I Want To Be Known By You

By Richard Henkle

I have this mental image that I can’t place with any specific movie or photograph. Maybe it exists in real life, maybe it’s just a composite of ideas and feelings that I’ve had, all meshed together into a single image, frozen in time only within the confines of my own head.

Picture a busy train station, built in the art deco style that one might think of as quintessential 1920s opulence. It’s the same train terminal that I imagine Dagny Taggart walking through in Atlas Shrugged. Marble floors, pillars holding up the ceiling, dark polished wooden benches near the walls, with a wide open space in the middle of the room. A marble staircase pokes up through the floor in the center of the expanse, leading people to and from important places.

The great hall is crowded, people bustling to and fro. Everyone walks with a purpose. They are all dressed in business conservative attire—black, white, and grey. Monochrome. Stylish but modest. No one is there with anyone else; they all are encased in their own worlds, thinking of the deal that is to be finalized this morning, or the report that should have been turned in last night. The appointments, phone calls, memos of the upcoming day weighing heavily on the minds of each and every person who passes into view.

Except one. A single person is there in the midst of the great hall, jeans and a t-shirt. A drab red somewhere in the outfit. Maybe a backpack. Or a skateboard, or stocking cap. Just enough to say that this isn’t their world.

And they’re just standing there. Not moving. The sea of consultants and secretaries, paralegals and power brokers parts to leave a small bubble around this obstruction. Sometimes when I imagine it, the picture is moving, people flowing past at several times the speed they do in real life, while the person in the middle moves at the normal pace. Other times, it’s just a picture, with the crowd blurry and out of focus, contrasting the individual in the middle who seems unaffected by all that is going on around them.

And yet, even as I see that person in the midst of the crowd, I never think about them as having it all together. They aren’t “the calm center of the universe” (as the narrator of Fight Club describes himself as he attends support groups for people dying of blood cancer or sickle cell anemia—the phrase only exists to me in the disaffected narrated voice of Ed Norton) as the rest of humanity spirals out of control attempting to deal with first world problems. No, that person in the center of the picture feels just as removed and isolated and lonely as anyone else in the room. Earbuds crammed deep into their heads, piping “Goner” by Twenty One Pilots into every conscious pore, they stand transfixed, a silent scream dying before it reaches their lips.

They want to reach out, to connect, to really encounter any one of those thousands of faces scurrying by, but they can’t. Because what do you say to someone who is rushing past you, moving at the pace of life, unsure themselves of how to break the cycle and connect with someone else?

That’s how I feel tonight.

Rachel Wimer