I Get Lonesome

June 14

I wrote a poem, once, about my friend D. Part of it went: "Thereís a difference between being/alone and being lonely, and right/now youíre being both."

He wasnít physically isolated. He had me, I was right there in the room, at the time that line occurred to me. But he was still alone. And still lonely.

*****

Ted Sturgeon, who knew it all, pretty much, and often said it better than anyone else before or since, once wrote something like "If a man doesnít like to be alone, itís because he knows, deep down, that he isnít very good company." He softened that statement a little, later: "You could get by on your own, but youíre glad you donít have to."

I wonder if thatís really why I donít like to be alone.

I wonder if maybe itís because Iím so afraid of death. And angry about it, too.

Maybe I get angry to drown out the part thatís afraid.

*****

In case you havenít noticed, this is threatening to be kind of a downer entry. For those uninterested in such, move on... there are sunnier vales in the fields beyond these pages. For those seeking explanations, there arenít any; no tragedy has befallen me, no long-loved has become newly-gone-- the opposite, in fact. People are coming back to me, and nearer to me than theyíve been. Maybe thatís what has me thinking about loneliness, and my own feelings toward it...

Or maybe itís the dream I had, where I cowered in a dark bathroom with black mirrors while outside a great shaggy god with ribbons plaited in his pelt walked on a green island, while people laughed...

Or maybe it was just reading Brief Lives from Sandman again. Itís my favorite book, probably, and in large part it is concerned with loneliness and loss. "Whatís the name," Delirium asks, "of the word for the precise moment when you realize that youíve actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago?" And Dream can only reply "There isnít one."

That book is about change, too, mostly about change. Change brings adventures and new places and (sometimes) reunions and romances and adrenaline and flavors of ice cream youíve never tasted (thereís always another), but it means losing things, too. Maybe just routines. Maybe the table you always sit at in the coffee shop, and the view of the plant shop across the way, when itís all shrouded by fog in the morning.

Maybe losing somebody youíve loved for a little while, that you didnít expect to love, and now itís hard but you have to do it anyway.

I wrote another poem; I donít remember writing it, really, but there it is in my handwriting, and itís wise, in places, wiser than I think I am. One of the things it says is this: "It has never been harder. It has never been more important."

I want the sea? I have to leave the mountains. I want redwoods? I have to forsake the pines.

For a while, I think. I can come back.

But while Iím away, things will do what they always do. They'll change.

Giving things up. Being lonesome, even in a crowd. Lonesome for the particular smell of someone you kissed on a balcony a long time ago. Lonesome for the friend you used to have, who you talked to on the phone last week and somehow isnít even the same person anymore. Lonesome for the person you used to be.

Mostly Iím excited. I am going from a good, rich life into what I hope will be a better, even richer one.

Getting lonesome for the things I have to give up, before I even lose them... thatís the price of passage. I decided it was worth paying some time ago. I knew what I was doing. This isnít second thoughts. This is paying the price.

*****

I'm okay all day at work, and even in the evenings... but if the house is empty, if I don't see anyone, even if my roommates are around but tending to their own things... I get lonesome. My head echoes too much. All the thinking I did all day starts to repeat itself, and it gets a little shrill. So I read, and lose myself. Or better yet, I write, and really submerge. That takes care of it-- the time passes. But there's still that uncomfortable interval between rising from the keyboard and getting into bed. And then there's the time waiting for sleep to come...

*****

I get angry at death, really shake-the-rafters furious. I donít have an especially good reason. Death has touched my life very lightly so far (though that changes the older you get; I know, I know). Still, when I let myself think about it, I get riled.

There are lots of changes you can never undo, lots of bridges that, once crossed, burn forever behind you. Death is one of the few changes that lets you know up front thereís no turning back. Maybe thatís what makes me mad. I canít fool myself on the subject of death.

*****

I was in a really good mood yesterday, a singing, dancing, splashing-in-the-bathtub, pink-pterodactyl-flying sort of way. I stood outside and howled. I read a good book, drank a good beer, ate a good meal, kissed a good lady. Thought about how good things were then, how together I felt, how everything was spiraling down for a moment into the still center of me and the world had never been bigger or more ripe. But then, lying in bed later, awareness of the other side came to me... the other side of that happiness, of that togetherness.

Sadness, and being sundered.

Now that I think of it, thatís in Brief Lives, too-- no wonder itís my favorite book. "Because thereís no such thing as a one-sided coin. Because there are two sides to every sky."

*****

Ah, hell. Self-pity and bemoaning the transience of things never did have much of a shelf-life for me. Iím already coming out of this... though itís good to think of such, sometimes. To remember kissing a dark-haired girl beside me in the car every time we stopped at a red light. To read over a poem a brilliant redhead wrote me and sealed in an empty airplane-liquor bottle. To look at pictures, and see my own face, and marvel at how Iíve grown, and wonder where the other people in those pictures went, those celluloid ghosts who used to be everything, who used to be "the beginning of light and laughter, the real meaning of the sun" (as Bukowski, who was lonely, and who of course died, wrote).

This is for all of you, then, who Iíve lost for whatever reason, to death or history or the simple far-away. And for all of you Iíve held on to, and plan to hold on to. I wonít name names. Some of you know who you are.

And some of you are unlikely to be reading this, anyway.


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