Why None of Us Want to Be Alone
"As soon as the idea of the Flood had subsided
A hare stopped in the clover and the swinging flower bells and said its
prayer through the spider's web to the rainbow."
-Arthur Rimbaud, After the Flood
"If you don't stay tonight
I will take that plane tonight
I've nothing to lose, nothing to gain
I'll kiss you in the rain
Kiss you in the rain"
-David Bowie, Blackout
I feel bad, simple as that. The who or the how of it ceases to be important on a long enough timeline, these things happen to us all many, many times over the courses of our lives, and begin to bleed together without identity. A minor heartache at best—let's call it a disappointment. The feeling almost becomes like a shapeless, faceless abstract; like a force of nature that exerts itself upon your life every so often when conditions are right. Rains that pelt the rooftops, winds that rattle the shutters and windows, but you make it through. These black-and-white phases of life that tilt and skip off of the film track from some caricatured notion of 1920's German expressionism; the cold, grey planes of Fritz Lang, the dark, delirious ruminations of Murnau—a loneliness so complete it's almost romantic, a misery so perfect it's almost artful. The depths of it can become sort of ridiculous. This is not quite that, if anything this is that in micro, a small pang of heartache, of longing.
There's nothing so basic and short-sighted as somebody whose longing for another person, clinging to not even the physical reality of them, but a skewed, unreal thought, a fantasy. It's not the who or the how of it that's important, but the why. Because at the end of the day, these things, despite faces, names, circumstances, always boil down to the same basic ingredients that have everything to do with you. Who you are, what you want, why you are so scared of being alone, without the infinite other—that you keep seeking out there in the world, under the guises of different people. Why cling so tightly to someone who doesn't want you? Or to someone whose outright bad for you? The movements of these events in and out of life come like bad weather, natural disasters, maybe heavy rains, thunderstorms, or even a flood.
There had been a series of flash floods while I was on vacation in Texas. They had swept through Phoenix with the coming of the Monsoon season, killing 10 people and causing catastrophic flood damage to certain downtown buildings—most specifically the downtown library, which suffered flooding on all 5 floors from a broken sprinkler pipe. The footage on the internet was almost unreal, there was an inch of water on the floor between bookshelves and water poured down from the flickering light fixtures like rainfall. At best, 8 in 10 of the books in the entire library are salvageable, luckily the rare books were somehow spared. And of course this is to say nothing of the 6 foot deluge that washed through a swimming hole on the outer edges of town, where there was a family reunion taking place, and those 10 lost their lives. It's storms like these that will reduce a highway to a river in an instant, pulling cars away with their currents in tumbling washes of clumsy, floating steel and rubber, vast mechanical jumbles of flotsam.
I think the thing that hurts the most, is that I will likely never see her again. I won't date her, sure that hurts, I won't be with her, I won't touch her, all bad. But what irks me the most is not being able to simply talk to her again, to have this person whom I felt this kind of connection with in my world at all, or ever. To get to know her better, to experience and understand whatever that connection was—why the conversation was so fluid and natural, why there was such a spark between our personalities, why things seemed to click. While it wasn't a major relationship, or even a fling, I can't help but to wonder why things seemed to come so easily between us, why we flowed. I'll still see things, as I'm going about my day, that I think will interest her or that she'd like and for a split-second I'll think I should mention it next time we talk, or send it to her, before I remember. But they didn't come easily, did they? There was an obstacle, just as there was in every other romance that failed or stuttered or stopped in the past. It wasn't simple this time, it was still complex and difficult, just in new ways. It would be so easy, if only it weren't for this or that. Always the mainstay of anyone whose suffered a recent disappointment near and dear to their heart. It has to be different, somehow, some way, it has to mean something, right?
What would you do if it worked? If you could grasp that thing just out of your reach, would you be happy then? What can any of us do? I don't know. You're talking to a guy whose naturally isolated, insulated in fact, in his word cocoon. Going to work his day job, then operating those Franz Kafka type night hours, writing and clacking the keys, sometimes until dawn. I say cocoon because there is something naturally protective about it. The focused effort on a specific goal, the wrapping of oneself in a protective layer of their own mental energies and artistic self-expression. I come here to live, I come here to thrive, and have always done so from the first semblances of language that entered my infant brain, stringing together pictures to make stories with my crayons and construction paper. Such a simple, elegant way to organize the scary, hurtful universe. Maybe this is why artists are always questioning their priority in things, because they recognize that they're essentially the echoes of scared children at heart. Blessed in that they never grow up, because they don't know how to, and yet ultimately cursed—their greatest asset also their Achilles' heel, as these things usually go.
What it all comes down to, I think, is that we are all ultimately afraid of being alone. We'll stay in relationships for months and years with, and chase after, people who are absolutely terrible for us just to stave off that experience. We'll cling to people we have little to no feelings for, just for a warm body, a sense of facile emotional security. I'm not saying it's all bad, I'm even still, despite some pretty sore feelings, not convinced that the girl I liked was, but my point is we hound these things just to rid ourselves of that emptiness, that dread. We reduce people to mere symbols, in order to facilitate our fantasies and deluded notions of love. Going as far as to measure ourselves by whether or not people want to sleep with us, or how often they do. In the words of Henry Miller, "What's a fuck when what I want is love?"
The fact that someone is simply paying attention to you, on whatever level that may be, superficial or otherwise, isn't a worthy substitute for someone who truly cares about you. And yet here I am, after barely a week of hope and expectations following a singular, happy night, feeling sorry for myself and experiencing bitter pangs in my chest if I think about it. What could have been, what never was. The eternal symbol of an unfulfilled hope, lingering on the edges of heart and vision, dangling in the wings of thought as something half-formed, the gaps filled in by our dreams. The love we don't receive can always run amok over that which we do, if we let it. It has the advantage of imagination on its side, fantasies guided by the lines of the cracks on our broken souls and the shapes of the holes in our hearts. That's why we chase love, when we're without someone and feel lonely, when we're with someone and feel lonely, because we imagine it'll somehow heal us and make us whole again—and bring us back to Rimbaud's notion of childhood, a time in which life was "...a banquet where every heart revealed itself, where every wine flowed." and child was damaged into artist by the first scrapes with heartache, with sadness.
No one can repair us. No one but us, ourselves. And, if we're lucky, we find that as we move between heartbreaks, rain and shine, storms and clear skies, our notions of this otherness that we seek will evolve and expand. Into something higher and better, until, hopefully, we get what we deserve. And symbol becomes flesh, dream full-bodied reality.
Arthur Rimbaud's most famous work was an extended prose poem, you may be familiar with it, it was written after the end of his tumultuous affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine and a complete collapse of body, mind, and soul. It was called Une Saison en Enfer, A Season in Hell, and it was the narrative of two poor souls, who were really one in the same, as they made their way through the delirious, psychological hell of personal catastrophe. But it is titled as such, because these times, relentlessly bleak, crushingly horrible, are only individual seasons, couched at either side by sunshine and bloom.
The flood passes, and a prayer is made to the rainbow by all of the creatures of the Earth. And one day, with patience, with faith, the cocoon will split suddenly open, and light will filter in on changed faces. Eyes vivid and startling, expressions serene, and cheeks touched with blush, in love.