The story about jimmy is a bit troubling. He surely doesn’t understand why but it is just something that has been stuck with him ever since he can remember. It wasn’t too big of a problem to be honest, but it was there. He was certainly aware of it.
He had tons of stories because of it that was for sure. Things just happened once in a while. His friends knew and his family did too but other than that basically no one really understood what the problem was. These “things” just happened ever since he was a kid and could make out what people thought and sometimes even said. Jimmy said he had a problem of just wondering too much.
It definitely wasn’t a medical thing but after trying so long, it was like something that certainly couldn’t be fixed out of the blue. There was one time when the whole chaos and stories thing disappeared but only for a ten-day run. He remembered these days quite clearly. It was during the summer. About five or six years ago. It didn’t really matter how long ago it was. He just thought of what would happen if this type of strange lucidity came back one day. He often wondered what would he do this time now that he actually knows how things would be. Whenever someone asked about this run, Jimmy would tell them “those were, by all means, the best ten days of my life.”
The thing about Jimmy’s…thing; was that he didn’t really notice it. He remembered everything that had happened because of it, but to him, there was nothing to really notice. The fact that it was only him who went through these situations and only him who remembered them bothered him. He knew of course that “there was nothing wrong with him”. What made him so uncomfortable, in fact, was that everyone said this all the time just to be polite and try not to point out what the real issue was, just to try and avoid it.
He thanked the ones who were close to him for putting up with it and also staying there even if he had it. At times he just couldn’t bare the overwhelming feeling of being lied to when these things were said. Or even not really lied to but bothered by the idea everyone had that they understood, or knew how it felt like but no one ever tried to fix it.
Jimmy said at times he thought about being fixed.
Even if Jimmy knew not how to deal with this, he had to. He tended to just let stories go but some of them just stuck with him for a while if not forever. More than once babies cried and dogs barked. People his age stared for a minute and then turned away as fast as they could. Jimmy said it had something to do with him admiring the simplest things.
There was this one time, one time that Jimmy remembered and thought about at times when he was alone. It had been awful. He hadn’t done anything but something did happen. He was walking down the street with a friend of his. When crossing a street, Jimmy glanced and saw an old woman crossing the other way. He could tell she probably belonged to some affluent family who lost their fortune at some point; or at least someone who once belonged to a family of easy access to things.
She was all dressed up for a normal Tuesday afternoon. She might as well have been royalty, but there was no royalty in Jimmy’s town. When he saw her, he remembered the huge house that was three blocks away from his. It was the biggest house on the whole neighborhood and it probably was hers. He remembered right away the family plaque on one side of the house “The Swallows”, no other house had a family plaque anymore, at least not one as fancy and big as the one he remembered.
This lady was about seventy years old, but she was still good looking in a way. Even if one could see from miles away that she had a distinguished but stubborn look; almost anguished. It was clear she had been more than beautiful when she was younger and that she still cared a lot about the way she looked after all those years.
As usual, Jimmy started thinking; really sort of fantasizing about this lady’s story. He wanted to know if she married the right guy, if her parents got divorced when her father lost all their wealth and left her the house and nothing else after they both died. If she still talked to her children who swore at one time not to ever speak to her again right before her husband died. He thought about what a burden her name could have been for all of her life. He wondered if that was the reason for the look she had on her face, if the fact that she had to carry on living a life that wasn’t really meant for her. Not really what she had always wished for but what her name made her out to be. These were not made up things, or at least not to Jimmy, he could’ve sworn those were all the things that happened to this lady. He could’ve sworn these were the reasons for all her wrinkles and scars; and he could have sworn that all she had left now was to be beautiful.
Upon getting closer, step by step, the lady noticed Jimmy and immediately felt uncomfortable. She started screaming in the middle of the street, yelling at Jimmy and calling him a miserable bastard. His friend took him by the arm and they started running away. Jimmy couldn’t understand what had happened, but it did. They had to run, it often happened that people called the police and would accuse Jimmy of things he never even thought of doing. Jimmy wondered if it had anything to do he and his friend were talking about the party they were heading to.
