A white screen of smoke obscured her face that for a second I thought I just imagined her talking. She said it so softly I almost thought she was commenting about the weather, or something absolutely irrelevant. For several seconds I just stared at her, watching her intently, but always never guessing what's she's thinking.
We've been friends since forever, grew up together, but I still don't know her. We're best friends, but I know nothing - only what she chooses to divulge.
She's an enigma. I don't know if I'm fascinated or scared. I take a sip of my cold beer.
Plaster a sign on her forehead that says, "I'm an alien, an outsider, a weirdo. I don't belong here, goddamn you all!" and a passerby would just think she's joking. She looks absolutely normal and happy.
But I know better. She can be the most inquisitive and concerned human being when the situation calls for it, she can be as lively and goofy as a damn kid high on sugar, she can be breathless from an intensely animated storytelling and then lapse into a catatonic state the next minute, oh and she can listen to your stories for hours - smile plastered, nodding at the right moments, laughing at the punchlines - and you'll never guess that her mind is blank... Or thinking about ginormous black holes. She's a chameleon, a mime, a great pretender - because in reality, she's not here.
You know how I know?
Because I see it in her eyes. Those eyes! Sometimes they scare me. Those sad brown eyes that give away her true self. I can't stare at them too long because I feel I might drown in them and then die. Her eyes burn with such intensity you can almost see her soul wailing, banging at the door, trying to break free. Her longing to belong, to express, to be herself, to live - you can feel that when you look at her eyes, straight to her soul. Sometimes I get it, you know. What she means when she says what she says. Because people with those kinds of eyes really don't belong among people whose eyes have never burned with such passion. Put her in a crowd and she'll blend in easily, doing her robot dance, mimicking human puppets as what she calls the others - but one look through her eyes and you'll know. She really doesn't belong.
The first time I witnessed that it really caught me off-guard. I felt the loneliness, the frustration, the angst, - and it hit me so hard I almost felt nauseous. For a second I felt my body turn cold - like a corpse suddenly decided to give me a hug. I can't explain it better, but for that few seconds I felt, uhm, death. Nothingness. Can you even feel nothing? I pity her, because I see the sadness. The mediocrity of these human beings is like a fire hose to her burning house - it douses her flame and there are days when she forgets and you see her eyes become vacant. Dead. A dying ember in a fireplace. Convention kills her.
No, she doesn't belong here - whatever here means.
But still, I want to fully understand her. This mysterious being - I wanna get her. I had to swallow several times before I mustered enough courage to speak up. My throat felt dry.
"What do you mean you don't belong here?" I asked her. Cautiously, unobtrusively. I try to look as calm as she seems to be. Quite unsuccessfully to tell you the truth.
She stares at me. Totally unsettling. Like she has x-ray vision and she sees through my skull. Either she sees through my soul or I'm invisible - one or the other. I feel like I'm a huge lump of warm shit under her stare. I'm dog poop to her, something you look at only so you could avoid it, then you forget about it once you step over it. Shit. I'm inferior to her. Can you believe this woman? I get stared at for several seconds and she already made me feel like I'm stupid and a worthless piece of shit. That's talent, man! I'm actually impressed.
"Cerebro. You know that, Sid?" She lights another cigarette. The way she exhales that toxic smoke makes me wanna smoke too. I almost forgot that I hate the smell of it. Like she's having amazing sex with her cancer stick, you know what I mean? Like she's having orgasm I almost get a hard-on just listening to her intake of breath. And when she lets the smoke escape her lips, god oh god, I wanna die.
"Sid, the fuck are you thinking?"
I blinked a few times thinking of a believable reason why I was staring at her with my mouth slightly open - like a fucking brain-damaged dimwit. Can't think of anything even remotely funny. Fuck.
"Umm, Cerebro? You mean X-Men?" I laugh consciously.
She raised her eyebrow and smirked. That meant yes.
"Is this the part where you tell me you're a mutant and you're joining Magneto's Brotherhood?"
She rolls her eyes. At least she's amused. For a while she doesn't speak but when she does her voice has changed. It's quite a subtle change but I've known her long enough to know that this is her soul speaking. "In a way, that's what I am, man. I need to find other mutants. Shit, I need Cerebro!"
Oh god she's serious. I fidget in my seat. She's weird.
She continues, oblivious to her surroundings, "The other day I was in a bus, travelling out of town, and I'm looking at the people we pass by. And they're like these blue people in Xavier's Cerebro, and I'm this red thing, miles and miles away from another red dot on the radar. These people, they're so normal. They just go on and walk around and do their shitty little routines, and bump against each other and they won't even notice because they're so absorbed in their own little shitty bubble. And call it life. These brainwashed robots think they're living. And I was so sad, Sid."
"Why were you sad?"
"Because at that moment, I felt like giving up."
I heard her voice crack a little bit. I had to look up from staring at the froth in my beer to check if she was crying. She's not. Duh. Of course she's not crying. She has a tough exterior. Inside? Well, you know, those with hard shells usually have that to protect something soft inside. Something fragile. I waited for her to go on.
After a few puff from her newly-lit cigarette, she continued, "In that moment, while staring at those little robots - puppets with invisible strings -, I felt like giving up. I felt like dying. Is this life? Hurried steps from point A to point B. Oblivious to everything. Running, eyes half-closed. Minds numbed. Hearts duped. Brains, wait, what brains? They're puppets. They don't question, they just move to the pre-taped rhythm of monotonous life! I can't live that way, Sid!"
I saw her shudder. She shook her head as if that will make the lovely thoughts in her head go away. "Live how you want to live." I told her. I don't exactly get her, because I'm one of those people she just described with derision. To be honest, I'm quite hurt. I didn't tell her that though.
"I know. But I feel so alone. Like no one gets me. In that moment, at the bus, I felt it. I felt my darkness. I felt so different. An alien. You see? I know there are people like me out there, red dots trying to mingle with the blue ones. That's what I want. Cerebro. To find people like me. People with delicious darkness. Too much fake brightness in here, Sid. It blinds me. Their ignorant bliss makes me wanna set my hair on fire and dance naked to a Nicki Minaj song. And then stab myself to death with an old bread knife..." Then after a few seconds, she added, "And take cyanide while I'm losing blood on the pavement, just to be sure, y'know."
What could I say to that? Her despair and hopelessness is rubbing off on me I couldn't even manage to say a single word. My throat dried up because I felt what she's trying to say. I couldn't grasp it completely, of course, but I felt it. What could you say to an alien who lost its spaceship? Sorry, you're in a different world and you obviously don't belong here, but just suck it up, my green friend, coz you have nowhere else to go?
She spoke again, but this time I hear a difference in her voice. Colder. Instinctively, I grabbed my beer just to feel something comforting.
"You know the saddest part?"
"Even if you find someone like you, it's irrelevant. Life has no meaning. It's just the way it is, you wake up, you survive, you sleep. You do this cycle until you don't wake up anymore. Finding your kind of people won't matter. Human connections are fake. We just pretend it means something as a way to comfort ourselves temporarily. We like to think it means something, but it doesn't. It's all fake." She took another drag from her fast-dying cigarette.
I look at her and I wish I stayed at home today watching re-runs of X-Files.
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