If you’re lonely, stand outside tonight. It might be cold, so wear something warm. Make sure whatever you wear can fit that old pack of cigarettes lying in your fridge.
Light one. You don’t have to smoke it. Watch the gloam clear and the night enshroud you in a solitary wakefulness. Allow your mind to wander.
I can tell what might be on it.
You’ve seen better days, haven’t you?
If you’re lonely, the past is the strongest drug you’ve ever known. It’s what keeps you moving, from reality to memory, filled with companionship and laughter, while a warm feeling spreads from your chest to your tips until you’re overcome. Remembering the better moments is always soothing, because every now is an unknown prick, and very back then is the balm that can calm the pain.
While it’s true that it could just as easily be the opposite, why would you ever dare remember that? Right now, it’s possible that you’re in the middle of sometime wonderful, but who remembers pain amongst happiness?
If you’re happy now, it’s likely you don’t remember the past the way you would if you’re lonely and once were not. You’ll know there’s a drop. Just like heroin, really. But what will you have tried, and succeeded, to forget?
What do you remember?
No matter the where this inflection point lies, a momentary flash of conscience hits, cripples you in a flint-spark of recognition; screaming: this is reality. Anxiety’s cable wires tighten around you, and the night descends from its hovering cage, falling, crashing, swords and pins that glide, heavy, cold and thick, into a muddy ball in your chest.
Seconds that flew like magpies now fall like meteorites, each one as monumental as the last,
until they aren’t. The thudding and the silence will soon fade into apathy, but this is not that time.
Now stub out that cigarette and walk back inside. There are presents lying in front of you, a neat pile of better pasts and futures, a collage of shapes and things. Rifle through them like a soldier looking for the last cartridge, something, anything to place against that muddy ball and blow it to pieces so that you can feel light. The wires, less tight. A whisper, somewhere, of something deeper, better. Listen to the music that emanates from the cards, appreciate the thoughtful presents.
Imagine what went through the minds that brought them to you. Holding an empty gun in the space between two fingers and a thumb, pretend that somehow, somewhere, you’re someone who matters to someone. Feel better about your impact, hoping that you once fell like a meteorite somewhere and set something aflame. Feel the endorphins tailgating the pain. What choice do you have but to feel everything, now, when you’re alone?
Put everything away, pick them up again. Squeeze the very last bits of validation from them, scrape the gunpowder compliments off the edges of the cards, lick the wrapping paper clean with your silvering tongue.
Smile, momentarily. Hold a match to a metal tongue, give up, and blow it out like a surrogate candle. Whisper it: Happy birthday.
Walk back outside. Shove in your earphones, repeat the songs you’ve been listening to all day, all week. Don’t even let your finger hover above the instrumentals; lyrics can help you forget. Uselessly, wordlessly, try to numb a pain that has no single source. Put it off.
Light another one. You’ll want to smoke it; you don’t have to.
Hug them, hug them hard, let them know how much they mean to you, scream and yell it out between peals of laughter while rolling down hills and swimming in cold rivers and huddling beside bonfires while the northern lights dance above you. Let go, let them adore your eagerness, let them like you for who you are and who you want to be in every changing moment. Let them decide to love you, and keep them close, closer, until you can spend the rest of your imagination with them. Let them numb the pain with their banter, until somewhere along into a distant future you begin to find the answers you can’t now frame the questions to.
Imagine everything and then more, because knowing that you’re alone is an awareness that begins to weigh only when you’ve stopped imagining.
Do all this in your mind, eyes closed, higher and further and brighter,
If you’re lonely, stand alone tonight. Feel the wind against your shirt, flapping like the flag you once placed on a mountaintop, certain you would find it again. The once oceans of light now sputter in the distances- homes that haven’t yet fallen asleep. Somebody could be watching you, but they don’t really care and neither do you. Not anymore.
Stand against the light of a thousand stars, and drink in their melancholy, the sound of wind and life and silence. Behind the settling smoke and ripped reels of stuttered bullets, a wan smile should stretch across your darkened visage. Don’t worry, this is the etching of your acceptance and the beginning of your grandest adventure yet.
Note: “Let them numb the pain with their banter, until somewhere along into a distant future you begin to find the answers you can’t now frame the questions to.” was inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke.