Who is This For? (Part 1)

For people who will invent words on an as-needed basis, and those who see faces in shoes, cars, and appliances.

Who is this for? Someone asked me. It’s a good question. I started a list.

I thought of this young woman I met. She wore these knee socks depicting Van Gogh’s Starry Night. And I thought that there are probably many of us who admire her Van Gogh socks but do not have any and perhaps never will because we keep spending our would-be sock money on fresh bread from a favorite bakery, and repeating the obvious at the first bite, no matter how many times we’ve said it before. “Oh. Bread.” For her, for us. For people who make bread like that.

I thought of how sometimes a person will be so excited about a party that they will arrive early and then wait in the car until appropriately late, and sometimes a person will wonder, in the middle of a party, if it would be rude to start reading. Those who, upon discovering the answer to be “Yes,” consider it a moral choice to resist the impulse, however strong. All of these people.

I thought of the people on the pier, fishing for dinner, piling their catch in a five-gallon bucket, who know which bait and which rod go with what catch. Also, the people who tried fishing once because it seemed noble, somehow, who did it long enough to realize that if they could only eat the fish they caught, they may as well abandon seafood altogether and just start focusing on developing some better nut-based dishes. Both groups are on my mind.

I thought of people whose eyes get weary when they are staring into late-afternoon traffic, and who find some moral heartbreak in the way that a person with some power at work can regularly write emails with non-parallel sentence structure, and I thought of a custodian I knew who was never without a book, and another who would moonlight in a band on his sax. These people, I thought. 

And anyone who ever felt a little funny about doing an inner eye roll whenever they would encounter one of those “live, laugh, love” home décor placards––not because they are opposed to living, laughing, or loving, obviously, but because there is a gut-level aversion to propaganda in all forms; or who found themselves entirely mystified to meet a person who seemed generally immune to debilitating bouts of generalized melancholy. And I thought of my sister, who may actually have one of these home décor placards in her living room, I couldn’t remember, and how if she did, she would mean it unironically, and it would be honest and real, and just perfect for her home. So of course, her, and anyone also in this category with her.

People who know the feeling of laughing until the liquid one is trying to drink starts to spew out the nose, intensifying the laugh which is now all out of proportion with any sense of decorum. People who appreciate the customs of decorum, how they vary according to context and place, and notice the subtle nuances, who know when to say, “What’s good?” vs. “How are you?” vs. nothing but a long look and a deep nod, hand over heart.

People who will invent words on an as-needed basis, and those who see faces in shoes, cars, and appliances. Who hear voices regularly, in a manner that is neither alarming, nor pathological, nor the sort of thing they’d go around admitting, because they understand people’s aversion to associating with the people who admit to hearing voices, and also because the voices in question are generally entertaining, and usually good company.

I noticed, as I was writing this list, that it wanted to get longer. I noticed, that if I let it go on as it may want to, I might be going way beyond my self-imposed limits for these posts. I considered how much I enjoyed making this list, and decided to return tomorrow, with the next installment of “Who Is This For?”

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I am here to wonder out loud. The point is not to get a clear answer, a complete picture, but to remember how incomplete the picture is, to embrace the process once again, of discovery, of questions, to notice the stirrings of wonder. To leave crumbs behind, for the next traveler.

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