I used to think I was the only lonely one.
Everyone seemed to have so much going on — so many friends and interests and achievements. They were all busy, busy, busy. I really wasn’t. I felt alone. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to be lonely anymore. I wanted to be someone else — someone who wasn’t lonely.
I knew busy married people with kids and good careers. Certainly, they weren’t lonely at all: No sir! No time to be lonely. Try to start a conversation with them and it immediately turned to whatever little Tommy was doing in swim club. Or they’d talk about work, which was a pain in the ass the way that some cantankerous-but-tolerable rich old uncle was. Life was so full and exciting and yet secure for them. I wanted to be one of those people.
But if I couldn’t be one of those people, then I’d be an artist of some kind. I’d strive to perfect my craft. I’d live simply and in close communion with my muse. I’d court patrons. I’d have artist friends. We’d enjoy long, semi-drunk conversations long into the night, and we’d run out of new ideas and wine just in time to stumble towards breakfast at some run-down diner, bleary-eyed and still trying to make our points to each other like two exhausted boxers in a ring. Surely, I wouldn’t be lonely then.
But if I couldn’t be an artist, then I’d perfect the methods of seduction. I’d learn the right things to say and — more important — when to say nothing at all. I’d frequent the popular spots. I’d find a target and ply with booze and flattery. One or another would end up in my car and after a short drive I’d end up in her. For an hour or so we could be there for each other and not be lonely as we panted, grunted and screamed. You can’t be lonely when you’re inside another person. Right? Right?
I tried all those things, and I was still lonely — which didn’t surprise me that much. I’m frequently clumsy and careless. I was all-too-willing to believe I had just gotten it wrong. Maybe I flubbed the setup. It was an experiment, after all–and experiments sometimes fail due to poor preparation.
But with each phase of my grand experiment, I found something unbelievable. I really couldn’t imagine what was revealed.
I found people doing those things were lonely, too. They were at least as lonely as I.
I’d talk with them a bit and they would suddenly grasp my shoulder and share far too much about their lives: things they hadn’t been able to tell anyone else. No one would listen — no one would help. They spoke a sort of heresy. They were supposed to be happy and fulfilled and they just weren’t. They were panicked about things they could only share with an outsider. Stunned, I couldn’t really help them beyond nodding in amazement and making sympathetic noises as I watched them recede back into desperate confusion.
For a while, I despaired.
Then, I sensed someone was in the room with me–strangely familiar, close but distant. I looked up. It was myself. For the first time I really looked at myself. I looked myself over and said “You poor, misguided thing. Why are you lonely? I’ve always been here for you. You’ve just been ignoring me. Here — let’s sit and talk. Tell me what you remember. I feel like I barely know you at all.”
Since then it’s been weeks or months. It feels more like years.
I’m really not lonely anymore. At least . . . I don’t think I am.
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In my debut novel, the main character finds out how to not be lonely. Check it out at www.diamondtbook.com