Wow, there are so many of them, how did they get here? It seems like it had to be a coordinated effort to make this many people. Thousands of them traversing the crosswalks and sidewalks and jaywalking and jogging and running full speed biking and driving and occasionally jumping from buildings onto other people who occasionally think about jumping from buildings. They are all talking or ignoring people who are talking. Street preachers and beggars and skate rats and crust punks. I’m sitting on a bench ensconced in the madness of every day. I feel like I’m drowning in humanity.
Claustrophobia must be the price for civility. I need my running water garbage disposal taxis phones and central cooling. I can’t track or hunt or kill or forage. To be connected I have to be in the thick of it. Regardless of my comfort.
I used to hide in the closet as a kid when I got in trouble. I’d have to go fetal. Behind the hanging clothes and pile of fallen previously hanging clothes. It was not a punishment it was just the joy of feeling safe and cocooned after doing something bad and being made to feel ugly and dirty and bad. I was the butterfly I should have been when my tears dried and joints ached.
And sometimes I feel like this mass of people is just one thing. A swarm of cells in a body with no borders. Like there are no individuals, just different pieces of information gathering nodes transmitting content to and fro in an effort to make sense of the landscape. It’s impossible for me to identify with this mass because I know I am just me. But somehow I cannot afford the same agency to each and every one of these people that I see. I can’t process that much probability, that many variables.
I get up to move among them. It is time for me to go to work, my time for sunlight and unmuffled city sounds is over. I move with the current of the people and feel like I am being carried away. But something catches my foot and I fall face first on the gum spotted concrete. I am the only one who has fallen and I am the only one who has stopped moving. I feel them on top of me. Looking right ahead.
When I was a kid I used to wrestle with my dad after dinner sometimes. Whenever he pinned me and I could feel the weight of his body on mine it was all I could do to not go limp and just give up.
Joe is a writer from Michigan working in radio and television. He hosts a movie podcast with his wife Cady called Sharing Everything. He has had work published in The Ginger Collect, Moonchild, All the Sins, and more wonderful magazines. His twitter handle is @noisemakerjoe.