From the back seat of the car, I found the conversation between my wife and her friend interesting enough to listen to and weigh in on, but only internally and not actually. Instead, I argued against and agreed with points of their talk in complete silence while leaning sideways against the door and staring at the back of the passenger seat. It’s moments like this, where I find comfort of being a passive observer in the real world while being an active participant of it within my own dimension, that reaffirm my identity as an introvert.
My wife nods and scoffs as the driver shares complaints about a 50-year-old alcoholic who, despite having with a wife eighteen years his junior and two toddler-aged kids, chooses to embrace his addiction rather than battle against it. I think about my own father – a war veteran drug addict – who I hated until our very last violent encounter. It was recent – we were both men, and it was our only physical confrontation. Then I think about my step-daughter, from my previous marriage, who I was denied to see out of bitterness from her mother. All these thoughts are enough to stir contribution. I say, “The ship of doing things for your own sake has long sailed once you become a parent. That guy should be getting his life together for the sake of his children, even if he doesn’t love himself.”
The words pour out of me like a confession, hanging in the stuffy silence of the car interior like a lingering smell. The driver agrees, not sure what to add. My wife is silent, because she knows me, and knows the source of my words. I retreat to my default position as a spectator of all things social as they change the subject.
I hear none of it. Instead I’m riveted by my own words, not from self-admiration, but from shame. I revisit, reanalyze, and reassess. Such are the obsessive thoughts of an introvert: trying to understand ourselves through moments by replaying and dissecting them. Of course, we never end up understanding. We never get an answer.
If we did, there would be nothing else to fill our minds while staring at the backseats of cars as we lullaby to the soundtrack of the real world in the background.