Out of nowhere, it had crawled into this room. Again. Nothing had happened, really, yet the air had changed, had turned dull and heavy. Her world had turned dim and bleak.
She was aware, on some level, that there were entire worlds out there, other than her own, where the air was lighter, cheerier, completely different from this, her private, subjective reality.
She would catch a glimpse sometimes on a walk that crossed paths with a stranger or when watching someone at the cafe. There were these flashes of someone else’s inner world, witnessed from the outside.
There would be a clue, in a moment of stolen intimacy — a barely-audible sigh, a nervous tick, a thought that flickered in a micro- expression on a face, a secret glance between two lovers. Each of these was a tiny window, a peek inside.
In those moments, she became intensely aware of the scale of human life. Stepping back from her own subjectivity for a while, she could see the multitude of lives, buzzing all around, in every pocket of the neighbourhood, in every corner of the planet.
So many people! Each, the subject of their own storylines, just as rich and immediate and alive with depth and complication as her own. Each person, their own centre, with their own longings and hopes and dreams; their own regrets and losses and fears. Each, in some way, unique in its flavour and shape, and yet in some ways, just the same as hers.
Every single human thought, feeling and action, reduced to a basic desire and fear, pointing to the same unnameable thing.
In this moment — in this room into which it had crawled, unexpectedly, without warning, without invitation or welcome — that perspective and scale of humanity was not apparent. Here, there was only her, sitting in the room, with it. This place, her own realm, where the grey, heavy air filled every perceptible space, was the only one that existed now. Nothing else was available or real or even possible. Just this thick fog. It was dreadful, and she was the only one who had ever felt this way before. Period.
For 3 days or 3 weeks or more, it stayed like this. She wanted this to end, to change back to the way it was, even though it was hard to remember what the air felt like before. She started to suspect that it was the room. Maybe something about the way the sunlight filtered in through the windows, found itself, and her, trapped within these walls, then panicked, thickened, turned dark.
So she escaped the room, hoping to shrug off that weight, that feeling — hoping to glimpse one of those cheerier realities whose existence she faintly remembered. Maybe she could smuggle herself into one of them. But the fog was a cloak, wrapped around her slumped shoulders, and wherever she went, it followed her. To the park, to the cafe. Nothing seemed to lift it — not the warmest breeze, no birdsong, no open meadow — nothing could diffuse it.
At some point, after 4 days or 4 weeks or less, she stopped running away. She stopped dragging it from place to place in the hopes of losing it somewhere. She had run out of interest. She had run out of feelings. She just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to fight it anymore. She didn’t care anymore about it being there. Her feelings were all spent, all gone, and with them, any preference for things to be this way or that.
She simply stopped.
Then something happened that was also unexpected.
The heaviness still held her, but since she had stopped the effort to change it or push it away, there was no more resistance. In the absence of tensing and twisting against it, there was some softness, and a bit of space opened up around her.
It was finally possible to gently sit up straight, chin up, shoulders back. The fog, which up until now had been cloaked tightly around her, loosened, cascaded off her shoulders, and landed nestled by her sides. It rested in an almost comforting heap, forming a protective buffer around her. There was safety here, a stability that came from the settling down of feelings and the letting go of expectations. Was this the gift of the fog? Here and now, nothing could disappoint her, and so she was free.