The perks of being a wallflower

Reel Life

The other day, I spent a few hours between classes at Pat Brown’s Grill. I was sitting in the corner, reviewing a lecture, when I overheard the following conversation from a table nearby.

“I love records — there’s something so fantastic about the crackling sound, about it being really written on there — not digital. And what’s so great is the record cover; you can totally just go grab a frame from Urban Outfitters and put it up on your wall like a real picture.”

I love eavesdropping. There’s a kind of quiet thrill to it, of catching snippets of a conversation not meant for your ears and giving it meaning that was otherwise not intended. You speculate on the relationship between the conversationalists and start piecing together a history. So you keep listening, and, in a matter of minutes, you’ve learned about an ex-boyfriend and about the time Jason Mraz waved to her at one of his concerts. It’s a delicate act, and there’s etiquette to observe. It’s a matter of crashing the party as inconspicuously as possible. One must preserve the candid nature of the conversation. To an extent, these wallflower acts of party-crashing — of eavesdropping and people-watching — have become my commonplace hobby.

That’s not to say that my life is boring or that any one life is more interesting than another. But it’s a glimpse of another life, of another fate, of who you might have been had you taken a different path in life. It’s a combination of being at the right place at the right time — it all comes together in a moment teeming with coincidence. Someway, somehow, you ended up at the same place, but you’re different people with different pasts and different dreams. But for those few seconds, you can be her — you can slip out of your own skin and be someone else. Maybe it’s a way of validating your own life decisions or just a way to amuse your curiosity. Or maybe it’s just a temporary escape from being yourself.

That’s not to say that it’s always about you, either. It happens to all of us. We’ve all been cameos and extras in people’s backdrops. We’ve all played the unsuspecting filler figure in someone else’s story. As noted in Stephanie Georgopulos’ article on Thought Catalog, “pictures of us exist that we will never see.” As self-aware as we may be, we’ve all been caught fully clothed — or completely naked — in our candor. Our captured blurs and shadows are out there, swimming around the Interwebs, in untagged photos and pictures we’ve unintentionally photobombed. Maybe it’s a subtle fingertip caught in the frame of a camera shot, or maybe it’s something more revealing — a sullen face, a gaze averted, a twinkle of the eye. But it’s all there — a moment of vulnerability that no PhotoShop can deny. It’s these blemishes that give the picture color and contrast and a context in which it can be read.

Living in a clicker-happy culture, we’re all bound to have made our way into an innocent photograph. Just like that, we exist beyond the finite world in multiple dimensions, as memories, as stories, as projections of people’s imaginations. At times, you may be just an arbitrary face in a sea of people. Other times, there will be something so marvelous about you that it will prompt others to remember, and you’ll reappear, maybe as a figure in a dream or as a conscious thought. Either way, you’ll be there. You’ll be a part of a world that you don’t even know exists.

When the world is one big stage made up of a myriad of smaller stages, every bit counts. Like pixels of an image, even the smallest speck of dust adds a certain hue and makes the story a bit more whole, for each speck has its own story too. It’s a continuous, real-time exchange of parts and props, and it’s not something that you can choose to sit out on. You can’t choose to not participate. You can’t not exist. Even as the curtains close, the show goes on. For all you know, the next words you utter may be taken in by a nosy ear, and, just like that, there will be another you.

Image Source: elena-lu via Creative Commons

Contact Casie Lee at [email protected]