The drive home from work takes me about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half in high traffic. Usually, I spend the minutes of being stuck in between lanes on my phone.
I’m usually on Instagram watching everyone’s stories, if not fishing out for new music or checking my phone’s gallery for the fiftieth time that day.
Today was not a particularly easy day for me; I had a lot on my mind, and as of recently, I don’t ever get enough time to unwind or have quality time with something other than a screen.
So, in a minuscule effort to shut off my autopilot and be present today, I put my phone down for the drive home.
Instead of filling the gaps of time waiting for the car in front of me to move on my phone, I looked up and out of my window. I watched the world’s story.
I saw three little rascals — no older than four, six, and maybe 10 — crossing the street. The oldest boy was holding his siblings’ hands, and I wondered whether his mom told him to do so or he did it out of loving instinct. I remembered lifetimes ago when my brothers and I would do the same.
Right by the curb was a young shopkeeper sitting on a crate, smiling at his phone. I wondered if the girl loved him back and thought of him the same way he did every morning when he’d walk into his shop and smell his peonies for the first time that day. I wondered if he favored one flower over the others or watered them all the same.
I saw someone’s wife walk out of the mall, trying her best to carry three huge shopping bags. I hoped she had bought her spouse something special. I wondered if any of it was hers at all, actually, or if it was all things she bought for the people she loved — or had to love.
At the next red light, a very old man holding grocery bags shuffled his feet across to the other end of the street. His face made my heart happy.
I wondered if he had anyone to come home to and cook him his favorite dinner. Maybe his wife used to buy the groceries and he’d do the cooking. I hoped that when I got to be his age that I’d have a past that hugged me every night before I slept so that I could wake up every morning and meet life with a face that made people happy to have seen it too.
I passed by my old school and saw two boys walking home. The older boy was carrying two school bags and a faint smile; the younger boy was carrying his head up and smiling at the older boy, trying to catch up to his much bigger strides. My mind couldn’t help but wonder if that boy was filling a father’s shoes along with his own.
In my rearview mirror, a mom was looking into her own rearview mirror, scolding her daughter in the backseat for not having her coat on when she picked her up, and I wondered if that was the same way her own mom would show she cared.
A woman lugging a carry-on bag behind her looked heavy in weariness. She looked cold and underdressed for the weather, and it made me wonder if she was in a hurry to leave something behind — her past, her fear, her pain.
Was she leaving it behind or running back to it?
A guy in a car next to me was passing time on his phone, as I would have. Maybe in another life, I am him today, and he is me. And maybe in another life, he is in the same car as I am and we’re sharing all this together.
Maybe in another life, I wouldn’t be here at all. But right now, I am here, peaking out at all of this.
Today I got home feeling like a tiny spec in a colossal, complex universe. A universe filled with untold stories, undeclared feelings, missed memories, unrequited love, silent cruelty, beautiful pain, and life.
Today I got home feeling blue, but my blue was filled with hope.
Today I stopped existing and lived for a series of spare moments – life was not automated anymore. I looked up from my phone and allowed life to take from me and give me what it had.
I looked up from my phone today and faced the swift shifts of life, and it made me sad, but I’m happy that I felt something real for a change.