Song by Adrienne Rich
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.
I remember when the sky
was all the rage,
like last night and how it felt
like a bundle of letters
flung into the air
over the apartment
where you and I slept
like two keys in someone’s pocket,
the same sky
as this morning but now it’s more
like a sheet that’s been
lifted like rice over a wedding
party. Jumbo jets
are swimming through the clouds
and you are driving
with your son asleep
in the back, every microcosm
of his body is initialed
with your name, with the sound
and wet mouth of your skin.
I’m getting ready
to walk through this city
for the tenth billion time, getting
ready to be a person
who is not like an empty building,
who is not like an emergency
kit, the swabs and needles,
the antiseptic and Band-Aids,
today I will be the way
I always wanted to be, someone
drinking coffee and being
kind of knowing
the difference between making
love and putting on
his shoes. The way I smile,
with the dental dam
of death clouding up my teeth
is something you always
knew about me, something you liked
a little in the left part of your body
which is the part that has water
and trees, puddles of blood
and planets of organs. I want to know
just what kind of a person
goes to sleep with one name
and wakes up with another, my inner life
has so many passports
I don’t think it belongs to any particular
Nation, nor would it be saved
if all out war were to appear over
the hedges like a mother
appearing in the middle of a Mall
where her lost child
has been watching a strange man
do a trick with a quarter,
a pin, and his thick hands. Whenever
you go, I am sawed in half
in front of an audience of one,
before the two boxes of myself
are wheeled back together and I get
to stand up again, and bow, and walk away.
"Now I know what loneliness is, I think. Momentary loneliness, anyway. It comes from a vague core of the self - like a disease of the blood, dispersed throughout the body so that one cannot locate the matrix, the spot of contagion. There is no living being on earth at this moment, except myself. I could walk down the halls, and empty rooms would yawn at me from every side."
— Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath (via fleurstains)
"With the lights out, I can see people’s lives unfold. A person’s life is a slow flash, and I watch my neighbors argue, make up, make love, and fry meat. I can tell that one of my neighbors is unhappy, because he sits by the telephone and sometimes picks it up to make sure he can hear a dial tone, but it never rings when he’s at home."
— Little Birds, Simon Van Booy
“They flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” Kenneth Arnold had witnessed something blinding in the sky while searching for survivors of a C-46 Marine Transport crash in the Cascade Mountains. A peripheral distraction he couldn’t explain. Little green men were spotted in France. It had grown global! Kenneth determined that extraterrestrials had been visiting the earth, shuttling back and forth, producing outstanding monuments along the way, signposts they would recognize. “How else could the Giza pyramids be explained?” he asked his wife. After dinner, as Barbara washed the dishes, listening to the radio, humming, Kenneth frequently stared into the strange sky, searching for a welkin signpost.
One summer night, he dreamed up the premonition for curing human loneliness. Machines resembling sweet, anodyne sea lions would listen to the forgotten elderly, watching them tell stories they were sure no one else cared to hear. Electric eyes, dark and thickly lashed, would follow the aged and infirm as if they were sensate, communicating a safe and kind consciousness beneath slow blinks. Over Barbara’s scrambled eggs, Kenneth explained that the extraterrestrials will build these machines, the panacea to human frailty. He shouted, “They’ll eradicate our loneliness! We will all feel loved!”
By the time I’d been married twice and Jim, my second husband, had left me, though he was the bankrupt one without a job, I’d decided to stop coloring my hair. It was a task that had, over years, accumulated hundreds of plastic bottles of permanent hair dye and map-like folded instructions in English, Spanish, and French, discarded in the bathroom trash bin. Stained with the mahogany dye, droplets splattered, gloves smeared, the bloodied packaging seemed to represent a murderous success. I considered it a testament to my inevitable aging, losing my menstrual cycle only to continue on living with a ritualistic and silly version of bloodletting.
Alone in my apartment, watching the pigeons gather at my downstairs neighbor’s offering of strewn birdseed in the driveway, feeling as though I’m surrounded by occupied strollers and ponytailed women and very shiny cars, I yearn for a home elsewhere with a 1/4 or a 1/2 in the address. I wished for an apartment with a name like Terrace Garden or Citrus Grove. But even in the fantasy of living there, I realize the smallness of the imaginary space, only a quarter of a structure. It’s just a percentage of a home.
"Miraculously, we became the best of friends, moving on to other romantic flailings, but having regular breakfasts at Hank’s, comparing sordid life-notes, having dinner, going disco-dancing for exercise. Often I go hear him play at one of the local cocktail places. I love Gerard, even if he is a lounge act."
— Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
The night he climbed onto the roof there was a full moon. She would not have known this had she not been staring at his backlit silhouette like a paper cutout perched upon the pitched shingles of their rental home. The landscape was brighter than she’d expected at such an hour. How could there be shadows in the middle of the night, she wondered.
He was the problem and he was the reason she stood on the lawn, hissing at him to come down while simultaneously wondering how he got up there. Was this the first time he’d done this or were there other occasions, yielding such soundless dexterity? The roof was only twenty or twenty five feet from the ground. He didn’t appear shaky or unstable, but if he fell, surely he would break something. Surely, at least, he would scream in pain should something break. The neighbors would be roused by screaming, undoubtedly. In the chiaroscuro of 2 a.m., nothing but her produced any noise, so she fell silent, too.
He sat on the peak now, perhaps tired from upright balancing. Leaning backwards, his face was beatific, eyes wide. And within moments, the spring peepers began to sing.
Each memory becomes increasingly imperfect. At times, she is fanatically selfish, displaying bold impudence and specious definitions of parity; in other memories, an aggrandized poetaster of the most tiresome sort, the kind that kills the joyful banter volleyed at dinner parties; in still others, she is a gorgeous, glowing, charming woman that hopeful, young academics adore. He envies the safety of their youth and capriciousness. That wonderful ability to feel virtually no regrets has been lost, replaced by a hairline creeping backwards and chronic pain in the heels of his feet, an affliction attached, mystically speaking, to misunderstanding the lives of others.