I stand outside the entrance to the church’s social level, waiting for Starlight–Zielonya–to arrive. I nervously check the muffins I brought. They’re still warm from the oven, and the au gratin potatoes that are actually for the potluck are none the worse for having a cheap Wal-mart basket that I can easily replace set on top of them. Baked goods are a good place to start, Aunt Lia always says. I miss Aunt Lia–quite a bit, actually.
As an empath, I have a powerful natural urge to want everyone around me to be content and happy. Being around people who have energy, enthusiasm and a sheer zest for life is revitalizing, and I imagine it’s the same for people who don’t have powers. It’s not just that when someone else is uncomfortable it makes me depressed, it’s something more primal. It’s a need, and not really a selfish one. They say that man is a social animal, and I guess that empaths like me are just the proof of it.
As a student (genius?), I’m a problem solver at heart. I tend to think things through from every angle and then pick the best approach, but there’s always a degree of uncertainty involved. There are always going to be factors I don’t know about, and the best I can do is to hope. It’s my instinct to try and help other people solve their problems. It’s why I’m currently searching for a new job–customer service isn’t so bad, but I absolutely hate selling. Hate it with a passion. Fundraising is different–that’s for a cause. Just plain “profit” is not a motivator for me.
Thus, it is my nature to want to help Starlight (Zielonya) with whatever her problem is. At the same time, I can’t intrude on her privacy. That would be cruel of me. All I can really do is try to help her through it in the little ways, and that’s hard. Being an empath does not mean I naturally have “people skills.” I am attuned to people. I am not necessarily good at applying that.
Starlight is headed my way, across the park. I can feel her before I see her. Every person feels slightly different–a mix of complex emotions, but there’s normally one thing about them that defines them. One person I knew–a long time ago–felt safe. I am defined by my analytical alertness. Someone else was all fire and ice, a storm condensed down into an unstoppable force of nature, wrapped in a mild exterior. Starlight is tightly controlled, her uniqueness hidden. Ironically, it’s that that makes her stand out to me. Most people have no idea how to attune self-control so deeply and repressively.
I smile as she comes over, just glad she did come, after all. “Welcome to BBC,” I say.
“I’m assuming you don’t mean the British Broadcasting Corporation,” she says dryly. I laugh.
“No, though that would be fun. ‘Bible, Bowl, and Chow.’ It’s a potluck, but don’t worry about that. Some people have a hard time bringing something because of school or work, and there’s always more than enough food left over. If you love archaeology, you’re in for a treat.” I hand her the muffins. “And these are for you. Just because.”
I will probably humiliate myself during the bowling again, but, as usual, I don’t care at all.
Author’s Note: The nickname of the Bible study–“Bible, Bowl, and Chow”–is actually not mine. It belongs to my former youth group. Aunt Lia is fictional, but based on a couple of people I know in real life.