I have trouble being alone. I was once a goddamn Olympic gold medalist at it. Something happened to me in my mid-20s that invoked a shift, transformed me into the type of person who couldn’t stand the quiet that comes with a perpetual surrounding of the self. And yet, when I find myself begging for company, inserting my person into situations where I could just as well not be for as much of a difference as it makes to anyone, I feel like I’m engaging in sandpaper fuck hangout sessions. The feel is dry, painful–like I’m forcing it to happen just to see what will result from it.
“Why do you like New York so much?” was how Blaine began our encounter in Central Park, a locale I had deliberately chosen for its cheesy nature and classic iconography to those dipping their toe into the city. He was someone I knew in high school, a time I hadn’t really given much thought to since I left, though my personality was, I believed, largely unchanged from that epoch. Blaine’s decision to attempt moving to the city by subletting was more out of last resort than actual desire.
“I’ve already lived in every other major U.S. city,” was his reasoning.
When he was done venting about the ugly physiognomy of all East coasters and their general lack of couthness, I found time to respond regarding his introductory query. “I guess I like it because there aren’t people like you here. People like you can never manage to stay.”
I was surprised at my own bluntness, however, this was the third in a series of extremely unwieldy human interactions posing as meetings based on friendship. What was the pull of being around someone–anyone–when every time I put my body in the presence of another, the worst kind of awkwardnesses and disagreements seemed to ensue?
Blaine wasn’t accepting of my straightforward remark, instead choosing to sidestep it by changing the subject; most likely because he, too, was desperate for company. We were just grasping at the straws of what a human connection was supposed to feel like, which, we’re told through many mediums is akin to a warm bath peppered with fragrant rose petals when, in actuality, it always comes off more like sitting down very hard on a bicycle before you’ve broken your hymen.
After Blaine and I started walking from the spot we had planted ourselves on in a patch of grass where the Dakota loomed over us, he bought himself his first Mister Softee. His excitement over it disgusted me, because I am sickened by people who find joy in things that will never be novel to me again. He let the vanilla run down the side of his mouth, adding to the revulsion I was experiencing toward him.
“Don’t you want one too, Vivian?”
“No,” I returned flatly.
Even Blaine couldn’t justify continuing to stay with me–in spite of the fact that I was the only person he knew on a less than cursory level in the city. The sport I had made out of demeaning him was becoming too intolerable. He was learning that being alone wasn’t all bad, especially in this town, a place that catered almost exclusively to the loner, the person who had no knack for sustaining relationships of any kind.
We said our goodbyes on the west side of the park. He got on the B, and I continued to walk toward Lincoln Center, where I might have just kept on walking all the way home to Brooklyn were it not for a text message I received from a similarly loathesome companion asking if I wanted to get a drink.
I deliberated on what I should do, how to proceed. Is it truly better to be alone than in bad company, like George Washington said (though we all know he hung out with some gnarly motherfuckers–Martha included)? Or is the loneliness worse, even more prone to drive one to madness?
As I ambled to the train to rendezvous with the next, it occurred to me that both answers seem to be yes, in which case, I’ll be over here sandpapering my body into oblivion so that I might never have to vacillate between the benefits of crippling isolation and detached faux reciprocity.