When I was fourteen or fifteen I saw a girl staring out of a
bus window. She was four or five years older than me, very pretty with long
dark hair. But it was not her looks which attracted my attention. It was the
desolation in her face. She looked lost in a gulf of despair, hopeless and
helpless. I was transfixed by her.
What could make such a lovely young woman look like that,
feel like that? I wondered what it was like to be her, and then I wondered what it was like to be any other person, to see
through their eyes, move with their body, think with their thoughts, wake with
their dreams. I have been wondering it ever since.
The girl became the female lead in my first, long-gone
When I’ve discussed this puzzle with other people I
usually draw blank looks. They either don’t understand what I mean or say,
‘Well, of course, everybody is different.’ And then they turn away as if that
were the end of the matter.
I have just started to read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ for a Coursera course in Historical Fiction.
I was pleased, and relieved to see that Dickens wrote these words:
‘A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature
is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.’
It is a wonderful fact.