Everyone Likes to Pretend

You’re out there. Somewhere. Staring at the cursor blinking on the blank page, struggling to string thoughts into words into sentences into paragraphs. Maybe it’s morning, afternoon, midnight. A beer, a whisky, a tumbler of water, or a piping hot tea set to one side of you laptop or desktop computer. Apple of Chromebook or something from HP. Maybe you lost sleep last night, or overslept in the morning. Or you found that perfect set of hours, waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day. You gather textbooks or briefcase or a journal and pen and head off to school, the office, or café. Today is a busy day, or a sabbatical. You beat out a rhythm with a pencil drumstick as you wait for an e-mail to arrive. Or it’s a day at the park. Or one better spent browsing the shelves of your local used bookstore. You scan the titles, zeroing in on the one the cute guy or gal from work or class or the public library spent hours reading during his or her free time. You pick up the novel, the tome, the short collection of stories or poems. It’s something you never read before, or it’s all too familiar. You put it back on the shelf, or reshelf it in the most ridiculous place—like the time you hid that collection of smutty tales in next to the For Her Bibles—or you make your way to the front and buy the copy. You slip away into the crowd, or you head off in the opposite direction in order to avoid running into someone you might have gone to high school with because you hate small talk and you know it’s going to happen when you run into one. Those annoying questions about asking where have you been, what have you been doing, or what do you do these days? Are you still with so-and-so, or the getting the updated news of how a high school sweetheart is married, pregnant, both or deceased. You pace yourself at home, or you avoid eye contact at work.

You’re out there. Somewhere. On a Friday or Saturday night sprawled out on the couch, or lying in bed. A bucket of popcorn rests besides you as you channel surf or scroll through the endless suggestions on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, or Hulu Plus. You choose to watch a movie, or TV show, or something from you childhood. You turn off the set and the light and just lie in the dark staring at the ceiling as your eyes do their best to adjust. Small explosions erupt in through the black, sending swirls of colors dancing before you. It’s something you want to know if others experience so you reach for your phone to text a close friend or special someone, but stop short because it sets in. While you’re ready to end your day, everyone is just beginning their nights. And while a part of you longs to join the crowd, you know that you don’t belong. All those quirks that make you feel charming leaves an aloof flavor in other people’s mouths. So you think better of it and set the phone back down on the nightstand, on the armrest, or the windowsill. You spend in the night imaging situations, rehearsing lines for Monday when you go back to work, or school, or the bookstore, or park. You practice scripts of dialogue, memorizing all the right words to say when someone asks you about your weekend. You practice your smile, and know it wouldn’t convince anyone but they’ll play along with you because, let’s face it, everyone likes to pretend.

You’re out there. Somewhere. Laughing when you crying would better suit you. Or crying as you remember the laughter you experience in the past, wondering if you can ever reach those days again. You stuff your hands in your pockets and smirk when someone asks you if you’re ok. And you go on a tangent about the origin of the phrase ok and how it’s an abbreviation for a purposefully misspelled variant of all correct. You get on the bus, or behind the wheel, or the passenger or backseat in a carpool. You laugh at all the right jokes. You smile at the right moments. You react the way you’re supposed to. You find yourself in a quiet place at the office, park, bookstore, or café. Take in a deep breath. And pace yourself.

You’re out there. Somewhere.

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