This is an untitled piece I wrote at three in the morning,
11 May, 1987, on the subject of being an empath.
Do you comprehend what I feel
Do you know what it is
To feel another's pain and fear?
Ah, no, I see you do not.
Can you imagine, then,
Coming awake in the night
Deeply afraid - aye, stricken to the quick
And mortal terror
Because somewhere, someone you love
Has had a nightmare?
Ah, no, I see you do not comprehend.
Then picture this:
You attend a party
But do not drink.
You are not in the mood to drink.
Yet you still get drunk
Because those around you are drunk
And it hurts.
Oh, I see, you grasp the basic idea
Bu you cannot believe in the phenomenon.
(It is quite real, I assure you,
And could you see my soul
I would show you scars.)
Of your faith or disbelief
Let us assume for the sake of argument
That it is so.
Ah, yes, you say you can imagine
If but this were true
But you do not.
Save your protests; I know you think you see
What I have said so far,
But that was merely prelude.
If one you love is suffering
From confusion, grief, or fear,
You might wish you could take their pain
That they not suffer -
(I see you nod assent)
- But would you still make that wish
if you knew you really could
(Don't interrupt just yet...)
And in fact had no choice in the matter?
Ah, you begin to understand me,
And still don't know my pain.
But that blonde girl in the corner
Has been listening to our conversation
And knows exactly what I mean.
How do I know? It should be obvious:
I know she knows for the same reason that she knows.
Alas, I have inadvertently reminded her of her pain
But she is better at keeping it to herself than most.
Please, don't look at me like that.
Imagine now that a stranger is crying
And you share his pain
Though you do not know him.
No, it gets worse. Trust me.
You are in a room full of people, yes?
Well, one of them is very, very shy
And quite frightened
And frustrated because of it.
You doubt me? Ask the blonde girl in the corner;
She feels him too.
But wait - that is not the worst.
See the tall fellow by the potato chips?
See his face?
Wrong -- he is not the one.
He is merely one who is affected by the shy one
But he does not know whay he feels that way
He is not that way himself, usually,
and does not understand what is happening to him.
The look that crossed your face was horror
I see you do begin to understand.
No, I do not know where the shy one is,
and would be as bewildered
- And frightened and frustrated -
As the tall one there
Were we not already discussing this.
What? You'd thought I was immune
To that sort of effect
Through knowledge, or practice?
No, just luck. This time.
For in the course of a day
I can run the entire gamut
Of human emotion
Changing moods several times an hour
And never understand
What has happened.
Yes, now you see.
But though you truly do comprehend
My joy and pain are not as your own
As yours are to me.
Oh, yes, I feel the joy of others too
Which is often more confusing.
So now you know how I knew
That you cried yourself to sleep last night,
And why I was there at your door this morning
When you thought nobody knew.
No, I did not read your thoughts,
But knowing the nature of your distress
I guessed the rest.
You miss her very much, don't you?
I wish I could show you why she left.
Yes, I do know, but I cannot explain in words.
You loved her very much.