Sometimes I play this game

January 27, 2013 — 124 Comments

Sometimes I play a game.
In the game you guess the lives of the strangers around you. For example the man using the pay phone with the glasses on the end of his nose is a security guard who stands in front of his full length mirror at night quick drawing his walkie talkie and quoting from ‘Lethal weapon’.

Everyone has a secret life, things they do when no one is looking. In this game you guess it. You make it up.
I played the game at the beach yesterday.
The girl walking alone carrying her sandy sandals is called Bonny.
Bonny has lentils soaking at home. She’s a vegan, but only because her boyfriend is and told her on their first date that people that eat meat don’t have a heart and she didn’t want him to think she doesn’t have a heart so she told him she was vegan too. She eats cheeseburgers and hides the wrappers under the seat of her car. She likes to thrift shop and when she is in the back of the store she smells the leather belts. Her boyfriend knows she eats cheeseburgers.
He will never marry her.

The man smoking the cigarette on the bench at the lookout is wearing capris and an expensive cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. His wife thinks he gave up smoking last march.
He pees in the shower.

A lady in a bikini top and sarong. She looks 30 something. Maybe 35. I decide she is 34, 35 in June. When she goes to bed she sometimes just stares and stares at one hand until the fingers start to look strange and eventually her whole hand looks like some alien appendage and it makes her feel weird so she hides it under the covers and can’t look at it again until the morning.

A young man walking an american staffy has tattoos all across his back. A Koi fish wraps its tail around his shoulder and swims down his back. He also has a row of thai symbols on the inside of his arm. He thinks they mean ‘brothers in arms’ but he bartered with the poor tattoo artist with such arrogance that the artist accepted his cheap offer but wrote ‘หัวใหญ่, สมองขนาดเล็ก’ which means ‘Big head, small brain’.
If he is out walking and hits something uneven (a rock or root) with a part of his foot, he needs to find a similar uneveness to hit with his other foot, in the same spot.

There is a man and woman watching their son tread the sand until it goes all mushy and swallows his feet to the ankles.
Late last year the man bought his wife a red, satin lingerie set. At the time she asked why he bought her a size 12 when she has never been bigger than an 8. He was sorry he said, he will exchange them if she wants. No dear, she says. I may be bigger one day.
When she works night shift at the rest home he enjoys the red satin feel of the briefs and sock-stuffed bra and is getting better at walking in heels. He loves Cher and the way his boss plays with his tie when he’s deep in thought and he lives for that 2 seconds of vanilla when you first suck on a tic tac.

Sometimes I wonder if other people play this game. Sometimes I wonder if people play the game and make up a secret life for me. I wonder if they say ‘When that girl eats scorched almond chocolates, she sucks off all the chocolate until only the almond is left, and then she closes her eyes and bites into the almond and it’s one of her favourite tastes. She puts on horror movies when she’s alone but watches the whole thing in fast forward with her hands over her eyes. She can play one song on the piano and it’s not any of the songs she learnt in piano lessons, its the one Sophie taught her in high school.
She has the same nightmares she had when she was a child.
She hates touching the furry skin of peaches.
I wonder if they think ‘that girl gets scared of standing next to windows in high buildings. Not because she thinks she might fall, but because she’s worried that she will have a moment of madness, and jump.’
I wonder if they think ‘that girl can’t sit next to someone who breathes through their mouth or cracks their knuckles and that if its a hot, sunny afternoon and she can hear someone mowing their lawns, it makes her want to curl up and go to sleep.

I wonder if thats what someone would think, if they played the game about me.

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124 responses to Sometimes I play this game

  1. 

    I’ve been playing the game since I was five years old. Maybe I’m not crazy after all.

  2. 

    Are such things they think in the game…true? Hmmm..that’s the clincher.

  3. 

    Fascinating game. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 

    My mother & sister like to do something similar, they call it ‘people watching’.
    I’m not very good at it, I’m worried about staring.

  5. 

    Fun game… I could have loads of fun with this at work… Thanks!

    • 

      Try it then send me your favourite ‘people watching’ story?

      • 

        OK, here it goes… The gal sitting in the cubicle next to me living in her perfect world, dressed in her perfect clothes, who always has the perfect thing to say. She is actually a closet smoker, with a bit of a drinking problem. She often sneaks out at night to explore her hidden love of pole dancing… Lol, best I could do on the fly… What do you think?

  6. 

    It’s a great game. I do it all the time, constructing realities around partially heard conversations. Once I heard two women discussing a murder inbetween their comments on each other’s shoes…Beautifully written.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  7. 

    I love this game! its great to just people watch and use your imagination.

  8. 

    People watching is a fun game….i did that recenty at a golf tournament…..as the ladies there dressed as if they were going to a club….which was odd as its a golf course =)

  9. 

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  10. 

    I do this unconsciously. I always stare and think what could they be thinking? What kind of life are they leading? What did they do to get where they are now? It goes on and on.. I guess I wonder more than I narrate. :)

    By the way, thanks for dropping by my blog.

  11. 

    Like all storytelling, the best kind of people-watching lives at the intersection of imagination and empathy…but neither imagination nor empathy is always kind to its subjects.

  12. 

    And hear I thought I was the only one who leads a secret life ;)

  13. 

    I hope you find what you are looking for. Thank you for checking my blog. I’ve never been to NZ, but Australia is awesome. And “Kia Ora” to you too.

  14. 

    A friend of mine actually suggested this as a way to help deal with my anxiety, particularly when riding on the bus. I have yet to give it a try, but am going to the next time I have to go across town. Also, thank you for checking my blog.

  15. 

    I love this game, especially in cities that are new. I play it in metro stations and on transit when I travel :) Thanks for checking out my blog and good luck with your thousand days! I travelled on my own in South East Asia for 3 months after a bad breakup, it was the best thing I ever did with my life. You will find strength in yourself you never imagined. Xo

  16. 

    Very funny and vivid writing. You have a deep understanding of the complexities and quirks of others. Have you considered writing any fiction?

  17. 
    rainidazeandmondays March 13, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Haha – I thought I was the only one!

  18. 

    You really got me laughing. Nicely played Vanessa. lolol..

  19. 

    I play this game constantly. I’m horrified to think about some of the lives that have been created for me. But that might just be because I know of some of the lives I’ve created for others.

  20. 

    Have you read The Gum Thief? I highly recommend it.

  21. 
    princessthought2013 March 21, 2013 at 5:59 AM

    I believe this game is most fun at the airport on on vacation far away from your actual home… that way if you get caught… chances are you won’t be seen again (lol). People watching is fun. I wonder how many times we’re right or how many times we are so, so wrong.

  22. 

    If you don’t mind can I play this game too?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The Younger Games | Dadicus Grinch - February 7, 2013

    [...] cyber friend Vanessa (One Thousand Single Days) posted a blog entry the other day entitled “Sometimes I Play This Game”.  Here is an [...]

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