[Pocketing Your] Inherent Vice

by Charlotte E. Wilde

When the smell of perfume on my wrist ceases to remind me that I’m still here I go to the movies to watch the people. I like feeling apart— entirely separate on the other side of that thick glass window of intimacy. When too much time is afforded to pacing mental floorboards introspection and a skewed perspective lend themselves to the construction of our own “otherness.” We perceive ourselves as this gothic anomaly in an abject world, yet catharsis is so often found in the catch of a kindred-eye. This phenomenon can be attributed to the realization that every unknown soul behind a half-hung smile and crafted persona can be reduced down to their own head full of worries and pockets full of vice.

Because where else would they carry it?

Vices are such looming unquantifiable things: forgotten at times only to be rediscovered, misplaced only to be stumbled upon in some dark night or mood. A certain bent of mind fosters the impression that we are alone in our preoccupation with personal regrets and failings. We perceive ourselves as comparably deficient in this, our willingness to pawn lasting happiness for a fleeting momentary bliss. Hindsight puts our vices to the scale, measures them with little rounds of silver until a decision is reached on penance to be paid and offerings to moral high grounds or aspirations of improvement. We only subconsciously notice our habit of slipping hands into pockets to finger yesterday’s weaknesses— a strangely reassuring contact, like a secret smile between old lovers. The stones of same-old-regrets and the pebbles of I-did-it-again’s run through our fingers one by one; we count them twice to make sure they’re all there, knowing the day will come where we find ourselves drowning and these will be the things dragging us to murky depths.

Each day footsteps grow a little heavier.
Each day we judge ourselves a little harsher.
Each day we wake up hoping to be someone else.

Until then we go to the movies and watch people, lingering until we see someone unlike the others— a creased brow and a bent head, walking with a heavier step; a shade and worry we might have called our own. In this moment it’s hard not to want to reach out and slip our hand into their coat pocket.

What would we find?

In reality the only insurmountable vice is a personal one. Perhaps sliding our fingers into someone else’s world for a spell is a way to momentarily forget our own. This, at least, explains our interest in the passers-by, the movie-goers, the coffee shop poets or internet’s unknown. As as we linger on edges we look for ourselves reflected in the eye of an inconnu. The knowledge that true evil sees no reflection, has no perception of itself, is a cold comfort; one that lets us cling to the half-hope that since we do, since we can, the only barrier between us and progress is a mirror and a few pilfered moments of time.

So come, stranger, slip your hand into mine and tell me your stories, the ones you tuck down deep by the seams, the ones that follow you home at night and seep like bile through your fingers as you count them, four, five, six. Now, let me lighten your load with a secret: we all have them, these things that drag heavy feet behind us, these pockets full of vice and regret. People like us all quietly carry these tiny stone souvenirs, eternal reminders of ballads to past sunsets better left unsung, and the dangerous way that future’s horizon blends, blurs, and begins, once again, to look decidedly the same.