Look at me. Now look away.

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Look at me. Look at the camera. Look forward.

There are no other words that make me feel more anxious than these. I always look away. I always look between people. I often cross paths with someone I know, but do not notice it. I always tend to look for the horizon, or some point that might be more friendly to my eyes, tired of looking around for something in particular, finished with looking for someone special for a long time already. Maybe this is why I don’t look. I don’t want to be lured into other people’s lives, I don’t want to know how denial looks like anymore. And that is not for being careless and self-centered (although I am careless and self-centered), oh no, quite the contrary. I don’t want to make anyone else think either anything that I want them to think about me, or anything of what I don’t want them to think of me. I have played and I have lost, many times, although at first it always feels like winning. You strive to find something in the other’s eyes, something comforting, something that gives you a warm pat on your conscience and ego. They look at you and you need to feel that you’re alright. You’ve passed the test, you’re good to come inside, if you need to. You are your positive self. You are desirable, you look successful, you are confident. You are smart, you talk with ease and drop little tokens of your coolness just as easily as you pour milk in your coffee and plants in your tea, your smile, though not entirely perfect, you might have missed a visit or two at the dentist, is charming, your laugh is contagious, your mumblings are funny. The way you master your hands provides an excellent sidenote to your conversation. Your hair, though not entirely perfect, slides onto your cheeks when you slightly bow your head and try to conceal an unexpected laughter, then sits comfortably beneath your ear. The way you talk gives in the amount of narcissism you try to cover with the excuse of not having anyone to pleasantly waste time with, except for a few of times a month, but the truth is, you crave for being listened to, you crave for a confession. The ears towards which you cannot cease to throw triviality and repetitive stories may have stopped grasping certain things, and that fear makes you speak louder. Tell them again. Did I tell you that,… yes you did, does it matter? no it doesn’t, I’m still going to say it and you’re stuck with me, for the time being.

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The people

Do people come back to you, after you’ve parted ways? Do they send an email every once a year and ask you how you’ve been, how are things, whether you finally got a job or quit smoking already (those eyebags, not the best thing, your yellow teeth, a bit repulsive already). They couldn’t call you, you’ve already changed phone numbers and networks, and phones then smartphones, and underwear and hair color a few times since you’ve last meet. You sneak up on facebook profiles and try to answer the questions they’ve never asked and that you’ve never asked yourself, since that last night in a dark bar, since that last exam, since that last random encounter on a hot summer day. You try to find clues in the pictures, and the conclusions are always sad. She’s put on some weight, she got married in an ugly wedding dress to a guy that certainly won’t lead her to the depths of her wit and sensitivity, but who instead got to a different kind of depth, one due to which many girls fall fast and lose their bloom in an instance, he has begun to grow bald and boring, he still parties like he was in the tenth grade, he still doesn’t do anything besides watching tv shows and crashing weeknights out, they don’t seem to yet want to return to the town most people leave in their twenties, and you wonder what is it that keeps them in a place that brings them nowhere closer to themselves. Most of them do return at some point, only to find their posters and cd-s from highschool in the exact same spot they left them, pictures of their now dead pets and first boyfriends and girlfriends, hanging on the wall, and the person they’ve always expected to grow into, just as dead and buried into old conversations in some crowded, smoke-full coffee shop, during those long days of class-skipping in the 12th grade. And then you’re sorry for being judgemental, you realize, you’re not just “being judgemental”, it’s not just something that happens sporadically, like your menstrual period. It’s who you are – mean, unjust, judging others and readily placing yourself in front of further judgement, unkind, always ready to jump to conclusions without taking the time to carefully look at things – and people. If there’s something you can’t stand about people, it’s probably the thing you can’t stand about yourself, as well. We are the fireworks that forgot to blow up while being shot towards the sky. We fall back too soon and when we do explode, it hurts whoever is unfortunate enough to stand beside us.

