Emmanuel G Escobar
Shadows is the starting chapter of my story. It is the reflection of going to Boots on a Sunday afternoon to buy lip balm and how it quickly turned into studying the faces of strangers that were working and shopping there. I describe how my nature works against me when meeting new people and how I instead choose to create stories about strangers by creating their characters, instead of getting to know them. I come to realise that this is not solely something I experience with strangers but also with members of my family. I then breakdown social structure and family ties, learning to identify lies and misconceptions.
I go to shops, the attractive, young women working there give me a smile as I lurk through the isle. I smile back, carefully making brief eye contact and withdraw my momentary happiness away from her. Perhaps she can see the loneliness in my eyes if she were to stare into them long enough. I don’t give them the chance, I never do. I continue to walk around as I stare at her co-workers, trying to study the ones I find interesting. I am not sure what attracts me to these unknown people, perhaps it’s the way they talk and smile, the way they work and walk, perhaps it’s the way that no attention can be paid on me, and they are merely there doing what they need to be doing. Their friendliness may be a requisite for them to work there—deep inside they may be filled with troubles, and like me forcing themselves to smile for a stranger. I can still remember them, from the glimpses I took, I can picture their work clothes in my head. I didn’t study them long enough to be able to paint an image of them from memory and I may only recognise them in the context of where I saw them. I wonder about them; I create stories in my mind about them. What do they do after work; patiently working away their Sundays to return home to a loving partner, and their family? Perhaps their partner works too someplace else and they too are being studied by those that walk in the shadows, through this silent path.
Social architecture is what it is. Imaginary bonds between pairs of people, groups, each bond with a different intensity. The amount of energy you give to someone that is unproportionate to the energy you receive back from them. That is the difficulty of having a mutualistic relationship with someone. It’s not difficult to imagine that these bonds can be anything less than perfect. Family ties can be themselves be the weakest of bindings; I cannot understand why so much trouble originates at home. How can we even think about making the world a better place and seek peace worldwide, if we cannot find peace within family? Too many elements of life that we humans have wanted to define. Too many problems we create in our minds that our descendants must suffer. I wish I had said something to these women at the pharmacy. It seems to be a very intimate place to meet someone, if only I had the courage and opportunity to do so. What will they think if I did? I could be humorous and subtle asking them a question, but nothing can really form from that. And then there’s that thought, what if they liked me or what if they just thought I was a freak? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve told to get away from someone and called a freak. How much attention would they pay to just another stranger, just another customer. I cannot give myself hope for thinking that among a crowd of strangers in a shop, minding their own business, shopping and even ignoring the workers, I would have a chance to shine? Perhaps having only walked and thought about all this, looking at all products without showing my intentions, I may have just looked lost and confused. I was wearing my long, black water-resistant trench coat; a coat that I have worn since I was 12, because it was bought too large for me back then that its end touched the floor. Over the years, it served me well, covering my slender, unshaped, and unattractive body. A decent coat for cold, rainy weather. It may not be suitable for heavy rain, but it can protect me against a light drizzle. I chose to wear formal trousers and classic black, Oxford shoes, but I don’t feel dressed up; I cover my insecurities and fears with fancy clothing. I feel better with clothes on, as if I represent something and someone. I feel like clothes help define my character, fill into the presence that society expects.
But I felt really alone in the crowd of strangers, so distant from everyone else, that the best thing I could do is what I always do, stand in the corner, stare and listen. And that’s when I studied these people, while blending in without standing out, and instead feeling distant from everything. Maybe I am better alone in the shadows. What a wonderful realisation. What a great thing to bring up during the holidays at a family dinner. Your relations staring right back at you as you try to explain how everyone is merely there because you are born to be with them. Well, perhaps not, not in my case. You see, I was torn away from my relatives at a very young age. I saw them in yearly rotations, spending the holiday season with them, similar to the way it had always been when I was growing up. Eventually, other things began to occupy my parents and with school projects and a newly appointed life elsewhere, those with whom I grew up, were no longer there. I was away when they died; I remember my mother telling me to say my goodbyes as early as a year before they passed away because ‘I would never have the chance to say goodbye again’. Over the years, the old grew older and the desperate took more decisive measures to combat desperation. New ones came along, but I felt there was no longer a connection that would have existed years ago when I lived closer.
Communicating with them is often difficult, because we have lived so many years apart, and lost to realise who we really are. And I no longer see things as the little child I was once, I may still be naïve, but I see more than I feel. I can see the fragmentation within my family, the lies, the mistrust, and the hate. All those Christmas days we came together as a family and took pictures together are simply relics of history that represent nothing else but the cliques that were fostered throughout the years. And so, I grew to become an isolated being, but one who craves to socialise and enjoys the stolen moments of attention if they come to seek me, because I will not take the initiative to find them. It’s not the time and place to explain about the emotional strains that I endured as a child as I relocated to other environments every five years on average, but it is something to bear in mind for future remarks I will make. So, what is this all going to be about, the tales of a depressed person, searching for some sort of satisfaction from documenting his life story? Let’s establish early on that although a professional may diagnose me with clinical depression, I do not feel like the depression is a major burden to carry that renders me incapable of carrying out certain tasks. I may distant myself from everything that I once took interest in, including work, lifestyle and nutritional needs, which then bring up the concerned doctor into action saying that I need serious help or medication. I have mistrust of doctors and psychologists because I have found them more judgemental than helpful in the past; that is why I depend on no one else but myself when dealing with issues.