For this month’s newsletter I wanted to do something a little bit different. I wrote this piece last year after noting down all of the things I saw when on a walk. It is about loneliness and how it can effect the way we view the world, but also about how the world can help us deal with this loneliness. The past year a lot of us have been on our own, some of us haven’t even hugged our loved ones until recently, which is just mind-blowing. Hopefully reading this piece will help you connect some of the things you’ve been missing in your life, and help you realise nothing is ever as bad or ugly as it feels or seems.
My pale skin is shining iridescently as it absorbs the blinding sun. My blue eyes backscatter the sky; my flushing cheeks are kissed by the pink leaves of the solitary tupelo. Tangling brambles plait like my hair and the sticky brown of wet mud matches its colour. The red of autumn and the green still lingering from summer echo the ink scarred into my arms. The structure of my fleshy vessel parallels the naked trees; intricate patterns of bone and wood merge as one as I observe what the cold has done to the greenery. Birds chirp in melodic conversation, tweeting to fill the mellow silence of the empty landscape. The rattling of the train provides the drum beat; the ignition of engines the guitar riff; the deep hum of distant strangers’ laughter the bass. The orchestra is brought together with the soft wind of my own breath.
Black infests the brightness with sorrow and a silver hearse carries a soul on its journey home. A reduced mass of grieving bodies weep, then laugh, then hold in silence but the trees never hush their powerful sway, nor the wind it’s gasping, oceanic blow. I observe the gathering, imagining my own death scene and guessing who will come for the final goodbye. Will it be likened to a small festival, where attendees forfeit tradition and rock up in colourful frocks and baggy trousers? Or will the sleek darkness of black remain the preferred custom? Will all my friends and loved ones be there, snivelling into tissues, or will it be at a stage in my life where I’ve already been in that position on the day of their final rests? Or perhaps no one will come. There will be no tears, or fancy clothing, or whispers of well-wishing for eternal departure. Maybe I’ll piss everyone off by that point; become a monster so tortuous no one can bare to see me white and cold in my box.
The ancient dust in the garden of dropped bodies cleans itself off in welcome as a fresh gravestone is dug for. The old church is surrounded by new cars; in the near distance a mansion sits watching, like me. It’s seen many parties come and go, itself never leaving, barricading its land with a NO ACCESS sign. It reminds me of times when I rejected love, when I rejected company. How on many occasions I’ve feigned preference of solitude, too embarrassed to admit I’m lonely and desperate for a hand to hold. The orange brick of the house feels a reflection of my own hardness; my own unyielding shell to keep away intruders. If I never let a stranger become more than that, am I boxing myself into a life of undeveloped waves and nods, a life of tongue’-bitten thank yous’ on the tube, a life of silencing phone calls and keeping my chin pointed at the floor? Perhaps it’s time to tear my foundations from the rotten plot and move onto fresher pastures. Time to strip my rooted agonies from their beds and replant myself in more fertile soil.
The splash of wet earth and pocketed rainwater squelches for each dog and pedestrian that step through it. My own damp feet rest on the dry patches, and I laugh at the thought of all of us strangers getting home and changing socks. The tiny connections we dot-to through life are the ones that matter most. The noticing of the same shirt being worn by another girl on the bus. The clocking of the man in-front of you in the queue ordering the same drink. The observing of your mother speaking like you after spending the weekend together, and your dad seeing the symmetry in you once you get home. I feel connected to these strangers, as they muddle their path passed me. We are all on the same track, not just physically, but in a deeper sense also. Is this the umbrella of humanity that is so often forgotten? Focusing on your own two feet means you miss the others stepping all around you.
Approaching chatter broadcasts over the gushing of a small waterfall filling the river, and it raises each step it takes towards me, sitting alone. Everyone is travelling in pairs; some are brave enough to bless me, the solivagant, a “good morning”. Others scuffle past, pretending to be in deep conversation, looking anywhere but at my hopeful eyes. I used to be more introverted, too. I used to be the one who viewed unknown eyes as enemy lenses. I used to box myself into myself, and need a rest after doing so. The bench that is my throne holds a golden memorial plaque. It matches by earrings. The green piping on my black boots traces along with the bench’s rotting wood. The sandy jumper I’m wearing holds tight to the small slivers of untouched teak that reveal themselves through the decayed majority. I feel more intertwined with my surroundings as each second dances past.
