I am always shocked when people I know mention they've seen me out for a run or walking down the street.
It's not that I think I'm invisible when I'm in public; it's more that I live so in my head that I don't really consider those around me. Except when they're walking really slowly and I can't pass, or standing on the left on the Metro escalator.
But whether I am alone or with someone, I'm often not thinking about the reactions of others. Until I notice them reacting.
So I have this terrific new friend. We're just getting to know each other.
We have a number of things in common. We went to the same college, we're both writers, we both love to read, and we both love soup. But the first thing, and really the reason we met, is mental illness.
It is a weird and yet oddly comforting thing to have in common.
I mean, we all want to be seen as unique, right? And yet we need to have commonalities and connections, particularly for the difficult things we trudge through in life.
And so, when you can talk about getting someone into the psych ward in the same way that you might discuss the merits and drawbacks of a particular grocery store, there's something wonderful in it. Because while it's fucked up that it's normal, it's been your normal.
So then you can say things like, "Well, the outpatient program used to be on the locked floor, which was so much better..." and the other person can nod in understanding. "Right, because then they can't disappear!"
I know I sometimes make people uncomfortable by talking so candidly about the crazy in my life. Plus there's my gallows humor.
But not this new friend. She is hilarious and clever, and she's quick with the humor of a grim situation.
So we went to have lunch and the place was packed, with only two seats out of four open at this little board attached to the wall to put your food on. There were four stools, and we squinched in.
By then we'd covered the psych ward and were on to medication and manipulation of psychiatrists, which I said my dad excelled at.
We were all almost on each other's laps, so I had a good view of the man next to her, who had so kindly offered to move over to give us two seats together. He was eating, but sitting very still in a way that suggested to me that our conversation was of interest.
I wondered if he identified. There was no indication.
I asked how she and a mutual friend had met. She said at a book signing. The mutual friend said something about writing a memoir about living with bipolar disorder. And she said, "I had to meet her."
I said, "Did you say, 'Awesome! Let's stay up for three days straight and talk about it!'?"
We laughed really hard. He stared straight ahead. And then he put the last bite in his mouth and got up and left.
So I'm guessing it was a no?