fly, an airplane’s engine must move its propellers fast enough to push air molecules backwards. The backward motion of the air molecules moves the plane forward. When this forward movement becomes fast enough, the wings of the plane begin pushing air molecules downward. When enough air molecules are pushed down, the plane goes up.
I have her explain this to me several times to make sure I get it.
“So backwards causes forwards and down equals up?”
“But aren’t they opposites?”
“Sometimes, opposites need each other to work.”
I think about how differently we work.
“It’s strange, to me airplanes were always heavy metal objects that flew through the sky. Magic. Now, you’re saying that airplanes are engines, wings, force, gravity, rules, and laws. Science.”
“Is that a problem?”
“I think it is. I prefer the former to the latter.”
“And what if I told you they were the same?”
“Magic is simply undiscovered science, and science is merely discovered magic.”
“Did you come up with that?”
“No, it’s a quote.”
“Who said it? A scientist?”
“No. A poet.”
I’m far less skeptical.
I imagine scientists writing verse and poets conducting experiments.
I think about up causing down and magic being science.
I ponder perspective.
She sees buildings, strangers, and science.
I see stories, books, and magic.
Combining what we each see gives us more.
I wonder if this is what we’re looking for, more.
We live what we perceive.
The world’s a simple place, but people complicate it.
It’s filled with buildings and stories, strangers and lovers, ups and downs, and science and magic.
A lot of things and very few things.
Together, we’re trying to make the most of them.
I wonder if this is us starting to understand our story.
Or us getting lost in it.