Mistletoe clings in bunches in the highest trees. The sharp globes provoke memories of the kisses I didn’t hold onto for long enough. The rush of fast-paced love and the fear of committing to something that could leave held me back from enjoying the gifts of attraction that my younger self indulged in. I haven’t been held properly in years. I haven’t smelt the day on someone’s hair as it brushes my cheeks, or tasted the night on someone’s leaping tongue, or bumped knees with bending legs, or clawed my way into someone’s flesh for so long. Loneliness has a duality; one part of it is the comfortability of being in your own company. Learning to function within the perimeters of your own boundaries and flourishing within those walls. The other side is humanity’s desperate call for attention. The little niggle that tells you you’re not complete, not yet. But when you make home in the former, you become cynical to the latter. You judge every brain and body with unforgiving aggression; almost desperate to find flaw so you don’t have to give yourself up just yet. I didn’t hold onto those kisses long enough. They fly by me now, in memory, and I purse my lips in savour. I clench my fingers round themselves, rubbing my knuckles with my thumbs. Sometimes one hand goes numb enough to pretend it’s someone else’s.
The intermittent punches of dogs barking makes me think of my childhood, when we first got our two mutts. The days of traditional family, the days of stable community, before it was broken. But, I ask myself as I watch groups of relatives stumble along the track, would my path just be beaten if I followed suit? Perhaps life was supposed to be limited in blood’s love. I don’t feel starved of familial bonds, I have all I need when it comes to arms to reach out for, meals to share and foreheads to kiss. The scaffolding of my support base is stronger than steel and the love that’s reciprocated is brighter than a thousand suns. Would it be brighter than a million, if more members of my line were involved? I have no idea. They’ve dulled that shine too many times for me to be able to answer that. I suppose that last line is the key.
The long streaks of white from airplane fumes remind me of the days where I never had a lonely moment; my friends and I simply basking in our collective recklessness. The heath’s grass was moulded to our arses; curved and ready for another day of us spending all our time there. The smoking area became a second home. The pit of dog ends and smoked spliffs our regal carpet and the bottles of wine that crept their way into our pockets prepped us for evenings of class and camaraderie. I use the word class here loosely. Bursting beds quickly turned empty, cigarette packets became unshared, smiles flipped upside-down. We went from a unit to splinters. From everyday to every few months. From trusting to wary. Our airplane fumes got longer, heavier and snorted faster. Our distance pushed further apart with all its limbs. Reunion felt futile, but how can a love so strong ever crash so harshly? If you dwell in great memories, stay there. Allow them to absorb you and remind you of what you’re capable and worthy of. I can close my eyes and be sitting on the heath in a circle of my dearest, roll-up in hand, bottle of rum half drunk. This feels as real as it did when it was happening. If you spend your brain’s energy on recounting the wrongs of the past, or imaging the wrongs that haven’t happened yet, your reality is those things. Even made up events become lived through when you allow the hallucinations to kick full throttle.
My inner dialogue was becoming the loudest operation. It’s batting back and forth with the nature around me; every little sight and sound provoking a discourse on how lonely I have been. I’m taking heed of The Stour and becoming flooded with thoughts. Thoughts of prediction in regard to my own funeral, walks with a lover or a friend, of the future becoming of a family and having a dog. I’m thinking of the many missed opportunities for company, as I observe alone.
My eyes find the sky and I see five birds soar through the air above. The sky again clears and I observe its vacancy. A lone warbler makes its way onto the vista, flying through the space with fluidity and ease. I realise, then, that there is no shame in my lonesomeness. With the birds singing, the water flowing, the animals rustling, the breeze blowing, the sun shining and the cycle of life rotating, there is no place where I am ever alone.
Four women are walking past me. One, from the latter pairing, has shouted to the former: “Is this it?”.
Yes. It is.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Notes From Ewer Street (Yeah Whatever) by Suli Breaks – Suli Breaks has always amazed me with his poetry. Why I Hate School But Love Education was the first piece I heard by him and it was so relatable to my feelings towards school, especially as I left it when I was 14. Notes From Ewer Street is another example of his profoundly real lyricism and gorgeously easy-to-follow flow.
Book: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – Jesus Christ this book is amazing. It’s about Homo sapiens and our evolution through the different ages. I admit, I can sometimes find fact-heavy books dead boring. But Harari has the brilliant skill of making everything he explains full of life, entertainment and knowledge. It is a fascinating read. It makes you appreciate what we are all capable of, and makes you want to live up to the brilliance of humankind. I’m blown away by it.