The man lying by the pool

The fitness class was disrupted by the sound of the fire alarm this morning. I’ve never heard it at the gym before. I expected some form of evacuation, but it turned out that it wasn’t a fire.

A man was receiving CPR in the pool area and all staff members had gathered there; an ambulance had just arrived, too. We had to discontinue the class, as we couldn’t put the music back on. Not just that, our instructor, who’d seen the man on the ground, came back to us in tears, but at the same time she was trying her best to keep us motivated, saying that we’d all be back on Wednesday morning to kick-ass. She’s by far the happiest Canadian girl I’ve ever met and seeing her like that made me believe that she’s a genuinely empathetic human-being, strong and full of life. I admire people like that because they’re all what I’m not. I have to constantly remind myself where I am and that what I’m doing is worth pursuing.

Extreme real-life situations seem to numb me up right away, though. It makes me wonder whether I am able to feel strong connections to people. Very often a delayed kind of emotion would kick in eventually. However, I find that I empathise with fictional characters in books more, because throughout reading I pretend that I am them or I simply relate to who they are and their actions. It’s easier and more comprehensive. That is because you understand yourself the best, but not necessarily what the writer is trying to bring across. That’s the beauty of empathy and understanding. There is only one’s own perception to go by (the scary reality of solipsism). And everything happens to make more sense on a fictional degree.

Empathy is mostly about feeling other people’s sentiments, understanding them. But you won’t ever be able to feel anything as close as what they feel.

Nowadays the only reason why I write is to feel. Many years ago I wrote to channel my emotions and troubled head. Now most emotion has escaped and all there’s left is a troubled absurdist’s head, numb and trapped, just trying to make meaning.

Throughout the day I couldn’t stop thinking of that man lying by the pool. I did not see him, but I saw the sentiment that my gym instructor had on her face. And yet I’d rather picture him myself. He was probably having a morning swim before going home for breakfast and then that unexpected incident happened. It could’ve happened in the water and a life guard had to rescue him.

Anything can happen, even in fiction. And we don’t always have the power to control it. That’s why real-life events sometimes scare me; they surprise me, they deaden me, because they are so unexpected – I don’t always have the right kind of emotion to act upon it right away.

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