isolation, pt. 5

This was never really my strong suit. She was the only person I was ever really close with for a long time, you know? I didn't need people. That was sort of my thing. So I was used to being alone. The world's a big place, and most of it's shitty. You learn to deal with it. One of the things she was always telling me is how nobody's self-perception is any good. I just always figured I had mine figured. She was right, though. Somehow I came to rely on her being there. I'm not sure which part I regret more: that I needed her, or that I didn't realize it until she was gone.

But the point is I didn't realize it, so I didn't think I'd care if I drove her off. The things I used to find charming--the restlessness, the uncertainty, that weird eternal calm--started to bug the shit out of me, and eventually I started calling her on it. We'd fight, we'd make up. But we were both young and dumb. I didn't so much want her gone as I wanted her to be less . . . her.

It felt like every day I was saying "I'm tired of your bullshit," and every day she'd come back with something snide that I'd ignore, because life's too short, you know? I thought I'd seen the worst she could offer. Then I said it one day and she snapped. I'd never seen anyone so angry. I didn't know anyone could be so angry, especially her--she'd lose her temper for a minute or two, which mostly meant she'd raise her voice a little and say something sarcastic and dismissive, then she'd calm back down and go back to that weird calm of hers. It never lasted. This was different. This was someone expressing all the frustration that she'd been quietly trying to ignore for--it must have been years at that point.

I fled because I needed to get away. Then I realized I had nowhere I could go. I'd driven away the only person who would be willing to help. I drove around the city for hours, just looking for something that could feel sort of like a home.


isolation, pt. 4

Of course, every story that says "in retrospect" is a lie. For instance:

In retrospect, I guess we must have met on Valentine's day. I didn't think of it at the time because, you know, we'd just met, and I was single and not really thinking about it at all. I just remember it being one of those Seattle winters that wasn't really a winter, and my sister calling me to tell me she couldn't pick me up after class today, so I thought something like "fuck it, I'm going to walk." Though I guess it's hard to imagine high school-aged me saying "fuck it."

Then about halfway there (it's always halfway when you're walking) I sat down on some random doorstep to tie my shoes and eat some Valentine's candy I'd gotten, and then the girl that lived there came out on the porch and sat next to me. And that was profoundly weird, and I don't think she learned my name for months (she called me Porch Girl until she stopped finding that amusing, which took a while). The rest of that week I walked home from school, hoping she might wait outside for me like she promised she would. And every day there was no one there. Just me and the clang of the city, in this neighborhood I didn't really know. 

Sometimes I still tell people that this was the moment that made me realize that there is this whole world out there, and none of it cares about me, but that's probably not true. I think I always knew that, even as a self-absorbed teen: the world is big and unfriendly. So after I passed her house I thought about what would happen if I took a wrong turn and got lost somehow, and became convinced that nobody would care. Naturally this meant that in my mind, she was inextricable from isolation and loneliness. My only mistake was thinking that she was a shelter from an indifferent world.


isolation, pt. 3

I used to be so afraid of isolation. I think that's what drove me. Somehow I'd become convinced that being introverted was a vice, so I forced myself to go out, burying myself in plans, interacting with people I didn't really like, because some anti-Imperial activist once said "be the change you want to see in this world" and I decided I wanted to be like all of these happy extroverts that interacted with all these people I didn't like and seemed to enjoy themselves. Worse, I managed to get a job writing about the awful culture I'd sunk myself into. So even if it were possible for me to enjoy it (which it wasn't), now it was about work.

This is a story I'd end up telling my sister's old lover; then I wrote about telling that story as the last thing I ever wrote for my little culture blog. It was one of those parties I was always going to, where I met this kid who was shy and adorable and took forever to finally actually kiss me no matter how many hints I dropped. We spent the evening kissing on the floor, and the whole time all I could think about was the guy sleeping on the couch three feet away, and how we must have been keeping him awake and how uncomfortable that must have been for him.

Naturally even once we'd finished I spent the evening lying awake and wondering if this would forever color his perception of me, if this altogether weird evening had managed to alienate someone who was actually pretty cool (a rarity in this world I lived in now). I felt a sense of loss, and in retrospect I think it was about then that I realized why I always felt so lonely.

I met a good friend for coffee the next morning and told him about my revelation. It went something like: "It's like, I thought the cure for loneliness was to just meet as many people as possible, you know? And I'd always come home and feel even worse."

"Hangover notwithstanding?"

"Hangover notwithstanding."

Of course he made fun of me for living to please a version of me that never existed, and of course I fell into the same trap again a few days later, but I went home and filled my head with stories and really, truly, basked in my isolation.


isolation, pt. 2

You want to know what isolation is? Isolation is coming home from a beautiful vacation with a head full of hope and landing in the airport late at night and exhausted and happy and realizing the person who promised to pick you up at the airport isn't there and won't be coming at all. It's waiting at the baggage claim and watching as everyone else slowly filters out with their families and loved ones. It's not having the money for a cab, and being too late to take public transit, and trying to sleep on your luggage until the buses start running again in the morning.

I think I had twenty dollars to my name that night. I had the evening planned out. We'd go to that 24-hour place we used to go to, and drink too much coffee and eat too much greasy food and and stay up until we were delirious. It would be a beautiful thing--except you weren't there. Instead I tried to use my carry-on as a pillow and ended up staring at the carousel for hours, far too uncomfortable to sleep--and even if I wasn't uncomfortable, how could anyone sleep when they returned to the real world and found that they had finally burned all their bridges? How could anyone sleep when they are so utterly alone?

Because I made another realization that night: this was all my own doing. I'd driven you away. I'd driven everyone away. There was no one to blame but me. In my deepest solitude, I could not even turn to myself for comfort. That's what stung most, I think. That's why I could never really forgive you.

I caught a bus in the morning and spent the last of my money on groceries. I didn't speak to another living soul for a week.


isolation, pt. 1

The other night I was waiting for the bus, which isn't so unusual, but then I realized it was, you know, that bus stop. This was probably 1 or 2 am, after a show on the Hill, and there was this weird misty drizzle and this thick fog, and it was a weeknight so everything was pretty quiet, and with the fog it seemed like I was just on this island of reality in the middle of this fucked up world we live in. I felt powerful. I felt alive.

That's something I've learned since last we spoke. Isolation is a powerful thing. I remember once you said something about hating the thought of being left alone with your thoughts. That night it filled me with a strange energy--that nobility of mind the Prince of Denmark spoke of. That night I could endure anything, and I could endure it alone.

It reminded me of that time I'd watched you walk off into the snow, leaving me alone at that same bus stop, all those years ago. (I still have your scarf, by the way.) I didn't understand the feeling then, but I felt the same strength fill me then. I didn't recognize it at the time, but I do now, and this time I'm determined to hang onto it. Except here you still are, haunting my thoughts, refusing to be exorcised by my words. Even in my deepest solitude you undermine me.