I walk into my office and, before sitting down on my chair, see the cotton-candy stuffing pushing through the back of the worn out cushion. The sun shines through the window creating a rectangle of light on the chipped hardwood floor–it is a dazzling playground where certain shadows frolic like children while others watch dutifully over them like guardians. The white lace curtains flaunt their grace by moving delicately with the breeze. 

I wonder if it is my purpose to purposelessly observe the details in life that pass others by unnoticed.  I am suddenly overtaken by a desire to be seen; a longing to hear someone say, “You are as alive to me as the cushion and the curtains and light and the shadows are to you! Let me read what I have written about you!”

I lean over the railing of the gazebo overlooking a mossy human-made pond. There are initials carved into the rotting wood of the gazebo. The sun radiates a soft yellow light and gently caresses my skin.

On the rocks surrounding the pond are bales of Sliding Turtles, still as statues and with snouts pointed upward. They look toward the sun as if in a state of worship. Two of the turtles descend into the water with the smaller one continually waving its claws at the head of the larger one like a child pleading for its parent’s attention.

Across the pond on the hilly lawn two lovers sit on a blanket. The man is olive skinned and silver haired. He looks sleek and slender like a fox. His legs are apart to make room for a woman who leans back into his chest. She wears a long white linen skirt that flows as femininely as her wavy brown hair. They look to be in their 50’s but laugh in the unfettered manner of children. It is a love that looks new enough to have an unearned spark, but old enough to contain some level of comfort. I smile at the moment they are sharing. I wonder if they will remember this experience and just as quickly realize that it does not matter because they have this now.

A toddler follows a duck around. He giggles excitedly as his mom looks on warmly. The duck does not fly away, it simply waddles as if indulging the boy in a game of tag. Eventually the duck decides to enter the water and the child cries. The mother picks her boy up with a warm laugh. He is comforted within seconds.

I become aware that I watch all of this with a sense of invisibility and that this both comforts me and makes me sad. I walk slowly back to my car and drive to my office.

I leave my office tired from work and numb about the solitary routines that will define my evening. I begin the two block march toward my car. I want to be invisible so that I can see without being seen.

Just a hundred yards from my office I startle at seeing an owl figurine that I mistake for a real owl. I chuckle at myself for how frequently I am fooled by a garden fixture that I pass hundreds of times per year.

I hear the sound of a tuneless singing voice and trace it to a middle aged woman across the street with disheveled blond hair and flower print yoga pants. I am touched by the fact that she does not seem to give a fuck about what others think of her. I feel slightly less numb.

A block away I see dry dead palm branches along the curb–victims of three windy days. I look up and feel sad for the palm trees that were displaced from their homes just to add to the illusion of paradise. I feel rage at the falseness of this narcissistic city. Yet it is fitting that I choose to live in a place where I feel Other.

I hear a person walking behind me. I pick up my pace but gain no ground. I imagine that this person is going to attack me and I squeeze my right hand tightly into a fist. The person passes me. They are handsome and wearing designer workout clothes. I realize that I manufactured a sense of danger in order to break the monotony of the evening. I feel a passing sense of shame at the privilege that allows me to invent danger for the sake of amusement.

I arrive at my car and drive home to the uninspired thought of turkey patties and broccoli for dinner. I beg myself not to binge eat after dinner; not to turn the numbness into acting out. Walking those two blocks is the high point of my day. “That’s not so bad,” I say to myself.