I can stare off into the distance. I can jab accusingly at the hypnotically blinking cursor on my computer screen. I can talk to myself without getting an external response.
I'm an uncomplicated person. I have no desire to shroud myself in drama. Yet, in doing so, I miss experiencing the conflict which could potentially translate into the crux of a story. Or do I?
Last year, I observed a married couple—let's call them Vicky and Tim—who arrived separately, for months, at school—each picking up one son—and leaving without speaking to each other. I immediately considered the motivation behind such actions. Even if Vicky and Tim had arrived in separate cars, coming from opposite directions, they would still speak to each other at school. Wouldn't they? A disagreement would explain a few, but not all, incidents. So would leaving quickly due to after-school commitments or inclement weather. I knew the only explanation was that Vicky and Tim had separated. Before the end of the school year, Vicky bought a new house. My evidence was still circumstantial until I heard via the Social Media grapevine that Vicky was newly single.
Do you give the strangers you encounter a back story? The harried-looking woman in the grocery store with three screaming toddlers in tow. The group of young boys sitting under the tree, making obnoxious comments at the young girls—possibly classmates—walking by. The older woman walking her dog, staring blankly into the distance. Who are these people? What happened in their life? What brought them to this point?
I quietly observe.
I set myself apart. I am more comfortable standing in quiet solitude than making urbane small-talk. It is easy to mistake the state of being alone for loneliness. Think the Ace of Base song "All That She Wants" and its apt lyrics.