My Even Stranger Strangers

The world revolves around the paranoid. Being on guard for the worst requires a steadfast commitment to hypothesizing about the intentions of all the characters you encounter throughout the day. The affiliations you don’t see daily can not be completely ignored either, but even as I qualify myself at level 9, I don’t portend to have the capacity to gauge the whereabouts and activities of all the souls walking the earth, hell-bent on destroying me. That said, since I don’t walk with my ears glued to tunes or my eyes and fingers affixed to what Stephen King once referred to as modern day slave bracelets, I have ample time to construct numerous narratives about the people around me.

I loathe gossip – dabble in it, sure, but consider it an enormous waste of energy – and yet, these fictional constructions I make to myself could be categorized as gossip I share with myself. My excuse, also made internally, is that as a writer it is a good exercise to create back stories for strangers, acquaintances, and surface-level friends – and in truth, I have used some of these musings in unpublished and published literature, media, and the like. I wouldn’t say I’m good at reading people, nor a great judge of character, so much as I’d say I’m pretty adept at building fictionalized stories around human beings in mere minutes. I don’t think it’d be untrue to make the claim that the mini-biographies I mentally-pen about folks are probably far more fascinating than the actual lives they live or have led.

Do other people spend any effort against this same practice? Is who I am being painted in the heads of the very people I aim to figure out? I doubt it. Which is both a testament to my knowledge that I am not the center of the universe, and also a clue about my less-than-complimentary opinion of the masses on the whole – too lazy to bother, with brains too saturated with the spoon-fed details of celebrity lives, human beings they’ve most likely never met, and are most likely not standing close enough to take them out on a packed J train crossing the East River.

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