Once, he was called a creep. Some girl said this. She told him to “stay the fuck away and stop the fucking staring” or she would call her boyfriend to beat him up. Right that instant he thought he’d found the solution for his problem. He had never heard that before as being the problem. The staring. He thought it was obvious, he was always looking at things in detail and he was always making up stories for people and things he saw in front of him but he hadn’t noticed that he was “staring like a creep”. He made an effort for a whole week not to look for more than two seconds at people or things. It was Friday and nothing had happened, he was really happy with the results and made the decision to simply stop staring. The next day, on Saturday he was threatened by some other guy to “go away or get the shit kicked out of”.
After having his one chance to solve this ruined by the fact that there was no real solution and him staring was not the real problem he thought it was time to stare at the sun for a while. Maybe the sun would get scared and run away, maybe he would just end up blind from looking straight at the sun and wouldn’t have anymore of these hateful situations. The sun didn’t get scared and Jimmy wasn’t able to stare long enough to be literally blinded by the light.
It was after this that the perfect ten-day run happened. This was five or six 6 years ago, during summer. Jimmy had to go to the city to run some errands, he hated going to the subway for all the confrontations he had at once had there but there was no way to make it to the place he needed to be without riding the subway, all traffic was jammed and it was too long to walk or run. He knew he had to get on the A train. At 4pm in the afternoon, the A train was hell, let alone a Friday. Jimmy had to be on the other side of town before 4.30pm of that Friday. He was bound to get yelled at or into a big thing where he would end up running away.
When he got on the train, Jimmy closed his eyes at first, and then he stared at the pole from which he was holding himself. He knew it would all be fine if he was able to avoid thinking about a anything for the fifteen minute ride and that it would be easier after the fourth stop since half of the people on the A train got off there. He had to get down on the sixth stop.
By the end of the first minute of the ride, he was not able to keep his eyes closed anymore. He looked at the maps, at the signs, and he avoided the door since people were reflected there. He closed his eyes again and when he opened them again, he looked straight at the door. Right then and there, what he had been trying to avoid happened. Someone was standing right in front of the door. Sarah Neuhaus was in front of the door.
Jimmy tried not to but still looked at her. He didn’t think of anything and just kept looking. She looked at him and grinned, she asked him if he was lost because of how nervous he looked. Sarah ended up walking him to the editorial house he was heading to since she knew her way around that stop better than he did. She was the first person he didn’t know from his childhood or school days that he was able to talk to. He knew something was up.
When he was heading back home, he decided to take the A train again just to figure out was going on. He looked at people but just looked. Nothing happened. For the rest of his way home, nothing happened.
It was all right after meeting Sarah Neuhaus. He had only talked to her for a couple of minutes on the subway and everything changed. For ten whole days, nothing happened. Jimmy went out every day and every night and no situations took place. To someone like him, just the fact of going out and not having a single problem during a week and a half period could easily turn into the best days of his life. Sarah Neuhaus was lost and never to be found and that was the only thing Jimmy regretted during these ten days.
On the ninth day, Jimmy decided to take the A train to see if he could find her or at least something about her. If she knew her way around that last stop, she would probably hang around that place often.
He never saw Sarah Neuhaus again. When he woke up the next day, on the tenth day he felt it close and refused to think about it. On the eleventh day, Jimmy went out again to ride the A train. When he got on, he locked his eyes on this old man with the only available seat on the wagon right next to him. Jimmy took this seat since he was kind of tired and didn’t want to stand up anymore.
This old man looked broken. He was wearing a suit, you could tell it was old, bought at least a decade ago. He didn’t have a heavy beard but you could tell he hadn’t shaved that week. Jimmy looked at his eyes directly, assuming nothing would happen since nothing had happened for almost two weeks now.
He started thinking about this old man and how easily he could make up a story for him. Something he could’ve sworn was the old man’s life story. This old man, he probably was a foreigner. Jimmy thought that he wanted to leave his country since he was a little kid and he managed to. What this man didn’t expect was for life to turn around the way it did.
While he was happy to have left home and start a new life he started noticing how he was drifting apart from the woman he loved. The bickering never stopped and since he had no one else where he lived now, all he could was talk to himself about the things that were going on with his life. He had once dreamed of being a journalist for a big newspaper, and he made his dream come true. The man at one point accomplished everything he ever wished for. Jimmy could see in this man’s face how he lost everything once the end of the bickering came with the news of a child her wife was carrying. The man was broken and Jimmy could see that in his story it was because the woman lost their child during labor and committed suicide only three days after since she wasn’t able to deal with the suffering and left the old man alone for the rest of his life.