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Us

I always talk about myself (but think a lot about the others, as well), I cannot help it. It’s not that I find anything about me particularly interesting (besides a couple of features that I assume are there, although I’m still afraid they’ll vanish before I ever got to find a name for them or use them thoughtfully, a case of disappearance which might render me unable to see anything slightly pleasing in the person staring back from the mirror, resulting in a truly delicate potential course of later events). It’s more that I don’t know too much of anything else besides me, and that is an overstatement too, because what I think I know about myself is again a very fragile subject. I am afraid that sooner or later someone will deconspire my limitations and that will steal my energy of ever exposing myself again, in a form that I find suitable – suitable enough to maintain outter interest, the least. So, I talk on and go about my business, I switch roles every once in a while, for the sake of impact, I start paragraphs and sentences with the invincible, undeniable “I”, and somewhere halfway I already believe that it is not about myself anymore, that this is a matter of universal pain, and that what I go through at any given moment could be something that very many people have also gone through, at any given moment – or why not make it now, for instance. Did you know that 19 million people celebrate their birthday in the same day? Every day, almost 19 million people are being wished a happy birthday, by anywhere from one to a hundred persons or more (depends on how high your ratings are in the real virtual world), and a few of those 19 million people might not be celebrated at all – those who’d like to vanish from the map of existence, just like you wipe out a trembling line of a drawing using a dusty eraser which could have a squirrel printed onto it. I might suspect that even fewer are those who are a hundred percent happy about the day that marks another year in their book of life, one that is most likely very far away from essential to their current state of existence.

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You

So, it comes to the subject of you. You, who are reading this. The other you, who feels the same today, who couldn’t get out of bed to go to work today. Another you, who got into a fight about something trite and lost something bigger. Another you from another distance, who searches for a thing, a place, a person, a feeling, a smell or taste or sound that should bring them where they think happiness might reside. We could have been friends a few years ago, we might have got drunk a few times together. We might have gotten someplace farther, even. Or you might have hated me, you probably still do. It’s perfectly understandable, I hate myself at least 3 times a day, and increasingly more after dinner. I might have been a disappointment, ‘this is not exactly what I wanted’, well, that was probably neither what I had wanted. I think that I make myself clear only when you see a bit of yourself in here. The sensible spot. But what gets left behind and well covered, and what barely reaches out of our conversation is the exact thing that makes me be me. Best case scenario, you understand that, I know I do. What I expect to find when we face each other is another version of you, and another version of me, one that looks slightly unfamiliar, of course that’s not exactly me. I speak a lot about myself, but you know what? It spares me the horror of seeing how damn hard it is for you to speak a little about yourself, too. Be honest about it. What happens when you have nowhere to dive passively into, when there is not an image of yourself to be projected onto the person that listens and watches? That single dark spot, the hardest to penetrate. That’s what I really want to experience, at least vaguely, in you. And if I happened to suspect, one time too many, that there is simply a dark spot where nothing exists anymore, a dead spot, if you want, then you know why I walk with my head turned down or my eyes fixed to the horizon.

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*finally wearing my new platforms from Asos, in the dim light of Sunday. everything else trifted (except coat, which is H&M)

2 thoughts on “Look at me. Now look away.

  1. Raluca

    There is everything to be afraid of. Especially us, our own selves. Self-hatred is always part of the menu, with just a side of “I’m better than you.” Do we ever get to see each other? Is there anything to see, after all? I am not sure about the you “you” but I see something here, in your pictures and words. And that’s almost enough.

    1. Cristina Barna Post author

      I see something in you, too, and I’m so glad to be able to say this of more than two persons in my life – which is already quite far from a hopeless situation. I tell myself sometimes, besides the usual smug things which mostly go beyond my control and to which I try to at least not pay much attention, I tell myself that if I feel this.. I don’t know how to call it, essential lack of inner weight in people, in most of them, then it must indicate that maybe I have a little bit of that which I’m searching – otherwise I wouldn’t notice its absence, right? But no, I mostly think it’s not the case, and what we’re supposed to do here, while living, is take defeat as part of our nature – we’re not meant to shine, succeed (in any given way) or inspire anyone, and every time we manage to do so, it is because we knowingly or incidentally leave out a lot of our bulk that doesn’t strike as positive. I really do believe it’s easy to live and achieve things when you trust yourself and feel confident with your strengths – who cares you’re just a bluffer?! But when you know that you are exactly like everyone else and that if there are certain differences, you are not responsible for them, your so-called talents and qualities are strictly accidental, so you’re far from being the hero in your life – so, if you know all these and manage to live through and do something yet keep your head down.. I see that doing this is courage. Honesty as a way of telling “I’m shit” without the slightest intention of self-depreciation or a lousy cry for compassion, and still waking up with a smile – that is courage. That’s the one thing I want from life, and that’s what I long to be inspired by, in others – I’m sorry now that I wrapped the whole post in a lot of (unnecessary) words and left out the essential feeling out – maybe I wasn’t ready to point it, exactly.

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