The life of a wallflower is one that is largely anonymous.
Not anonymous in the sense that we are utterly invisible or purposefully ignored.
Anonymous in the sense that our faces don’t likely have an immediate name-association attached to them, it might be hard to conjure up the sound of our voice because our last conversation was either brief or held entirely through eye-contact, and because there is intentionally nothing about us that begs to be looked at or paid attention to.
We linger on the outskirts of conversations, lean against doorways and bars, and sometimes are even lucky enough to find an empty arm of a couch to perch ourselves on and observe how the world moves around us.
We appear quiet and shy, and not always entirely approachable. Sometimes this can come across as looking lonely, and that’s not always an incorrect assessment, but the moment our bubble of isolated observation is burst, any and all feelings of loneliness are revoked and we long to be left in peace once again.
We are intuition-havers, empathetic goldmines, and the keepers of secrets that no one even knew they told us.
We see glances—which sometimes turn into prolonged stares—from one person to another across the room. We notice when that same pair of eyes follows their object of affection as she moves through her space, and we notice that she is totally unaware.
We hear opinions and thoughts spoken uninhibitedly and unabashedly—since we are not technically within the circle of intended listeners, our presence does not incite whispers.
We put puzzle pieces together that the inattentive eyes does not even recognize as individual pieces. We know that coincidences do not exist, because we watched all of the fateful steps that led up to that one, cosmically aligning moment.
We hear how some names are sung rather than said, and see how some smiles are from the soul while others are just from a well-mannered mind.
We feel the rejection of the drink offer turned down, and the butterflies the first time a first kiss is attempted. Characters from books and movies often evoke very real emotions, because it is human nature we relate to, not just the human body.
We see how cruel the world can be when nobody’s looking, reaffirming our choice to live life at a distance. But, we also see moments of beauty that are moving enough to make us wonder what it might be like to dip our toes in out there, and question what it is that we are protecting ourselves from.
We know in the pit of our stomachs when something is not right—we may not know why or how or what exactly—but we know for certain. Trying to explain a feeling like this to someone else is close to impossible. They will tell us we are overthinking, paranoid, making something out of nothing. Once in a blue moon, that may be the case, but more often than not, our gut leads us to a truth we may or may not have wanted to discover.
The good news is, we will take these secrets to our graves. We will carry the feelings of the world within us and remember them when the golden rule presents itself. We will protect the ones we love from the world that they don’t see, and we will never stop searching for the words to describe our intuitive inclinations.
The bad news is, for all the time we spend getting to know the world, we allow very little of the world to get to know us.
For all of the comfort we find in our anonymity, we also find a profound disconnect. Everything we feel so intimately within ourselves does not translate without. We can connect the dots, but connecting to another human being is not our forte. We can be trusted with the unspoken moments of stranger’s lives, but don’t trust our own hearts enough to open them up to the world and quit hiding behind books and crossed arms and letters on a keyboard.
We are wallflowers planting our roots in the shadows, waiting for the day the sunlight washes over us and we are ready to bloom.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Toni Verdú Carbó/elephant journal archives