It turns out pain has always been connected to other people.

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

I coughed up a little bit of blood as the mugger twisted the knife in the victim I was witnessing across the street. They screamed in agony as the mugger ran off with their wallet. I ran across the street, pulling out my phone to dial emergency services. Well, more like limped across the street. I collapsed in front of them, wheezing, as they clutched at their gut. I dropped my phone next to us.

“Ohhhh God…” he breathed deeply through clenched teeth. “Is it bad?”

It was awful. This guy was dead for sure. I could see multiple severed organs. I knew very little about organs, and I suspected that had a lot to do with the fact that I was not supposed to be able to see them.

“Nah, you’re good,” I coughed again. His pain was visceral, burning every sensation that I had. It overpowered the need to call emergency services. Attending to the pain was most important. But I had no physical wound. It just felt like some ghostly figure reached in and played arts and crafts inside me.

“He got you too, didn’t he?” he sighed.

“No, he…” I didn’t think this was the time to explain it to him. “I mean, yeah, he got me too.”

“I’m sorry. This really — Agh!!” He took a moment with his eyes screwed shut before he could continue his thought. “This really puts my whole life into perspective. Why did I even refuse to give him my wallet, you know? He got it anyway, and now I’m hurt bad. Any idea when an ambulance will — “ he stopped to clench his wound tighter, screaming loudly.

“Yeah,” I said, finally remembering to hit the call button. I was having a perspective-changing moment of my own. All those times I felt like my eyes were stinging randomly, or I would get those weird pangs in my arms, or the times I woke up sore… Were those all a result of other people going through their own experiences? This had to be the worst superpower ever. The Empathizer is what they would call me. Except for the part where this guy and I are probably goners.

“I just… it sucks, you know? I never actually took the time to appreciate my life ‘to its fullest’ as people say, and now I’m probably paralyzed. Or dead. Just having gone through this situation will majorly alter my life in a terrifying direction. All because I was so attached to the material world, you know? I’m just so upset with myself, you know?” His eyes were closed tightly, but he inclined his head towards me to hear my response. I could only think of one thing to say. To finally say out in the open what had been afflicting me for years. To finally understand and acknowledge it.

“I feel your pain,” I said.

He nodded, smiling understandingly.

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