The Drifter.

He woke up before his alarm had a chance to crescendo.  Why even have that feature if the slightest sound from the alarm was enough to wake him up? Just in case he managed to sleep through the noise, perhaps.  He snoozed the alarm and lay on his back, waking up with his eyes wide shut in deep reflection about his love life.  After all, what else does one spend one’s time alone thinking about?  It was only natural that he found himself thinking about the futility mingled with desperation that he shouldered day in and day out.  He considered how he had skipped in and out of interest in various women he encountered, musing on the reason for the instability.  Maybe it was a weird vibe or her being too self-interested or him being too insecure or maybe it all didn’t matter that much anyways and he would be fine with the first one who’d have him.

It was his loneliness that caused him to drift from one person to the next.  At this, he put both his hands behind his head, eyes alert now as they gazed past the ceiling.  He saw now how naïve he was in thinking that he was actually able to love someone else; how could he when he failed to even love himself?  That was the reason he chased here and there, after all.  If he could just see that someone else could see something good in him, then he’d be happy. Then, he’d know that he meant something to someone.  Then, he’d realize that he was worthy of being loved.  Even though he had friends and family, it was his loneliness that knew him best, and it was his loneliness that he loved.  It let him push his problems onto other people, projecting a lack of understanding and empathy onto those around him; loneliness let him comfortably deceive himself into thinking that he was taking the high road by suffering their misunderstanding and “appreciating that they tried.”

What could he do about it? If he was lonely with his own company, adding more people who weren’t him, couldn’t think like him, didn’t know enough about him would only serve to magnify the alienation.  He kept laying in bed, dreading the masks he would need to put on just to get through to the next time he would be laying in bed.  It was never about the other people; a person like him would never be good enough for someone else.  He didn’t wish himself on anyone at this point.  All he could hope for was the day that he’d learn to just be okay with who he was.  Maybe then he could look for something more.

Well Taco.

It was a strange thing when I found myself in a position where I was driving home in silence and the urge to eat hit me, but the hour was just advanced enough for most stores to close their doors to the public.  Immediately, my mind started racing to various fast food options. Burger King was the first one that came to mind, perhaps to the dismay of the general public. Yes, I am aware that their food may very well be microwaved.  Yes, I know that there are other fast food restaurants in the area.  But, Burger King has established itself amidst my formative memories as one of the first establishments I was able to independently travel to and sit down in.  As I started driving down the road to Burger King, Kariya, a hot-pot, Korean BBQ fusion (wow that’s a lot of commas), lit my decision-making up with its neon signs.  Despite being supremely mediocre, it seemed interesting to try and eat there alone without feeling uncomfortable (due to the other patrons indubitably preconceiving notions about me and my life).  I performed a textbook ninety degree turn into the plaza and parked.  I told the hostess that I would be forming a party of one, which prompted her to inform me that single parties are to be made more miserable with an additional charge of five dollars. I was not that desperate to see both my spirits and my funds dwindle into smoke, so I politely (I hope) retreated back to my vehicle.  Isn’t it enough of a price to eat alone in a restaurant stocked to the brim with liveliness and camaraderie?  The aghast hole (read: gaping) that I reckoned to be my hunger was reconfigured in this moment of indignant self-awareness.  I wasn’t hungry; I was lonely.  In that moment, I realized: Lord, I am the woman at the well.  There is a hole in me that I presently had been trying to fill with food, and it’s no wonder it wasn’t working.  I know what caused the hole, but I hadn’t remembered or thought about its existence for a while until tonight.  Maybe it was the silence.  I was far too tired to commit to furthering the line of thought, so I settled on getting some Del Taco since I had already driven back and forth no further than five miles of my house.  Lord, I need healing, and I’m sorry for not following Your prescription.  I know what I’m supposed to do to fill the hole, but I need more time I guess. Forgive me.

I’m Fine.

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,

“I’m fine.”

One is a Terrifying Number.

One is the loneliest number.

So says my phone when I ask Google what the loneliest number is.  However, it made me stop for a moment and reflect on loneliness.  To be alone and to be lonely – though very nearly the same in terms of morphology – are exceedingly different in the kind of emotions that are engendered within the experiencer.  To be alone may often make one feel lonely, but to be lonely does not necessarily come with being alone.  The difference is that one is, for the most part, external (alone), while the other is mainly internal (lonely).  Being lonely is a constructed limitation that comes from the mind’s conscious and subconscious observations of oneself that end up discouraging the lonely person ever more into a downward spiral of sighs and wistful thoughts.

Then, in comes God.  Many of us feel so lonely and that loneliness absorbs us into exaggerated introspection that leads us into darker alleys.  When we suffer from external circumstances, we ask God for help, but when we inflict internal wounds, we put a veil between God and us and dim His joy and peace and glory, preventing them from shining into our lives.  It seems like in doing this – settling our own issues by ourselves – we become too reliant upon God, but where is the fault in that?  Is it so wrong to depend on the One who created us?  He is capable of filling our all in all with His love, erasing all of the self-doubt and self-hate that triumphs over our shackled minds.  But sometimes, we need reminding that we can rely on Him, the One we should love, and not fear the number one because it never exists if we remember that He is always with us.

One might be the loneliest number, but the One who saves has a love that overwhelms that perpetual loneliness we often feel.