Tice

George Tice (b. 1938): Buckstones, Scammonden Moor, Yorkshire, 1990, platinum print; courtesy Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd.

Ever since I was born, I have been separated from others by a wall. It is a glass wall, a one-way mirror, where I can see others but they cannot see me. Ever since I can remember, I had no need to break down the wall. I happily lived in solitude, with not a care in the world. No one could see me, so I simply ignored the fact that I could see them and just looked down and paid attention to whatever I happened to be doing. As the years went by, I heard the people on the other side of the wall pounding on the glass, wondering if anyone was inside. I did not like it. I was perfectly happy where I was and it upset me that they were trying to take that away from me. I tried to ignore the pounding for years until one day it just went away. I lived on in peace for a while, happy as could be. But I slowly started to look up and watch the people that I could see on the other side. They were always laughing, crying, and communicating with other people. I did not understand it. Something that complicated was beyond me. I started to realize that there was something wrong. I was not supposed to be alone. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be on the other side of the wall, laughing and crying and communicating with other people like everyone else. I started pounding on the glass, begging for someone to pay attention to me. But it was no use. No one could see or hear me. I decided I wanted to tear down that wall more than anything. Bit by bit, the tiniest of shards would break from the wall, agonizingly slowly making a cavity in the thick wall. Eventually, the crater is chipped thin enough to make the glass slightly transparent. A few people turn to look at me. They pay attention to me. I don’t like it. I’m not used to it. More than anything, I want to hide and for them to stop looking at me. But I don’t. I thought of how happy they looked when they were with others. I wanted to be like that, too. So I let them look at me. I watched as they all gathered around me, and I let them all take turns smashing through the now-thin wall. They reached toward me, pulled me out of the wall. Now I know what it felt like, being on the other side of the wall. It was wonderful, and I felt I had been missing out on this my whole life. But I was still not one of them. My hands were scarred from years of picking at that wall. I had shards of glass in my hair. I may have looked like one of them, but on the inside I would never be one of them. I didn’t understand what it was like to know the emotions and feelings of others, and to feel those things for myself. I would never understand, and I knew this. And yet I let them tear down that wall, and I let them help me out of it. I knew I would never fit in, but it didn’t upset me. All the years of isolation had made me independent. And I was no longer isolated.

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