The skills of solitude

They sat down, old friends finding their spot between the hubbub and aromas of the coffee shop. They caught up on each other’s lives, spoke a while about friendships, love, and loneliness and that he’d been struggling with his own. They discussed desire as the issue of loneliness.

She looked at him and thoughtfully intoned,

“Desire is the vacuum of its object, and the vacuum grows the more you focus on it. Only when you learn to be content on your own, without the need for another person, are you truly ready for that person.”

He looked frustrated. he furrowed his brow and struck down his own petty answers and bitter rebukes on that wisdom. He felt that people recounted second-hand advice when they failed to listen properly, and when they put that template onto the conversation they made doubly sure they didn’t understand the actual issue.

“I know how to be alone. I’ve filled the time I would have spent on a lover on books, travel, learning an instrument, art and writing. I know how to be alone, but, god, look around us, all these people. We’re not a species of loners. We’re hardwired for community, our entire society is structured around it.

He broadly gestured

“This place doesn’t sell you coffee, it sells you some time to spend with someone you care about. If we just came here for the food most of these tables would have had just one person sitting at them. But they don’t, and I didn’t come here for the coffee… I came here to see you.

His eyes welled as he looked around, and he looked back at her

“I keep trying to better myself and move forward. It doesn’t come naturally. I fight myself to do it because I need to pull my mind out of the tar that otherwise envelops it. And it would be nice to have someone to fight that good fight with. Another idealist with whom to be a human, rather than what I become whenever I slow down too long.

I need to hear a voice other than the ones that fight inside of me, one that knows me as well as they do. Because right now, I’m in an echo chamber, and I can’t always tell whether my ideas are becoming more warped or whether I’m actually reaching epiphanies. I’ve seen people’s schizophrenia develop, and even when they know they’re ill, their sense of rationality slowly erodes, fraying from the edges until they struggle to remember what normal reason sounds like. I don’t know whether I’m slowly losing it like one of them would. I don’t know how much time I have left on my own.”


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