Once Jimmy sat right next to him, the man got up to leave in disgust. He looked at Jimmy and started yelling at him in a foreign language; cussing angrily. While he was screaming, the man started sobbing and got out of the train, he stood outside facing Jimmy and stayed there until the train left. Those were the longest fifteen seconds of Jimmy’s life. At this point he wasn’t able to stop looking at the man. The old man just stared right at him, full of pain and hatred.
He managed to make a man weep within a minute. His “thing” had returned. That is how Jimmy always remembered his ten-day run, Sarah Neuhaus and the old man on the A train. Jimmy often thought it had something to do with the way that he looked.
When Jimmy thought about these happenings, he knew for a fact that he always got this reaction but that whenever he imagined what people lives were like, it wasn’t always so terrible, but there was always a secret. Every time he imagined what someone’s life was like, he made up a secret. Most of the time Jimmy made up burdens or regrets for everyone. He always thought those were usually the kind of secrets everyone keeps to themselves. He could never think of a normal life where no one ever experiences any kind of suffering that wasn’t to be kept within the deepest hole in one’s mind. It just wasn’t something he did sometimes out of curiosity. This happened almost every time he locked his eyes on someone else’s. It wasn’t that Jimmy was able to stare into their souls through the back of their eyes and make out what the cause was for all of their pain and suffering. He would just make up his own stories of why people had that look on their face. He always did it and as a rule he would also make up a big secret that would be known only by the person, but Jimmy would know too.
When he fantasized about these stories and try to make them the cause for his troubled story he would talk about two different scenarios.
Jimmy thought once in a while that the problem were the stories. He would say to people that once he thought about what someone’s life could be like, they would have to start living that exact life from that point on. As unreal as it may have sounded, Jimmy found at times no other explanation for the reaction he had from people. He said people hated him for that exact moment when he looked at them because they would have to carry on living something that he made up. They would now have an unbearable secret to live with and there was nothing they could to get out of that.
If this was the case, he said he would then understand why things happened. He thought it would only be normal to have those reactions if your life all of sudden would change and you would be aware of it for a second while looking at Jimmy. When he thought about some of the stories he made up for people he was convinced that this had to be the one reason.
People would look at him and change.
People would look at him and have a new life they never chose or even thought of.
People would look at him and have a new secret to keep to themselves forever.
Jimmy said sometimes that it had to be something about how maybe people were able to read his thoughts. They would be able to read his thoughts and they would be frightened by the fact that he was able to tell the story of their life without even knowing they existed before. That for a single second that other person, was able see everything they hated of themselves, everything they loved and cherished, everything they regretted or hoped for, every single thing that had once gone through their head and then everything that had happened. Every single event in their lives, it was reflected in front of them as some sort of punishment for giving up or simply giving in.
Looking at Jimmy staring was their judgement day.
Looking at Jimmy was facing the truth they avoided for such a long time.
Looking at Jimmy was your life flashing before your eyes.
But not because you were dying. You weren’t about to die and that was the most painful part of it. It is commonly said or thought, that you can see your life pass right before your eyes in a couple of seconds right before you die. But that would be it. You see it, you may like some of the things you see and regret some others, but after that you would simply die.
“What I think is that looking at me,” Jimmy said “is like dying. As painful as dying but they would have to keep on living. The thought of this has to be unbearable. People who look at me have to live the rest of their life knowing exactly where they went wrong. Even if they somehow blocked it out, they were reminded why their life turned out the way it did.
“If you just think about it, most people end up living live that they never even thought of. I’m not talking about making your dreams come true but about the day to day basic things that happen in life. You would expect to grow up, go to school, get married, have children, and then just get old and that is where the secrets come in.” - When telling this, Jimmy would usually stop every single time and talk about how this was his secret, the one thing he had to live with every day and just wanted to forget about somehow. Of course, he would only tell this to himself. - “They have to watch and they have keep on living without the possibility of going back, or the chance of going away.
“They would stay and keep living. They would remember everything they struggled for years to take out of their hearts and minds and forget. The things they could hardly think of since they were things they carefully put deep down in their thoughts so it wouldn’t come out back to haunt them was there and right in their face because of me.
What he could never make up in the end was the reason for his beloved ten day run after meeting Sarah. Sarah Neuhaus.
“I always think about this and what I know is that the only eyes that I’m not able to stare into and make up a story are mine. It’s as if I’m not living my own made up story.”