It happens that I have been going through a period of great loneliness — and it seems to get worse every day. All my life I’ve heard people speak of finding themselves in acute pain, bankrupt in spirit and body, or even devoid of any feeling at all, but I’ve never understood what they meant. To lose. To have lost. I believed these visitations of darkness lasted only a few minutes or hours and that these saddened people, in between bouts, were occupied, as we all were, with the useful monotony of the everyday, of happiness. But happiness is not what I thought. Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head. It takes all your cunning just to hang on to it, and once it’s smashed you have to trudge along and move on, move into a different sort of life.
In my “new life” — this summer of 2012 — I am attempting to “count my blessings.” Everyone I know undergoing a period of grief or loneliness has been advised to take up this repellent strategy, as though they really believe a dramatic loneliness can be replaced by the renewed appreciation of all one has been given. I have a boyfriend, Sean, who lives in England, who I know is faithful to me and is very decent looking as well, tallish, winsome, and toning his muscles nicely. We stay connected through IMs everyday, the occasional Skype, download and watch a movie together now and then, count three two one and hit the play button. Laugh together. The habitual outpouring of affection. He meets his friends over the weekend for booze, his two lovely kids on Sundays, gym three to four times a week; he’ll be working soon on a new post in his island’s telecommunications company. He is intelligent, lively and reassuring and loving, though he too — he alone — has been witness to my bouts of profound melancholy.
And I have my writing.
“I have my writing,” my conscience tells me. Everyday I look after my grandmother, who is 77, and besides her I have my books to keep me occupied. A murmuring chorus: You have your writing and your books, your literary smut. As if I am crude enough to suggest that my sorrows will eventually become material for my writing, but probably I think it.
And it’s true. There is a curious and faintly distasteful comfort, at the age of 23, 24 in December, in contemplating what I have managed to live through — or failed to live through — and write what little I could in cold privacy during those impossibly childish and sunlit days before I began to understand the meaning of grief. “My writing”: this is a very small poultice to hold up against my damaged self, but better. I have been persuaded, than no comfort at all.
I’m disappointed at myself. And it nags at me. It feels like my life has been burning up one day at a time — and I’ve swallowed the flames without blinking. Now, suddenly, this emptiness. Nothing has prepared me for the wide, grey simplicity of sadness and for the knowledge that this is probably what the future years will be like, living in an old decrepit house that wishes I weren’t here.
But this is a familiar yet unique scene, this abject loneliness. The precise pattern will occur for hours, recur throughout the day, at night — like now: I, here, in the dark, this still moment engraved in a layer of memory — a thought that stirs me to wonderment.
Such feelings come easily to me these days, and I know enough to distrust myself with these little ironic turnings, these fake moments of denouement. There is a sense of buoyancy, as though I’m being carried along on a tidal wave of sensation, borne forward. Precious and precarious, a bending, subtle wand of desire making itself known. Followed by a tightening of the throat, the chest, moistening of the eyes, awe for the beauty of ongoing life. Et cetera. Oh, God. This is insane, these errands, these visions, my stepping into cantilevered space and allowing myself to be tipped from skepticism to belief. Something is wrong, something is missing.
“She is such an unhappy woman.” I’ve always heard my cousins and aunts say this about my grandmother, whenever they’re around. They might as well have been talking about me, given my present state. But it’s just me, pushing against what has become an observant loyalty to my habit of sadness. Stupid or shrewd; one or the other. It’s only temporary, or so I hope, this warped sense of loneliness, of being still, totally alone, and it’s true. For here I am, awake at 4 A.M. in this old room of my grandmother’s old house, with its worn wooden floors, held inside a little tick-tock of time.
I am not actually in the mood for meaningful, purposeful writing. These words, I just bump along on their short, stubbed feet, their little dead probing syllables — while starting to weep. So strange to write these words without conviction, and to no one in particular.