by Stephanie Hedgespeth
There’s an odd sort of loneliness that falls upon you in the middle of the day, out of nowhere. You’re in the middle of a grocery store, in the middle of yet another work day, in the middle of a coffee shop or zoo or high school or crowded street, and then it’s there. The hand clenching your heart in its fist, refusing to relinquish control. Just a second ago, solitude was your friend, a source of comfort, even. You spend so much of your time surrounded by others asking, liking, requesting, pushing, arguing, begging, refusing, selling, and on and on and on, that you thought you’d just feel better alone. And you did. For a time. But snap—in a second, the restful embrace of solitude suffocates you like a Walmart sack over the head of a child who just wanted to blow some air.
Sometimes it isn’t random.
Sometimes it hits you when you’re walking a city street. You see them. Out of the corner of your eye, you notice, before you want to admit it, but there is the beggar with the sign, sweating in the heat or shivering in the cold. You try to pretend you don’t see, that your conversation has quickly become rather interesting, or you bury your attention in your phone, but you see. As much as you want to pretend that you don’t see, you do. You rationalize the rational reasons that it is rational for you to walk by and say “have a good day” or “God bless you” or nothing at all, but the guilt will eat you alive until you see the next. Even worse, this serves as a reminder to you of how lonesome you are, of how each of us are beggars, in a way. Begging for love, begging for affection, begging for respect. Begging for someone to just give a damn.
It’s the old cliché. You’re in a room full of people, yet somehow you still feel so alone. You walk in a parade full of people, but you feel just as lonely as you did when you were eight years old playing board games by yourself. You can’t bear to sit in an apartment and to know that no, no one is coming home, so you go sit in a coffee shop where you know no one, just to feel a little less alone. It works, until you have to go back home, or until it’s been six hours, all of the baristas have finished their shifts, and you look around at everyone else engaged in conversations of life and love and Instagram, and you’re still sitting there. Alone.
Loneliness doesn’t always come from being alone. It’s odd, because sometimes I love to be alone. Sometimes I am in a conversation and all I can think is PUH-LEASE SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP AND PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. It isn’t personal—sometimes it’s just overwhelming. To hear the daily gossip. To feel as if my head is a tilt-a-whirl and to know that one. more. thing. just might be the thing that will set the ride off its course. Of course, though, it isn’t that simple. There are days that I want nothing more than to sit in a coffee shop and TALK. You watch half a season of Netflix and then you realize that you could live without watching another episode of television for the next four years because you crave human connection.
That craving, that stomach-turning desire for connection, never ends, no matter how close you think you are—to meeting the right person, to making the right friend, to becoming as independent as can possibly be. I guess, at the end of the day, all I’ve ever wanted is to want to want someone who wants me.