What a life she’s led. Upon finding herself more comfortable in depression’s morbid embrace than she felt when in the middle of this swelling tangle of friendly arms, she breathed differently. Hope came for her in the form of waiting for an exhale – the exhale, one might say – and her eyes were wide shut in the expectation of a continuing night. At the end of it all, she had done her best, and this was the hand that was dealt her. It would not be swift, and it would not be without pain. So be it.
She gazed blankly beyond the family and friends huddled around her towards the door. An escape from it all perhaps? Or was it merely another entrance for calamity’s winsome smile to appear? When exhales turned to sighs and inhales became prequels to sighs, she knew it was time for her to leave. And so, she shuffled off the mortal flesh around her, and walked straight out the door, closing it softly behind her.
She walked, and then she walked some more. Unsure of how she felt, she laughed in hopes of raising spirits, but found she could only produce a dry cough. She attempted to muster up tears, but found a hollowness in her heart. Her eyes lacked focus, and her once sharp gaze shifted from doctor to doorway to bulletin board to wheelchair. She sat on the floor, embracing herself as she tucked in her knees, empty-sighted and drifting. She was lonely. In her mental incapacitation, she realized that this had always been so.
It was no one’s fault but her own. No one willingly invested in her; no, that would have been far too normal. Instead, she acted out various angles to befriend the people she had met, displacing her silent murmurs with affected cheer. Whom she loved, she lost; they would soon find her an insufferable person with the ability to no longer live the lie she had dwelled in. Her disease wasn’t a physical one, like the doctor posited; her disease was her surpassing loneliness. It preyed on her daily routine, convincing her at every corner that if she just changed one more thing about her life, then the world at large would be satisfied. In times of quiet, she didn’t know what to do because there was no one to cater to, no one to please, no one to tell her who to be. In the world’s play, she was found without a script because she never found her character. Instead, she was composed entirely of reactions, founding her identity on what strangers might think of her. In fact, she didn’t know what they thought at all.
Her loneliness buried her among a crowd. To be alone is cured with company; to be lonely denies the existence of it. In being surrounded by many, she found herself counting as less and less in a growing figure. One out of five. One out of ten. One out of twenty. Eventually, she became as close to nothing as she could manage, both satisfied with her invisibility and terrified of becoming just a memory. She wanted to reach out to the arms around her, but she found that she wilted upon contact. Eventually, she couldn’t hear her own whisper, and gave up speaking completely. Resignation was the headquarters of loneliness, acceptance its next-door neighbor.
“Are you okay?”
Startled, she turned. A young boy with a bandage wrapped around half his face asked as he peered at her with a single, bright blue eye. Where his left eye was, blood had made itself a watercolor against the white cloth backdrop. His hospital garments billowed around scrapes and bruises. Had he been abused? Was he in a bad car accident? What had happened to this kid, and why wasn’t he in a room? Of all the possible questions, none seemed appropriate to ask at the moment – the kid was waiting for a response.
She sighed and smiled at the boy; he smiled back. And with that, she told herself the lie that is echoed in denial of tragedy,