the incurable loneliness when not alone our human ailment
“If I were a fish,” she said, “I think I’d still have feelings.”
“Why the fuck would you even want to be a fish?” He laughed, taking quick bites of his burger.
“Why not? Spending the day swimming around, it’d be like permanent scuba diving.” She pushed her plate aside and sat back, sipping from the iced tea in her hand. The day was bright, with a slight breeze keeping them cool as they sat out in the patio of the restaurant.
“You’d be a fucking fish. Why not a shark, or a whale? You’d just get eaten. Who cares if you have feelings.”
He rolled his eyes and picked up his phone, his focus on the screen between bites. She watched him quietly for a few moments until she finally shrugged.
“Yeah, I guess so. You’re not a seashell, anyway.”
With a sideways kiss and everything’s different. I can’t tell if that’s somehow left me still sideways. Maybe upside down. We stood in silence at the setting sun even though there seemed to be no reds or oranges despite, only pinks and blues. The sounds of nature fluttered like wet eyelashes, blinking. I may have swallowed a bug. But mostly he feels perfect against me, even if it’s just a casual brushing of legs, arms, hands, hearts.
I couldn’t sleep for what felt like forever, resting my head against him for a time, sometimes just my fingers slightly touching— just barely. I imagined all the things I could say but I left them to silence except his breath heavy in sleep. Kissed his cheek and held it there, my lips frozen against skin.
“Let’s have breakfast,” I wanted to say. It repeated in my head for what felt an eternity that morning of in and out that it never found it’s escape from my thoughts. Instead I drove away and the thoughts still stayed so muddled I couldn’t even sing along to a song.
I still feel that fluttering, blinking, trying to quell it to something resembling normalcy. I’m not what I once was, still the same. Maybe.
There’s something about the moments in life when you’re sharing something important to you, maybe something difficult to speak about, that you might even try to nonchalantly mention in a half hearted or offhanded way. Like when you want to show someone your writing or your art or or music or just something very personal and important to the very core of you and you almost stop breathing for a moment, even though you tell yourself that what they think is unimportant and that what you do and think is for you, your soul, blah blah blah… but in that baited breath and sometimes they’ll look you right in the eye, and sometimes there will be a wonder there, or it will excite them and you’ll inspire each other, or sometimes it’s nothing more than an understanding and an almost kinship that they totally get. And it’s beautiful and magical and that moment wraps you up in that warmth of connection.
And then there are moments when instead you’re met with silence or an offhanded remark, maybe even eyes that are intent on something else completely, and it takes the breath out of you and you feel unseen, invisible, a half dead leaf blowing along the sidewalk, lost to the wind.
How is it that I allowed myself to be lost to the wind for over two years?
It’s as if I’m standing on the top of a high mountain, looking down at the gorgeous view that stretches out in all directions around me, inhaling the chill air, and I’ve suddenly realized I’m terrified of heights.
The annoying beep… beep of her phone alarm seeps into her dreams. Even there she curses it, resisting the awakening of her body in the form of grunts and groans. 8am. Earlier than she would ever choose to wake up.
Groggily down the stairs, the kids are up and quietly watching iCarly on TV. Her ever blinking eyes search the counter and then into the shelves of the fridge– but nope, no iced latte. The magical latte fairy has yet returned with her medicine. Though she knows it’d be best for everyone if she simply crawled back up the stairs and in to bed, instead:
“Good morning, sweethearts. Sleep well?”
Mmmhmms and yesses and total silence are the response, but she pushes the disappointment aside and begins working on brushing hair through squirts of hair detangler and mumbles of hold-stills. Satisfied that the kids look vaguely well taken care of, she sends the middle child off to find a matching skirt, ignoring her protests that flowers and polka dots match just fine.
The latte fairy emerges from the garage in slacks and buttoned up shirt, and she vaguely notices he even trimmed his beard today, latte in his hand. Her eyes focus on the drizzles of caramel visible alongside the inside of the plastic transparent cup as he kisses her forehead and heads off to work, his purpose now done.
Signing homework papers and double checking the calendar on the fridge, she reminds the kids to get their jackets on– again– and sends them off with kisses and waves. After watching them disappear around a sidewalk corner, she closes the heavy front door deliberately.
Considering her options, with a return to the comforts of her bed high on the priority list, she instead slides the kitchen drawer open to a box tucked away and pulls out a cigarette and lighter. Latte in hand she makes her way to the backyard and, through exhales of smoke wonders– not for the first time– why a patch of grass has turned brown among the greens.
