To Know and Be Known

A girl sits next to me.  She is trying to write a paper, but her eyes are red, and her mascara is smeared, and her mind is clearly somewhere else.  Her ankles are crossed and she squirms a little in her seat, rubbing her feet together as she types.  We have talked a few times before about theories and schoolwork and abstract things, but nothing soul-piercing.

I ask her what is wrong.  She says, she is tired.  People always say that when they are distressed but don’t want to talk.  Of course she is tired.  It is 2:56 in the morning and she is writing an essay.

I ask her why her mascara is smeared.  It isn’t, she says.  She just wiped it away in the bathroom a few minutes ago.  Very well.  Why was it smeared?

She says she was crying.  I keep tugging.  Why was she crying?

No response at first.  It takes a minute before the answer wells up inside her and flows out her lips.  It is an answer wrapped in a question.

“Do you ever walk around and realize that no one knows you?”

And I think, no one should ever feel this way.

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