I watched a squirrel for close to an hour the other night.
Of course, I should have been intensely studying for the math test that night, but this squirrel, it was more than a squirrel. It was…well, it’s hard to completely explain in a short number of words.
I’ll start from the beginning–
I was sitting at a table on the college campus, math book and notebook cracked open in front of me. Review mode was engaged–let’s put it that way; and as far as studying for math goes, I thought I was doing pretty well.
Now, to step away from the math–we already know I’m terrible at the concept–I want to introduce all of you to the man of the hour: the squirrel that hopped down from a tree to the right of me.
It’s not as if this was a mutant squirrel; no, it was your average, everyday, acorn-loving creature, nothing much to it. I could tell it had come out to scavenge when I first saw it–why, you ask? it was hunting beneath the various tables for scraps of wasted food.
The squirrel got lucky a few times, found two French fries, and, I think, a potato chip.
I wasn’t too interested in what it was eating, though.
Sidetrack a moment from the squirrel.
Picture: a set piece on which all these types of people are walking and acting out their lives, their personalities, within the restricted boundaries of whatever influence the public opinion has over our confidence.
One girl, two tables away from me, was chatting on a phone while studying for, possibly, the same math test. Truth be told, I didn’t check out that specific detail.
Another guy showed up during the middle of the squirrel’s charade–and take note, this guy is important in this story, ‘kay?–chomping down on a pink coated chocolate candy and pacing the ground before a bundle of spiring trees.
Dozens more people passed and went, walked and skated, talked and reflected. Classes were let out, and those students came through this set piece, only to go onto another one within an instant.
Why are they crucial? Why did I observe them so keenly?
Not a single one of these people acknowledged the squirrel’s existence.
The squirrel here is crawling over and under the intricacies of these tables, grabbing at crumbs; and, to them, it’s a ghost. The French fries disappeared, sure, but to where they went, no one would be the wiser.
I had my eyes fixed on the squirrel, and with each group that entered the set piece, I watched to see if any would take note of it. Surprisingly, as I said, it was as if the whole scene was happening underground, no lights, no sense of what or why was going on in the surroundings.
I had to laugh; of course, who wouldn’t in a situation like that.
Every time I kept thinking someone would point out the squirrel and admire its cuteness, my intuition was proven wrong. Sometimes it is–that I don’t deny; it’s pointless to assume I would have predicted any of the reactions.
Then I wondered…
Why was I so enamored with the squirrel in the first place?
The answer came to me when I saw the squirrel, fresh off its second fry, venture carefully towards the girl chatting on her phone. It would take a few bounds, stop, sniff the ground, and tread some more ground, its tail twitching with each movement.
It reached the girl…eventually–and what did the girl do but stare at it and stamp her feet.
The squirrel retreated, scared, unsure, wrecked in all of its emotional faculties. Had it been looking for food? A companion? Someone to give it a good petting? Dunno. All I know is that it ran from her.
At this point, we return to the guy eating his chocolate candy.
During the periods when I was unable to clearly observe the squirrel, my focus had been spent studying this dude. By all accounts, he looked simple enough, just enjoying his chocolate; he was the guy you’d pass on the street without a second thought–that is…until the group of girls walked by him.
A glance was all it took, and I recognized the panic in his eyes as they tracked the girls, this trio glued to their phones, disregarding the guy without a second thought.
He lowered the chocolate candy, moved to speak; although, by then, they were gone.
The guy walked a few more minutes, lost to his thoughts–
During this painful moment, another class stormed down from the hill, jabbering, hopping on their skateboards and scooters; again, not one of them noticed the squirrel that, cowering beneath a table, dropped to its paws and hightailed it to the bundle of spiring trees near the recently heartbroken guy.
And guess what?
As the guy pondered and paced, he stopped a second, looked up; and he saw the squirrel, just stood there in an awe of sorts as the squirrel clamped itself to one of the trees and crawled up the trunk.
What else could I do than be mesmerized? Another of these bystanders had seen the invisible critter; now, it was as real as anything else in that small dining square.
Why do I tell you this story? Why do I waste your time with a little human observation?
To me, that most people did not see this squirrel says something about the state of humanity–of existing.
I forgot to mention earlier, but the whole time I was studying the squirrel, none of those people took a notice of me, either. Like the squirrel, I became a ghost for a short amount of time, free to wander, to act, to do, as I wished.
Maybe it’s ’cause I was silent. Maybe it’s ’cause I simply watched.
Maybe it’s ’cause, for one reason or another, I just didn’t blend.
I put faith in this assumption because of the one other person who saw the squirrel:
The guy who had recently been rejected by the trio of girls.
The both of us were not, by any stretch of the matter, different, per say; however, what if, since the majority of this small society had not stopped to acknowledge our being there, we were then able to acknowledge the presence of the squirrel?
Perhaps existing is more than simply being seen by others. Perhaps, as long as you yourself are confident in what you stand for, in what you think, or believe; then, perhaps, existing is a matter of whether or not you want to stand tall, or sit complacently with the masses.
Perhaps, at this moment, there’s a squirrel scampering at your feet for food, and you haven’t yet noticed it.