Posts Tagged ‘lonely’

Travel Time

8 August 2010

Dear J-

It turns out that I write best when in motion, so with nothing else palatable on the flight (as I’m not about to drag out my books and begin, horrors, studying) here I am. For some reason I always find airports immensely lonely places, even when you’re traveling with folks you know: you’re in a kind of geographical limbo, neither here nor there yet, and waiting for something, for the flight to be over, for the flight to depart, to get your bags, to get out of there, to get there, for the restroom to open up, for a space for your feet, to turn on your gadgets, for the seatbelt sign, to land, to taxi, to take off, to park, to pay, to check-in. But these are all solitary activities, and you end up having to wait a little longer.when it’s just you.

The flight attendants are going about their duties with typical steely-eyed efficiency, doling out food and drinks to the passengers and not really making any kind of human contact. The people you sit with are wrapped up (as am I, as though I wasn’t the biggest hypocritical fraud you could hope to meet) in their reading and gadgets as though they contained the secrets of life. Perhaps they do. Yet it’s hard to muster any real interest in strangers you might know for another few hours at the outside, and I’m sure that as hardened as some flyers are, the staff have seen it all by now. Better to stick with what you know, that space between your eyes and ears; you’ve trod those floorboards a thousand times already knowing you’ll have nothing but to entertain yourself. There are things I like to bring on a trip, but I wish I’d remembered cards right now — there’s something in the way that you mesh them together at a crisp ripple, feats of manual dexterity that keep your hands busy and your mind clean.

This paricular flight is equipped with individual headrest monitors: we’re not stuck watching the same programs, and seeing them all lit up and sending information down the way is entertainment on its own. We’ve transformed, so they say, into a society of browsers, where everyone knows a little about everything and, if not, we can look that stuff up on-line in moments. Anyone with a connection can find hard-core trivia that was hard-won in the past, gleaned from tireless (or expensive, or both) research into dusty shelves and obscure conclusions. But it’s both symptomatic and causal: the more we pursue our echo chambers of knowledge, the more we want to know, and so we keep spinning our electronic cocoons of silence throughout the air, punching tubes of silence between us all.



Time’s Gift

30 January 2009

Dear J-

Fridays are kinda strange for me — now that I feel somewhat safe in having Fridays off again (the original purpose of the 4×10 schedule was not to enable a 5×10 week, after all), I spend half the day rattling around the house with nothing but time on my hands after vacuuming and cleaning up the litter. Once the minor chores are out of the way I spend a few moments contemplating the rest of things to be done — major trimming of vegetation, kitchen faucet replacement, hard-scaping the floors — and end up killing time on all the electronic distractions at my disposal: video games and the ever-changing internet.


The best gifts are often the simplest; I should acknowledge how much I appreciate the time off and pay it back when I can. It’s strange how empty the house is though — but even at that, it’s like I have no need to hurry back into the real life of being a parent. The house slowly revives after I go pick figgy up, and my world expands back to encompass many lives. Fridays remind me again of being alone, and how poorly I do.


Lonely Time

24 November 2008

Dear J-

No one grows up and hopes to be alone, I hope.  I keep hearing about it and reading about it, but honestly, have only had to deal with it for two years in Boston.  I imagine that I’d make a terrible bachelor.  My family’s been, well, huge for as long as I can remember; we had a set of grandparents, an uncle, and an aunt all in the house for three years starting when I was seven.  College, I moved out of the dorm (suite of four) and into larger group living situations — eventually I settled into Ridge House, with 37 like-minded co-operative folks.


We’ve lived together for just over ten years now; never really alone, as even when we were busy apart, we had the animals around milling about somewhere.  But it’s the stretch between 1996-1998 that keeps me thinking of all the gray clouds in Boston — despite the summer heat, despite the beautiful springs and falls — it makes me think of the long slide into winter, with less snow than you might expect (that ocean-effect lending some warmth, I guess), with winds howling down Mass Ave and the sky a perpetual leaden gray (now brighter, now darker).  All the while I kept my eyes elsewhere and resolved to not enjoy life on the East Coast, which was a huge mistake, in retrospect; I couldn’t even vacillate as well as Charlie Brown between admiration and pathetic.

I suspect that I spend more time regretting what I could have done instead of going out and investing time in things I could do.  Too early or too late for resolutions?


Always So Magic

6 December 2006

Dear J-,

There’s a line from The Wedding Singer that sounded great — Robbie, Adam Sandler’s character, says he wants to be a songwriter, one who’s going to write a song that makes people think “Man, I get what he was thinking when he wrote that.” Isn’t that the whole purpose of writing anything?

