This Kind of Loneliness

“She was so lonely,” I read in a book once, that “she grew away from other people.”  It could have been Milan Kundera. Or perhaps Sherwood Anderson. I was 21 and living at my grandfather’s house in Lyall Bay, New Zealand.  I had fled my life in New York City — in love, strung out, abandoned and abandoning —  and the emptiness inside me felt as vast as the ocean at the end of my grandfather’s street.

iceballsYears later, when this kind of loneliness returned, I was 37, and again — after sixteen years — returned to my grandfather’s house.  At that point, my loneliness was so great, I couldn’t even speak to people. Stepping into a store was painful. Speaking to a cab driver or a library clerk was fractious. Being met by “how are you?” or “can I help you?” when the sound of these words was unbearable.

What cures it, this kind of loneliness?  Most of us think it is other people — the love of other people.  But first, to be loved by other people, one must be able to tolerate them, to tolerate their closeness.

I  think of this fairytale I liked as a child in which the earth opens up to reveal a whole new world in which a prince’s people are preparing for his wedding.

That’s what loneliness is — the vision of an abyss, of another world we have no part of — the awareness that one might be passing through life with no tether or meaning at all.

My solution to this — to the great loneliness?  To tether myself.  To walk the lake.  To breathe the oxygen from the trees. To  watch the ice balls float in the January  lake.

Corniness — I was raised to hate it.  But nothing is so different between us and the earth, birds, balls of ice.  One cannot be lonely when one has experienced this.

 

 

About louisewleonard

Author of 52 Men, 2015. Excerpts in The Rumpus, Tin House, Fiction Advocate and Gargoyle.
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