solidarity, pt. 4


I think I told you once that I hated the idea of being alone with my thoughts, and I'm pretty sure you took it literally. It wasn't so much about . . . well, it's like this. The plan, when I got back from London, was to share what had been happening inside my head for the duration of my trip. I'd been, in the strictest sense, alone with my thoughts for most of that time, but I was fine with that. I looked forward to seeing you again. When I told you I hated the idea of being alone with my thoughts, what I really meant is I hated the idea of losing the solidarity we had.

And we kept it through some pretty rough times, didn't we? Even when we hated each other there was always a sense of camaraderie there. You may have been convinced I was history's greatest monster, and you may not have even been that far off, but you still listened to my thoughts. We shared the strange conviction that there is a difference between people who are important to each other, and people who like each other. We'd always been the former; we were only occasionally the latter.

That was a connection that was deeper than anything else. So it never crossed my mind that when I got back, you'd leave me alone with my thoughts, using my carry-on as a pillow, staring at the sterile lines of the empty airport, the feeling of this profound bond we once shared unraveling keeping me from anything remotely resembling sleep.


solidarity, pt. 3


When I tell stories about Alex, I'm always sort of a passive character in them. Part of that is because I'm sort of a passive person, but as is the case with all good stories, a lot of it is because I'm lying. On a good day (or bad day, depending on your point of view) I could tell you everything about her, and about our relationship. I'd spent my entire life getting good at observing things, starting with myself and working my way out.

She was the sort of deliberately abrasive person that fancies themselves "brutally honest," so she didn't have any close friends. Just me. And she'd gotten used to the idea that no matter how much abuse she heaped on me, I'd just shrug and deal with it, because we both needed each other--the connection we had was a fucking addiction.

I'd started deliberately needling her, doing the things she always hated. I'm sure I thought it was a good idea at the time. Every time, she'd react the same way--which is to say, badly--and I'd get pissed off and start needling her even more. This went on for longer than I'd care to admit. Eventually all the quiet resentment I'd been building up turned into a white-hot fury, and I drove her away.

When I'd screamed my voice hoarse, I called my sister. She told me stories that made me laugh, and for a while everything was okay. And that was more solidarity than I'd had in years.


solidarity, pt. 2


We met in late August, I think, just after her school started. It was one of those summers where it got ridiculously hot later than anyone thought it would, and I remember her in her summer clothes glistening with sweat and sitting on the porch. She looked like she needed a friend, so I went out and said hi. She was a little weirded out by that, but then we got to talking and actually got on pretty well. I told her if she ever happened to be walking by my place again and she saw me she should stop by. I didn't expect that we'd ever actually see each other again, so I didn't ask for her name or anything.

So imagine my surprise when I was sitting out on the porch, one afternoon just after the morning's low clouds had burned off, and there she was walking by. Her face lit up and I couldn't help but smile back--nobody that I knew ever seemed so excited to see me. She hurried over and asked if she could join me, very politely, and I said sure.

She told me her sister usually drove her home, but she was busy, so she decided to walk, but the way she said it, the way she looked when she saw me--she walked by just in case I was there. She was willing to go out of her way to take the chance that she'd run into me again. And the elation I felt at that realization was impossible to contain.

We'd made a connection, I decided, and I would fight like hell to make sure that nothing would ever break that connection.


solidarity, pt. 1


I don't remember his name or his face, but I remember the shape of the mark I left on his neck after a night of sloppy drunken kissing on the floor. I also remember the guy sleeping on the couch a few feet away from us, dutifully pretending to sleep--I think I thought about him more than the kid I was making out with, which, in fairness, isn't saying much.

We met again years later, when I was back in town to visit. Everything seemed so different now--which I think had more to do with me than anything else, of course--and there was a party and we ended up out on the front porch. It was one of those hot, muggy days where it felt like a storm was going to break any minute--but it had felt like that for hours, and no storm seemed to be forthcoming. I think I felt a raindrop or two.

There was a silence in our conversation and I apologized for being inconsiderate all those years ago, and he just smiled and laughed and said he wasn't worried about it. Life's too short, he told me, to worry about stupid things like that.

"Doesn't stop me from doing it anyway," I said.

"Hey, me neither."

Then there was some more silence and several people came out to join us on the porch and, because this is the nature of social gatherings, we didn't talk again. But that moment of solidarity made the whole thing worthwhile.

a prelude for august

I never used to like August very much, though looking back on it I realize that sort of thing isn't really August's fault. I think it's just that it's one of the really dead parts of the year--sometimes high summer is as suffocating and lonely as February, the month where I wrote about isolation. This month I'm writing about solidarity. It was originally going to be 'community,' but that word bothers me, because almost every time someone uses it it means they're a phenomenally insincere human being. It's also just not a very good counterpoint for isolation.

Solidarity, however--sometimes all it takes is knowing that there is one person out there who cares, and suddenly you're not alone anymore. Sometimes we find that solidarity in a community, but sometimes community is the most isolating thing there is. Community is a word that means something to a select group of people--or an isolated group of people, if you will. Solidarity, I think, means something to everyone. Whether or not we admit it, that's what we all crave, isn't it? Sometimes I think human living is nothing more than reaching out blindly, hoping that someone will take our hand and say "I'm with you."