I’m back on the East Coast again again for the first time in what, eight years? At least since I was in school, and I can only think of everything that’s changed since then. Was it always so lonely, this being apart, a whole continent in between?

(I don’t wanna be lonely, baby, please help me)
I wanna love you all over

— Huey Lews and the News, Do You Believe in Love

I know that it’s got to be some kind of minor hell, or more precisely, some kind of karma for never appreciating all the thousands of kindnesses theVet does for me every day. Man that sounds horrible, like I just miss having a servant. Let them eat cake, that kind of stuff. Lonely’s more than that. Days like these, nights like these, I feel lonely in my own skin. I just don’t know what to do by myself any more. No, lonely’s gotta be somewhere between the last seat on the bus and watching the lights flicker and glow out at closing time. It’s empty chairs and desperate calls to 411, trying to remember, trying to reconnect. Lonely’s knowing just how many vacant minutes fill each dark night. It’s 18 000 days — 540 000 hours of knowing exactly what you need and learning how badly you picked that bet. All this time I thought the future was just more of the same, and I dreaded it a thousand times more than the million slow deaths of humiliation I’d already had in my life — the petrification of actually having to stand up and speak in front of everyone, everyone’s eyes, everyone’s expectations weighing a thousand tons of stares.

Dream a dream of the future with me — grey at the houses of worship, lines changed to canyons (you know I’m now almost halfway to where grampa was the first time we met?) — but that’s only the part I can’t control. I’ve said it before: now I can’t wait. Each day is a day closer, and thus another chance to discover. Yeah, I know it sounds completely Polyanna, sunshine lollipops and rainbows and yet I still can’t help but feel a little giddy about it all. Maybe it’s just who I am, but I’m still learning, learning that love is in the details. Figure it this way: 80 years, 365 days, 2 times the sky catches fire at dusk and dawn. 56 000 opportunities to share your life and amazing times while the world reminds you it’s all still magic, it’s all so magic.


Daytime Nighttime

16 November 2006

What does it pay to play the leading lady
When, like the damsel in distress
Daytime nighttime suffering is all she gets– Paul McCartney, Daytime Nighttime Suffering

Dear J-,

They should have had the first reunion at fifteen years. Ten isn’t quite enough time to forget faces, and twenty, well, no one wants to be facing forty without making some kind of an effort. Fifteen is enough to have had some perspective, not just on high school, but on your life to date. Plus you’re at the point that those folks being born when you got your driver’s license are now menacing the elderly you on the roads.

Nothing quite like seeing all the significant milestones of your life fall to kids you remember baby-sitting to force you to grow up, right? I met someone today who confided his excitement in his first grandkid at one turn and the dismay of “finally having to grow up” in the next. Time moves ever forward; if I’m already afraid of tomorrow, how can I enjoy today? What is it, exactly? When do you give in and say that you’re getting old? The first white hair? Done. Music gotten too loud? Years ago, now. I’ve always thought that the baby boomers (and here I go tarring all with the same brush, just as I get slotted somewhere between Gen X and Y) were self-absorbed image-conscious youth-seeking idiots, but the older I get, the more I understand the truth behind “Age is just a number.”

We cling to the idealized memories of youth, not remembering living someone else’s life, those first fumbling attempts at love, waiting always waiting for changes pointing the way forward. I remember the delicious anticipation, the night before handing out the new trimester’s schedules and hoping that I’d have the right mix of folks — someone to crush on, someone to talk to, someone to keep the lonely away. How can you possibly know at eighteen who you are, let alone who you need? I’m in awe of childhood sweethearts who make it work; they remember the wonder of the new, the bloom of youth, the steady pace of life, the joy of every wakening.

Everyone dreams of being out on their own without thinking twice about what it might mean. I had roommates in college up until my last semester of senior year, and even that wasn’t so bad because I was semi-officially living with theVet by then (maintaining separate rooms for the public’s sake). Loneliness is coming home two thousand miles from everything you remember to the unheated house you rent from the landlady upstairs. Loneliness is the last bus of the night, riding past Fenway Park on game night and hearing the distant cheers. Loneliness is reading the “personalized” messages left when you asked for more signatures in your yearbook to reduce the desperation inside. Loneliness is realizing why you wrote and saved so many letters knowing you never followed up on them, all the while listening to something suitably nostalgic — let’s say the first album you bought alone. Alone.

Even though the overwhelming memory of Jamaica Plain is of that isolated loneliness, I still want to go back and wander through the Arboretum by myself; I want to wander, and then return and remember how lucky I am to have known so many people to call, so many people to write letters to. Nights I’m alone make it so much easier to be grateful.