Hidden Thoughts


Do you ever get the impression that you can’t permit yourself to think a certain thought until you’re in the right place—the right physical location—to think it?

This perceived obligation strikes me from time to time, particularly when I’m about to entertain an especially treasured and intimate thought, like a fond memory of someone I love. It doesn’t seem right to think this kind of thought while I’m walking in an open, public space (as through a parking lot), or when someone else is sitting close to me (as on the bus). Not because the thought is indecent in any way, but simply because it’s too private and special to be aired so freely. You could almost say it’s an impulse to preserve the “purity” of a thought—whatever that means. This might sound ridiculous, since, of course, my thoughts are safely ensconced in my skull, unspoken, formless, and invisible to anyone but myself. Nevertheless, I feel obligated to protect them and give them the extra measure of privacy they seem to demand. Otherwise, the thoughts deflate and lose a little bit of the quality that makes them come alive. That’s why, when I have an idea or a memory I really want to savor, I wait until I’ve settled myself into a nice, solitary place (like in bed, with the sheets pulled over my head—sealing the thoughts under the blanket so they can’t escape) and then allow myself to indulge in the thinking. The postponement and anticipation, in fact, make the whole thing more exciting, and turn my simple thoughts into what feels like the sweetest of rewards.