It started when I was five. This feeling that I was always watching myself as I lived.
Walking, talking, running, playing, eating, drinking, sleeping. I see myself doing it all. I’m in the moment, I’m there in reality, and yet, I am also somewhere else. I’m down the road, across the table, or in the next room. I see every conversation, every decision, every moment of beauty, of loss, of happiness, and of fear.
I see life happen. I can’t predict it, but I see it. From my eyes, in my mind, I look out at the world. In addition to what I see happening out there, I see myself seeing it all. I see me, I see my life from afar but also in the moment, up close, personal, and intimate. It’s an odd sensation. A feeling of anxiety and relaxation at once. Watching my life unfold as it unfolds before me.
Maybe not, I guess I never talked about it before now. I assumed everyone experienced life this way. But now, after all of this, I don’t think other people see life the way I do. They do not experience each moment within a view finder, blocking out all in their peripheral. No. They don’t see life this way, not like me … likely no one ever will.
“Go Sam, Go!” Martha called out shaking a cowbell in one hand and a blue and gold fringe pompom in the other.
I hear her. I always hear her. Everyone in the small stadium hears her. She’s my biggest fan, cheerleader, supporter, advocate and best friend. I like her because she’s blunt. She tells it like it is. Or at least, like she sees it.
Martha and I met during kindergarten. She in a sparkly turquoise peplum dress and hot pink jellies (those plastic shoes all kids wore in the 90s) and me in a navy and yellow sailor dress topped off with a massive yellow hair bow and scuffed up little black flats.
The first week of school was a breeze. I got a turn petting the classroom hamster, played in the sensory area, and memorized my address and my phone number. Martha had a much harder time. She was quiet and reserved. Her eyes shot around the room, never landing on anything for too long.
I noticed her one morning after Mrs. Brown finished reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Actually, I noticed her jellies. As the youngest of eight in a devout Catholic family, jellies weren’t in my fashion present or near future. My scuffed up black flats were hand-me-downs three years in the making.
“I like your jellies,” I said to Martha as we rearranged our reading rugs for show and tell. She looked at me, her dark brown eyes just staring. She tilted her head to the side and her blonde curls bobbed a bit.
That’s when it happened. I realized I was watching myself while I was standing next to Martha. Even as a kid, I could see us looking at one another from an outside place. From my own eyes, I saw us interacting. I didn’t know what was happening then, I just knew it was interesting.
“I like your freckles.”
“Thanks,” I said. “My grandma says they are angel kisses.”
“That’s nice. You must know a lot of angels.”
“Nah, it’s just something my Grandma says I think.” I did have a lot of freckles, and I still do. My face is covered in little caramel spots that grow in intensity during the sunny Michigan summers. I have them mainly on my face though, none of that full body speckling of the arms and legs like some people.
We arranged our rugs so Martha and I were next to one another. Our eyes met, Martha smiled and so did I. Two girls sitting next to one another on individual reading rugs. It was then that our fate and our friendship was sealed.