inside out

on the downtown A a large man was shuffling around. he started to sit down and began talking – which lead me to believe he had found someone he knew.

he had a clear, resonant voice that cut through the rattle and noise of the train. i went back to reading a book.

a few minutes later, pulling out of 125th with many more people on board he stood up, and began talking again – this time it was clear he was alone. i half-listened while i continued to read, but soon lost interest in my book in favor of checking out what was happening on the train.

while looking out a window i noticed green light in the tunnel and just at that moment heard the man say, “green light in the tunnel.” i started listening without looking at him and realized he was verbalizing whatever he became aware of – ads on the train, people, thoughts, whatever crossed his conscious mind. sometimes he swore – but nothing he said, if understood as an inner monologue was odd at all. i know that my inner monologue, with some adjustments at least, is very similar to his. what made him sound strange is that he was voicing his inner thoughts while slowly shuffling around one section of the train.

it occurred to me that our raw, inner monologue is raw because it’s divorced from the normalizing influence of the shared, external world. for most of us, when we act on our inner monologue, when we introduce our thoughts in the form of actions within shared space, that process is one of adaption – or, perhaps, translation – and, at least for me, those domains – the inner, and the shared each have their own dialects, vocabularies, and prosodies. the fellow on the train obviously had some issue about making the translation from inner to outer – and it made an impression on me as i don’t recall ever experiencing something like that before.