Stubbing the cigarette out on the concrete, she heads back inside and up the stairs into her bathroom. After a few splashes of cold water on her face, she pauses at her reflection in the mirror, noticing again the additional lines between her brows that didn’t used to be there, and the red splotches that have lately been marring her face.
Slipping on a pair of yoga pants and tank top, she makes her way out to the garage and into her red minivan. She leaves the track homes and women jogging with their dogs behind, settling on a narrow road.
Her car skids slightly as she brakes and puts it into park. Stepping out into the sunshine, a coolness still in the air, she takes a deep breath. The air tastes of fresh salt water, mingled with the latte still on her breath, as she looks over the ocean below. From up here the barking of dogs, the sounds of children shouting and laughing at a nearby school, of garbage trucks making the rounds– it all disappears, left only with the breaking of waves on the rocks below.
She climbs down the sides of the cliffs a few feet to a narrow ridge. Picking up a rock she holds it in her hand for a moment before letting it simply go, watching it disappear into the rocks and surf below. She closes her eyes and takes a step.
Her eyes fly open by the startling sound of her cell phone ringing in her back pocket. She steps back, pulls it out and looks at the screen. The elementary school phone number is displayed. After a moment, she answers.
“Hi, Mrs. Victor, this is Katie from the front office. Claire just puked here at school during recess. Can you come and get her?”
“Of course. I’ll be right there.”
I’m 33 years old.
This happens to be my favorite number, which I curiously did not make the connection that this equaled my age until only a few moments ago. Here I am, the age of my favorite number– that must mean something, right?
A slow learner. That’s what I’ve often described myself as, especially when it comes to life. Somehow I’ve escaped my childhood, teens, and 20s for the most part unscathed; but man, I sure could tell some stories. My journey to being an adult, a mother, and a useful part of society has taken more time and effort than most people I know of, but I’ve somehow made it here, mostly intact.
Here I sit in a house that only feels too big when it comes to cleaning it, with 2.5 kids that are all but well behaved, cats that keep me company as I work from home most days, and a awkwardly long dog that is somehow always happy to see me. We have well paying jobs and a savings account (er, well… the plan for one), we count calories and actually cook home cooked meals. Planned in two weeks is a vacation off work for the first time in my life and I found myself talking about a 2 year financial plan just the other day.
Oh yeah. I’ve got it all. I’m such an adult now.
There are moments it strikes me without warning and I pause, take a quick look around and am quite certain somebody is going to run towards me pointing, “Imposter! Fraud!” because surely I’m in the wrong place. This life can’t be mine. I’ve stolen it and it’s certainly only a matter of time before somebody finds out.
This wasn’t the life I was meant to live at all. I knew that if I didn’t somehow die at the age of 24 that it meant I was living my dreams. Traveling, writing, and being incredibly interesting. It meant I’d know how to dress stylishly and do my hair, that people would flock around me just to hear the grand stories I could tell. I most definitely wouldn’t work a 9 to 5 and I’d live smack dab in the middle of a big city, like a cultured person ought to.
Instead I work a 9 to 5… or sometimes, a 9 to 9. Most days I don’t even get out of my pajamas or step out of my house that sits comfortably in what can only be described as suburbia hell. My days are spent writing code, fixing bugs, troubleshooting server issues and attempting to avoid office politics. My evenings are filled with rushing kids to dance class or taking bike rides all the while my eldest daughter complainining as if I were torturing her. I can’t go where I want or when I want because this requires planning, organization, and good timing.
I’m happy, though, where I am. I’m not saying that isn’t so. It’s not the life that was meant to be mine but it’s the life I have, and I’ve never been more content. I generally enjoy my job and I generally enjoy my kids — especially when they are sleeping. In my good sized house I can drink all the lattes I want, I can throw the clothes on the floor, and I can put up rules that the other inhabitants are meant to abide by whether they do or not. And yet, here and there, I notice something is amiss.
It’s that slow learner thing. I know that since I was 13 putting my pen to paper has been the single most thing that kept me vaguely sane. That I lived and breathed words, taken and created and mushed up into pretty little sentences. It’s almost cliche, but without the words sometimes I wouldn’t know whether I existed at all. And yet, for almost a decade now, the words have been neglected. In spurts every 7 months or so only to be pushed aside again for something else. Something more urgent.
It’s not until recently that I realized, after saying it for most of my 33 years of life, that I need to write. Let’s say it again, yes? I need to write. That, my dear readers, is what I’ve learned after 33 years on this earth. That the life we imagine rarely comes to be. That the life we are in can be all we really need. And that, low and behold, we must do the things that we yearn for. Whatever it may be. We must do it, we must try. We were given the ability to feel this sort of need– I don’t care how. What else can we do but answer it?