You know the old question. "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?" Most people I know have answered that they want to fly. Not me. I always reasoned that cars and airplanes make me sick enough - I can't imagine what actually flying would do.
No, I always thought it would be neat to be able to jump inside other people's minds. Not literally, of course, but rather to be able to see the world through someone else's eyes, to know what he or she is thinking and feeling and experiencing. Other people have always fascinated me and to know their stories would be an amazing gift.
We are all so wrapped up in our own play. Unconsciously, I imagine all the people that come and go from my life as extras. When I don't interact with them, they go and wait patiently in the wings for their next entrance. Is it any wonder we tend, as a species, to be so self-involved? It's easy to forget that there are six billion of us, each one lugging around an 800,000-page script of our own life.
Now and then I get little reminders of these billions of other plays being enacted. Tonight I was out on my balcony. I live in a fantastic old apartment by one of my city's hospitals. The neighbourhood is full of interesting characters and I enjoy going out there to see what's happening before I head off to bed. Usually all I see are doctors or nurses whose shifts have ended and who are walking to their vehicles, or homeless people picking through the garbage bins and salvaging the still-usable stuff we homed (homeful?) people have thrown out. This time I saw a minivan park on the street and a man and and woman got out. They starting doing that half-jog, half-walk thing as soon as their feet hit the pavement. As they passed beneath me, I heard him say to her, "Don't worry," and then he grabbed her hand as they rushed towards the hospital entrance.
What horrible scene awaited them there? I could try and trick myself into thinking that it was actually their daughter they were rushing to see, and she was in the middle of having her first child and they were merely concerned for her safety. But no - I could hear it in his voice. I could see it in their cluched hands. Tonight's portion of their play is surely going to be a tragedy.