Updated: Dec 11, 2021
by Hanna Kim
When I wake up, the first thing I’m hit with is an onslaught of emotions. Some of them are powerful: a conflagration, angry and full of fervor. Others are quiet and fleeting like snowflakes melting away on a windowsill.
It’s strange. I try racking my head for any memory of a dream I had last night, but come up empty. I frown but push the feeling away so that I can get ready for work.
The whole time I get ready, however, I can’t stop thinking about it. As I brush my teeth, I feel a faint but sudden urge to laugh. When I shower, shame envelops my body like a blanket. I feel happy and miserable, heartbroken and in love, all at the same time.
I drive to work and sense the frustration of the people around me seconds before they honk at the woman slowly crossing the street. I shake my head in disbelief. It feels too real, but it can’t be. Stuff like this only happens in movies.
When I arrive at work, exhaustion floods my senses. It’s a filter settling over the building, desaturated and tasteless. It seems too real and the emotions are spot-on.
It won’t stop. I stop by to chat with Will and Martha while on my way to handing in my progress report and I’m overwhelmed with love. It’s soothing, the legato melody of a harp, and I feel it when my eyes stray to their intertwined hands, matching rings on their left ring fingers. During a meeting, I feel the stress of my coworkers around me, pinpricks of static electricity pinching my skin as our manager discusses the logistics of our project. I feel the rejection that smothers me when Julia walks away from Sam. Sam’s always been a stuttering mess around Julia. I cast one an amused glance at him before I turn around.
Only to bump into Mark.
Mark. Everyone hates him. Mister Perfect here refuses to stop talking about how amazing his life is. All he talks about is his “loving” wife and kids. Our boss loves him because he’s always sucking up to her and handing in things early. He’s tall and good-looking, his smile charming enough to attract women within a ten-mile vicinity, and he’s an amazing cook: he brings in food to share with us, and it’s infuriatingly good. He is, quite literally, the definition of the American dream.
“Hey, Benji!” Mister Perfect says, slapping me on the shoulder. “How you doing?”
“I’m great!” I force a smile on my face. “What about you?”
“Oh, I’m great.” He smiles. “I was on my way to get some lunch. Wanna come?”
My fake smile nearly slides off my face.
Every person I’d been around so far had made me feel something, whether it be good or bad.
But Mark feels empty. Horribly empty. It’s like standing on the stage of an empty concert hall, devoid of any noise.
The feeling sinks into my bones and I try not to shiver. Try not to focus on how the feeling intensifies when I politely decline and tell him I’m busy.
I give him a nod of acknowledgment and briskly walk away, but the emptiness lingers.
It lingers, and the negative emotions feel heavier than the positive ones. I can barely sense the happiness of the people around me. Everyone around me radiates an overwhelming sadness that leaves me with shortness of breath and a tight feeling in my chest.
It’s hard to wear a smile. Even Martha, who’d only radiated love and adoration has a drag in her step. The emotions make my stomach churn and I have to clench my jaw to resist the urge to vomit.
By the time I get home, my hands are trembling. I’m staring down at a pit of emotions below my feet. No matter how much I yell, I don’t know where they’re coming from, what makes them people feel this way. The frigid wind from below seeps into my pores and settles into my bones. I choose a random movie, collapse onto my couch, and wrap the blanket folded on the side around me.
As the plot of the movie continues to unfold before my very eyes, I begin to think. Think about the love, the joy, the pain, the sadness. The latter makes me sigh: I’d do something if I could. I’d go up to everyone and ask them what was wrong, why their emotions left me in jarring pain, why they seemed to carve my very insides hollow with a sharp knife, ask them is there any way I could help?
But I’m not supposed to know. My newfound powers chain me down. I lay in front of the TV, the bright lights flashing against the lids of my drowsy eyes, and pray that it’ll all be gone by tomorrow.