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Fictional people have made me more interested in real people.

Growing older, I started to appreciate more literary works I didn't have the patience for in my youth. I fear I started relating to their troubles, things I only scoffed at before. An unfullfilling job? Please. I wanted to see someone save the world! It seems our steadily adapting expectations of life reflect themselves in our choice of reading materials. It wasn't a threat to humanity that weighed on me now, but the knowledge that I had to make something for dinner every night.

Anyway, I do enjoy a good book about someone ordinary. Someone you'd pass on the street without a second thought. Such extraordinary things seemed to happen to these people in novels! New jobs turned out to be more mysterious than anticipated. Lost family members appeared with surprising news. Accidents, the strangest coincidents, strokes of good luck, all these just happened to people you might share a cab with.

Of course, I didn't realise that that's what they were straight away. These characters might seem ordinary at first, but clearly weren't. Ordinary people didn't have things like this happening, otherwise, they wouldn't be ordinary. It was a somewhat circular argument, I admit.

Like most realizations I had, this one occurred by accident. Stuck on a long train ride without anything to occupy my time, forced me to seek entertainment elsewhere. After paging through the onboard magazine several times, I gave in to a moment of self-pity. Noises I had been blending out started to reach me and I was treated to one side of a phonecall. The details are muddled now, but what started with a missed plane had, by the time the person got off, arrived at a cancelled trip and an imminent wedding. Missing the ending of this story left me unexpectedly bereft. When I reached my own stop, I was resolved to find out if these “ordinary” characters might actually be just that.

It feels foolish now, to ever have thought the people you pass by didn't have stories. I started listening more often. It required some patience. Most things you hear are as boring as you'd expect. Stumbling across something noteworthy, feels all the more special for it.

I'm starting to wonder if I felt like this because, if someone asked about me, I wouldn't have a story to tell…

Thinking about it, maybe I just haven't ever considered myself as someone with a story. If someone else could see into my head, would they find something? Is that why you asked me to write this? You thought I had some hidden depths? If so, I must've let you down. I just looked at what I've written, and it's much more philosophical than I intended. I'll try to find a piece of myself to show you. There must be something…

I also noticed I keep offering advice. Another tip then: don't listen to everything I say. What I think is true might be just another lie. If I know one thing about myself, it's that I am a fool, and though I often think I am right, I probably spout more nonsense than I care to admit.

© Anna Kleinschmidt 2022-08-04


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