We were in the car and I was manoeuvring a sharp turn when she suddenly blurted, “I don’t get much out of you about yourself. I haven’t been able to.” We had acknowledged the fact that we are both introverts; she was less of one than I am. I took my eye off the bend in the road to see if there were traces of frustration on her face. There seemed to be none. I then reminded her about how she remarked about her being a private person when we introduced each other.
I am reminded about someone from the past, a woman who was a prayer away from being my first girlfriend. The exasperation filled her face as she made the angry remark about how I had never shared anything with her. I didn’t respond because I couldn’t find the right explanation.
I am reminded about another someone from the past whom I recently met after more than 20 years. She said her impression of me was about how aloof I looked and was. A recent Whatsapp message from her was not a variation around the theme of “I find it hard to pry something out from you.” [Incidentally, she said I had a pair of charming eyes. No one has ever said that to me. I was properly stunned. I always thought they looked dead (from the perpetual lack of sleep).]
My introverted score is in the 90s (out of 100). I’ve lived long enough to know that not everyone laughs at my jokes although in my book, I crack them often. They just don’t get them. In my younger days, I believed I sucked at humour. I only realised just months ago how humour can be different for different people.
I think a lot. People can be forgiven when they insist that I live in my head. Every waking moment is filled with thoughts, ideas, plans and the right words to say to the right people (dead or alive) at the right time and place. I don’t articulate or express them. Unless and until I’m provoked, I keep thoughts to myself. When the first five years of my life was spent almost in isolation, I learnt that not everyone responds to what I say or hear me. There’s no need to speak when a conversation is always running in my head.
Back to the woman in the car, she once asked what the happiest moment of my life was. It took me more than 30 minutes to respond (note: not answer) to her question. Even then, the look on her face suggested to me that I hadn’t properly answered it. Getting the heart and brain to work together in throwing out happy memories of childhood – the fluffy clouds seen in cartoons, Saturday afternoon staple of Sesame Street which made me smile whenever I see Oscar the Grouch, being asked if I wanted ketchup in my instant noodles dry – was almost an insurmountable task. It was especially so when so much of my life was spent running through the sad incidents (which could fill a book).
I don’t talk a lot about myself in person because not everyone would and could appreciate the muck in my head if they invent some device that allows them to look inside. They are mostly deep, sad and scary (not necessarily in that order). They mostly turn conversations into discussions about heavy topics; it’s stuff that no one else wants to talk about. They mostly scare people away because of the intensity of my thoughts.
A dilemma surfaces here (and always). Do I want to scare people off even if I oblige their sincere desires to pry? I could lie but I don’t really want to. So adding to the muck in my head, I have to censor. Heavily. Or I conceal them (sometimes not expertly) in self-deprecating humour so that I fulfill the need to share more about myself subtly and dress them in the cheapest form of humour possible – at my expense.