I dated a waiter.
He worked at a high end billiards room near a university campus.
Late shift usually. Made good money. He was charismatic and charming, mostly. Megawatt smile.
I worked days back then. I think our relationship lasted longer because we barely saw each other through the week.
He was a writer too. A damned fine one actually. Had I been paying better attention to the signs at the time I could have studied him, learned things. But I was a silly little girl with a penchant for kinky sex and drama. He kept those parts of me well fed. Didn’t leave room for much else. He wrote erotica too, some of it for me or about me. Introduced me to a lot of things both literary and literally.
We had plans to meet up after work one night. I was safely tucked in the Annex at our favorite coffee shop, waiting.
He rolled in later than planned said he was looking around the room at all of the stragglers meandering after last call and he had to stop himself from shouting the following query…
‘You are afraid to go home and be alone with yourselves aren’t you?’
That was 1996 if memory serves and it is tattooed in my memory.
For the simple fact that it is the truth.
One single word that strikes fear in the hearts of many. For others it is a soft blanket we wrap around ourselves when the world gets too muchy.
I am one of the others.
I had a conversation with someone who had been in jail for a couple years. Some of his time spent was in maximum security which meant a huge portion of the day spent completely alone. 22 hours a day, 6 days a week. He got to go out for an hour every Sunday.
“No one came to visit” he said, “just my mom. And when I got done being angry about it I realized we are all essentially alone.”
I know the feeling.
Never been incarcerated, but there were long stretches of days and weeks when I lived in the Milton house that I saw no one. Not a neighbor, not the postman, and definitely none of my friends. Literally months would go by and if I didn’t get in the car and drive away from the sanctuary of my beautiful home I wouldn’t have seen a soul I knew. I was chatty with the ladies at the thrift store, made a few acquaintances, but had it not been for my stubbornness and a brand new set of winter tires I’d have forgotten what my friends looked like.
I realize it’s not the same thing. But when he told me that it tugged at the heart string called sympathy. I remember that drop in the pit of my stomach when I realized none was coming to get me, save me, help me or even just to see me. It was a sickening vertigo feeling, like falling in a dream.
And then I woke up.
I survived pneumonia alone, crippling depression, a flood, a court case, being snowed in to the point of needing heavy equipment to get me out, the birth of this website, the death of my old life, the letting go of my high school love, the entrance and exit of the poet.
And I did it by myself.
There were days I thought I wouldn’t make it.
It didn’t get better all at once.
Slowly, over the course of two years, I had mini epiphanies. Then it hit me. I couldn’t tell you what I was doing at the time, but I know I laughed long and loud, from my center. I’m still smiling.
I had kept myself tucked into relationships because I didn’t think I was capable of doing things by myself.
But I had been…
T’was I who went outside in -20 degree weather and pulled a heater core out of a scrap Jeep and installed it in my own, I had been trapped and I freed myself. T’was I who stacked the wood for the winter. T’was I who cleaned up every flood from farm springs. T’was I who nursed errrbody back to health through various illnesses. I’ve gotten myself out of every bad situation I have ever been in. Technically I got myself into them too but shush, that’s not what we’re dealing with today.
I believe everyone needs to go through this. Face being alone with yourself. Your thoughts, your fears, the deafening echoes of your psyche arguing with itself and the silence that follows. The quiet is the scariest part, but after that it becomes addictive.
The boy I spoke to is 19 years old and light years ahead of friends that are much older, and even me. He carries this calmness within him, this Zen that I can only attribute to someone who knows what it is like to go to the edge and stare into the abyss. I find myself gravitating to him, he is kindred.
We have no rites of passage as a North American society, no coming of age, no markers, no trials and I believe we are lost because of it. Trying to jam things and people into the holes in our psyche that would heal on their own if we gave them a chance.
Older civilizations would send their children out into the woods and (if) they came back, they were worthy, contributing members of society.
Not anymore. Parents are helicopters and babies are bubble wrapped. We carry around tiny computers in our hands and document our every move looking for validation for accomplishing very little. Every emotion expressed without being experienced or examined.
“I started to get that sad feeling and reached for my phone, but I thought ‘don’t’ — just be sad, let it hit you like a truck, I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch, it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness.” Louis CK