He left at 02:54. The air had the half-hearted chill of an African autumn. He loved that almost cold – crisp.
Gravel crunched louder than their hushed goodbyes. The pale electric light caught puffs of breath and he climbed in. It was an hour’s drive home on a mostly unlit road.
He loved the dark because his imagination filled the empty spaces. It asked open ended questions and his thoughts snaked, hydras, to different possible answers. It put him in the frame of mind to contemplate the debates on the talk radio (held by those 3AM conspiracy theorists and the hosts forced to entertain them).
Trees draped their shadows across the road. Electric billboards thumped out neon patterns into the night – a silent almost-Vegas. The highway yawned and he drove down the dip, losing the voices to static. He turned down the volume and it was him, alone with his thoughts.
He liked driving late at night. He was forced out of the permanent stimulus of internet access. He was forced to sit and think, to be quiet. There was no traffic to pay attention to, only five empty lanes and some occasional disappearing tail lights. He decided to feel something. He let stared into the ever-retreating shadows ahead and let them tug his subconscious thoughts to the surface.
Loneliness. He was an engine of ideation, but his only reliable sounding board was a place to write it down. He knew that synthesising his thoughts into a narrative helped put them to rest by beginning and ending a story dealing with these concepts.
He pulled back. He’d been about to fall into narrative creation instead of experiencing the content of his own thoughts. He put feelings into story instead of going through them. He frowned. He couldn’t help comparing himself to selfie-takers who would document the great time they weren’t actually having. In some meta-state they were documenting themselves documenting themselves.
He’d been so sure he would be able to feel an authentic something just then. He’d come close before his mind right-angled into that outward spiraling stream. It was as frustrating as an almost-orgasm. He put together his story, almost-unwillingly. He smellled, watched, listened and built a little world. He avoided his own thoughts by thinking too much. What a frustrating irony that was.
At some point he’d have to break the cycle by not completing the story, and not giving himself some faux closure. At some point he would have to sit down, and force himself to deal,
Loneliness. There was no way around it, no rationalising or rethinking it into a way that was more bearable. Daytime distractions took it away, but when he was alone, and it was an impenetrable idea, the only sane thing to do was think around it, to diminish it into a vicarious experience. It’s why he began doing it in a childhood without cellphones, after all. The prepubescent logic still applied.
There would be happier things to think of in the morning. There would be humour to laugh into. There would be people to joke with and to make laugh.
Please just laugh with me.