“I see life as a roadside inn where I have to stay until the coach from the abyss pulls up. I don’t know where it will take me, because I don’t know anything. I could see this inn as a prison, for I’m compelled to wait in it; I could see it as a social centre, for it’s here that I meet others. But I’m neither impatient nor common. I leave who will to stay shut up in their rooms, sprawled out on beds where they sleeplessly wait, and I leave who will to chat in the parlors, from where their songs and voices conveniently drift out here to me. I’m sitting at the door, feasting my eyes and ears on the colours and sounds of the landscape, and I softly sing – for myself alone – wispy songs I compose while waiting.”
Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), The Book of Disquiet
I was nervous going into the holidays because, well, because lately I crave communion with others, and this can be tricky when one lives alone.
I remedied this by various means. I accepted all invitations and if possible I added a physical component such as riding my bicycle eight miles to a friend’s house for Christmas dinner. I planned a trip to the small town where my parents live. I sent a text to a friend performing in a holiday broadcast, who then got me a comp for the show and took me along to the cast party afterwards. I agreed to meet families with young children in the park even though it was freezing. I called my son. I arranged for some home repairs to be done and I stayed around to take part. I purchased tickets for the upcoming Patti Smith concert. I drank cider with a mom and her baby. I savored red goat curry. I accepted a ride from a stranger. I called a theatre school and spoke with the admissions director about the classes. I walked many blocks to a bar which was closed, musing about how I like to throw myself across the world’s path. I followed red-nosed arrows on a scavenger hunt which led to a wagonload of princesses in a five year old’s bedroom. I borrowed a car and went ice skating. I drank coffee with a co-worker and dusted off my mental model of the solar system. I agreed to complete a foursome at tennis at the last minute on a bitterly cold night knowing it would feed my mind and body. When a friend texted me on my birthday concerned that I was staying in, I agreed to go out. And when my two friends (one heavily pregnant) wanted to end the night early I followed them home and accommodated their requests for songs to be played on the piano. I drank wine and watched the HBO series GIRLS and decided that it is not altogether foolhardy to throw oneself into casual encounters, that it is human to desire desire. I let myself be touched. I took out my journal and wrote lists for each day, who I had connected with, and what had transpired. And only after seeing the hard evidence, did I stop feeling so insatiable for that elusive thing – human contact – and revel for one moment in my unbelievable bounty.
“It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived – forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position.” – The Diary of Soren Kierkegaard
“We delight in our sensuous involvement with the materials of language, we long to join words to the world – to close the gap between ourselves and things – and we suffer from doubt and anxiety because of our inability to do so.” Lyn Hejinian
It occurs to her in this space, in these particular white walls (only in the bedroom did a smell briefly hearken her back to her past; she did not pursue it), in this, present – (though it isn’t anything like that – i.e. static, rather like a conveyance it keeps moving) is a vastness, though a rather awkward gift it is since it is hard to put to any good use. She thinks it could be pleasant to play You Belong To Me by Patsy Cline on a phonograph but she has neither record nor device so there’s little point in that. How to describe it? A ribbon of butter churning in a fairy tale in which she keeps lifting her face up from the masher or grinder or pulverizer, her task to count the granules, to turn the quernstone, to harness the powderiness, to order the pebbles. Right now the best her story can offer is the company of the baba yaga hag; the trolls always hide their spoils behind the wood shed. Of course, in reality she is not lifting a finger, nor is she dropping crumbs to awaiting mice; it’s just that it’s something to fill the void with, the idea of the scraggly heroine in raggy shawls. And her benefactors and tormentors (like baba yaga one and the same), they are threads leading in all directions. If she only knew how the story unravels.
I bought the book because I was in love with you. But now I cannot read the book because I do not know if I am still in love with you, or if it still makes sense to go on as if I am in love with you. So the book remains a captive on my shelf, for the time being hostage to my confounding and ever-changing sense of things both real and imaginary.
It occurs to her, how solitude is like setting off for a jaunt on a craft, not anticipating the fathomlessness of the sea until in the middle of it. How one then cocks one’s ear into the air, bent on this idea of someone on shore signaling a pressing need, delivering one from the unknowable. When nothing comes of this, one’s mind turns to food. It’s like one pictures a desert isle where jerusalem artichoke pickles will make all the difference.