I work next to an old train depot that now houses a miniature railroad museum and mostly medical offices. Scattered outside the building are some old train cars, and nearby too is a working set of tracks where occasionally freight trains go through, moving steadily past all the parked cars. There are mornings where, pulling into the lot, when it is not yet light, I am transported back to the overnight train from D.C. to Chicago, when I sat up all night in the observation car, looking out the window, the blurred reflection of my own face in the window shading everything I looked at. I think of that blurring face in the window sometimes; a metaphor for the disparity between the way I view myself and the way I think others view me.
Someone once told me that my writing was brave. I wanted to say that for me, this isn’t bravery. Survival sometimes, perhaps, but not bravery. For me, writing is the easy part. It is people that I find hard, not this language here on the page, but the language of human interaction, one I am constantly trying to learn.
The other night I spent time on the patio with a frog as evening visitor. We sat as quietly together as we were able. Like humans, frogs can count, though aurally, not visually as some other species do. For them, learning to count the pulses in the croaks of another frog is a way of identifying another of their own species. I am blessed with the ability to count aurally, visually, and tactilely, and yet, while I am easily able to identify one of my own species, none of these methods of counting help me to identify one of my own kind.
I am perhaps, not very good at dissembling, find lies, even the kind intended to be kind, exhausting. As a result, over the years I’ve been told that I am too direct, that I can be harsh, even come across as uncaring. Introspection, too, is mistaken for sadness, a melancholy that most days I do not feel.
It is true, I take many things seriously. Even that frog there on the patio, his wash of browns and greens blending together, the curve of his sides slowly expanding with breath, then emptying back out again, his little bellows of a body with its small legs and even smaller eyes. The way he holds himself so composed, so unconcerned with my presence, so unlike the way I am when I am near other people. If I am anything to him at all, I am no more than absently thought of tree, swaying in the wind.
Yet maybe our needs, mine and the frogs, are, at times, not all that dissimilar—a little moonlight, a soft breeze. I watch the frog and the bare sliver of moon, its light white and soft against the blue of the night sky. I watch the moon, to which I matter no more than the frog, count time not by clock, but by the sound of my steadily beating heart, the breaths that inflate my chest, my chest rising and falling like the sides of the frog, enjoy this simple companionship, requiring, at last, no words, no words at all.