When I was first married, we lived in an apartment on the second floor of a building at the end of a long hallway. It was in one of two identical buildings. We lived in apartment 2Q, a corner apartment. It had better ventilation than the apartments in the middle of the building. It was also quieter being farther away from the elevator.
One day, having taken a bus home from downtown, I went in through the front and walked all the way down the corridor to our apartment. As I started to put my key in the door, I realized that there was a nameplate on the door. It said “2Q, Kincaid.”
My name was not then and is not now Kincaid, but the sign on the door said 2Q. It was the correct unit, but apparently I didn’t live there. I took a deep breath, walked back to the elevator then went back to the flat. It still said “Kincaid.”
I immediately realized what had happened. I had slipped through into a parallel universe. I was in another dimension where I didn’t exist. I’d been replaced by someone named Kincaid.
It took me a while, standing there and staring at the door before it occurred to me that I was in the wrong building. The two buildings were the same and I hadn’t been paying attention.
What’s interesting is not that I went into the wrong building but that I immediately assumed I’d slipped into the Twilight Zone. Would most people, finding themselves in that situation, conclude they’d slipped into a parallel universe? Or would think they had maybe walked into the wrong building? Which would you do?
I suspect off-center thinking is part of creativity and certainly part of being a writer. A little piece of my brain is always busy recording events as future fodder for writing. Often, even in the middle of what could be a serious — even dangerous — situation, I have a little voice reminding me what a terrific story I’ll get out of it.
The problem with seeing everything as a potential story is that there is a tendency to hold oneself a bit apart, to be more concerned with watching than living. For almost ten years, I stopped taking pictures because I thought taking pictures was preventing me from truly seeing. I felt I was missing the party. Eventually, I went back to taking pictures and photography is the way I deal with the visual elements of life. I can’t stop seeing pictures framed into photographs, so I might as well carry a camera.
Nonetheless, I believe I was partially right. When you see life through a lens or are constantly planning how to write this thing that’s happening, you are not fully engaged in whatever is going on. Is that bad? Perhaps it’s just how I am, who I am. I can’t make myself not see pictures, not hear stories. It’s just how I relate to the world.
What about you?