People: Closer Than They Appear

Jul 1 2014

I glance in the side mirror. A quick check and then I look away. Forward, mostly. Occasionally back. And then side check. Side check. Forward. 

I see things in the side mirrors. Cars. Bikes. Kids. Mamas with strollers on the sidewalks. Friends on walks. Runners with their dogs. I see them, but usually only to assess how they might affect my drive. Or to think I really ought to go for a run. And then conjure the usual excuses for not running.

I pulled out in front of a car the other day. She had her turn signal on and she was slowing, so I thought she was turning before she got to me, but I was wrong; she was turning after, into a tiny, hidden driveway I didn’t know existed because I wasn’t familiar with the area, and I misjudged her intention. My fault, for sure. I should’ve waited until she turned before I began to pull out, which is something I tell my 15-year-old who’s learning to drive. “Wait until the other driver has committed to the turn,” I say. “It’s not enough to just see the signal.” But did I do it myself? Nope. And I was lucky we didn’t collide. 

We both stopped, the other driver and I, window to window for a few seconds, so I could see that she is young and beautiful and her car was clean and she was shaken. I mouthed “sorry” and “I thought you were turning here” and she mouthed back “you bitch” and “fuck you” and “my KIDS are in this car” which I knew meant “you scared me” and “I’m angry because you could have hurt us” and probably “I was having a really, really crappy day even before you tried to barrel into me,” but her words still made me feel worse than the bad I already felt. I wonder; if she’d known how long I’d dwell on her words and replay them in my mind, would she have pulled her punches and had mercy on someone who wronged her? Or would she have been glad at how punishing her punishment really was? 

It’s impossible to say, of course. I mean, I don’t know her, and we’ll probably never see each other again.

I watched her in my side mirror as I pulled away, embarrassed and jittery from an accident barely avoided. And then I looked forward. And back. And forward. And to the side again. 

And I wondered how much she and I have in common.

…if we’d met another way, if we’d be friends.

…if she has the same late nights and early mornings and days that are too long and too short all at the same time.

…if she feels happier when the sun comes out.

…if she puts chocolate chips in her brownies and takes her coffee with cream.

…if she’s ever a mess and if she sees the magic there.

Which is when I looked one last time and noticed the sign on my side mirror.


Closer than they appear.


And people, too.

All of us. Closer than we appear. 

It’s easy, I think, with an altercation and blame to assign, to put myself on one side and that mama on the other. But I suspect she’s closer than she appeared. And that we’re more the same than different. 

People usually are.

Which is important for me to remember. Especially when the lines seem clearly drawn. 

The kid of mine who freaks totally out every time I ask him to shower?
Closer than he appears.

The mama who loses it at her kid at the grocery store?
Closer than she appears.

The people who seem have it all together and who I envy?
Closer than they appear.

The husband who snores at night – maliciously – AT me?
Closer than he appears.

The people who wrong me and the people who are wronged by me?
Closer than they appear.

The people with terrible politics and worse theology?
Closer than they appear, darn it.

Which is wonderful. And terrible. Like the truth often is. More nuanced and scary and life-changing than I want it to be. But still true. 

Closer than we appear. Every last one of us. And so, so human.

photo 1 (70)