Cheating on Your Loneliness

My leather pants were bunched around my knees as I squatted over a dirty bar toilet in the type of stall where “Sam & Krista 4ever” are etched out on the walls next to “Sarah L. is a SLUT” and “Call (insert number) for free blow jobz”. Written in a faded black pen that was on its last legs, I saw it scrawled out in tiny, meagre handwriting: “Don’t cheat on your loneliness.” I pulled my pants up, left the stall and washed my hands (no soap left, ew) while staring into the dirty, foggy mirror at myself.  Don’t cheat on your loneliness. 

I said goodbye to my friends, most of whom are in various forms of couplings, and walked out of the bar, warmed with overpriced bourbon cocktails and headed home, alone. I thought about calling or texting someone (usually a man) who would make me feel better. An ex, a new crush, an old booty call – you know, any bad idea would fit the bill. I put my phone in my purse like it was a weapon of mass destruction waiting to go off and looked around the streetcar at the people I currently shared the same space with. I saw a guy that smelled like Listerine drunk, leaning his head against the dirty window, muttering someone’s name to himself over and over. I saw some pimply teens drinking a (likely) stolen beer in a brown paper bag in anticipation of when they’ll get to grope each other, a good-looking guy in a black pea coat probably on his way to his girlfriend’s house. This is my human company at this moment.

I walked up my street in the cold and felt that itching, burning sensation. You know, that clamouring, aching, I don’t want to be alone feeling. I went outside to my balcony to smoke where I looked at the circus-like lights of the iconic Toronto Honest Ed’s department store that peeked through the naked birch trees, quivering in the late fall air. Smoking didn’t really feel good. It felt like something to do. At any minute, one of the raccoons that continuously shits on my back patio would probably arrive to do its daily marking. I put it out. Gross. You too, raccoons. I hate you.

For anyone who sees me from afar, they probably presume I am someone who is, quite luckily, surrounded by people that care about her. Thankfully, I am one of them. I have wonderful sisters, incredible friends and generally can charm most new people upon first meeting. Despite this, I have always felt a little bit alone. Even in relationship I have felt this way. It’s this feeling that they too will go. Maybe at the end of the night, maybe in a year, maybe forever. The threat of loss and absence hangs over the space between me and the arm around me and I can’t shake it. Some very important people in my life are gone. Some by death, some by choice, and some by reasons I can’t explain. Paradoxically, this has also led me to love the hell out of everyone I meet. I thrive off of the excitement and beauty of meeting a stranger. What can we be? Friends, lovers, accomplices, bank robbers? I love it. It keeps me going, even if I never see you again.

I come back inside, take off my coat and lie in bed. I think of all the people closest to me in my life who are probably curled up next to someone or at least in the same house as them, and I feel both a little bit more sad that I am on my own, but also happy that those I love are with someone who sees them and accepts them without condition or time stamp.  I called my sister, who always takes my calls between bathing her children and taking the dinner out of the oven (after coming home from work), and told her how alone I felt. Nothing makes it go away. She listened to me and comforted me that she once felt that way, too. We chatted, and then she hung up. She went back to her life and I went back to mine.

I lay in the silence of my bedroom and sit in the horrible, terrible, bone deep discomfort of being unabashedly alone. This type of loneliness may always be in me, and you, even if I find myself sharing a bed with someone with which we promise each other a lifetime. The more I sat in it, the less afraid and less empty I felt. Think about how much your mother loved you. Think about how much your father loves you (complicated). Think about how many fires your sisters would walk through to protect your heart from being broken one more time. Think about all the late night calls your best friends have taken and listened to you, no matter how trite. Think about the ideas in your head. Think about the movie you just made. Think about the people who have read some things you’ve written about and told you it made them feel a little less alone and less afraid. Think about the people who have seen something special in you and hired you. Think about the adventures you’ve had, the strangers who carried you through a tough moment on a leap of faith. Think about the time you laughed so hard wine came out your nose. Think about what it feels like when you see a movie or a play or a work of art and for a minute, everything is suspended in that moment of transcendent and elusive beauty. Think about all the stories you have. Think about all of the stories you are yet to tell. These things will never leave you.  The space of what or who has left you only makes room for what needs to come. Thank them.

I have cheated on my loneliness in a million different ways a million different times. Though my sense of aloneness may have been temporarily numbed, nothing can protect you from the solitary, human truth that despite the routine of our lives and the time spent behind screens, we are all alone. That’s depressing you might say. It’s really not. If it weren’t for that fact, we wouldn’t fall in love, or have families, or write letters to our grandparents, or make new friends or keep reaching, reaching, reaching.

My room was so quiet it sounded like it was buzzing. Just as I fell asleep, my phone woke me up. I chose not to look at it.

I closed my eyes knowing that tonight I was loyal to my loneliness. And I felt grateful.

P.S. This song, guys. This song.

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