I went on a walk tonight – to remember the human I used to be, when going on a walk alone didn’t feel so..alone.
I looked at my phone. A friend had texted me “Look at the moon!” I smiled. This moon has been here for much longer than I have and it is the same moon (though slightly changed, of course) that I have been looking at every night of my life. There is wonder there that I so often forget – that the planet I see big and bright in the sky is millions and millions of miles away. I am a speck. I am nothing. But I am also part of everything. I am part of the great big universe and I can see a fucking planet with my naked eye.
Mmmm, remember this? my body said. Remember me? You have spent so many days walking with others, listening to them. Could you listen to me tonight?
I feel hesitation. Lately, when I listen to my body, I feel it holding onto the edge of a cliff. I feel it terrified, wanting to run from its cage – the cage of my brain. I feel my heart cracking bit by bit, weighted with immense sadness and hurt. Tonight, I accept the offer. Tonight, I listen.
As I walk, I focus on my footsteps – the crunch in the snow, the upward pressure on my feet, my breath in the cold. I feel the tension in my body and I try my best to let it go.
This used to be one of my pleasures – taking walks when no one else was awake. That and driving down back roads with the windows open, belting “Roundabout” by Yes at the top of my lungs. In those moments, I felt small and yet big. I would look at the moon and remember how small I was, but inside, being the only one on the streets, I felt like the streetlights were on just for me. The world was my stage – and no one was watching. I would dance and sing. I’d find parks and swing on the swings, letting the breeze pass over my lips and tussle my hair. I didn’t feel alone because I was with me, this girl who was always learning about herself. She remembered that it didn’t matter who she was, that every moment, she was someone different. She didn’t have a “you,” just a “me.” And that was simple and lovely. All she needed was right then. Sometimes, she would do this with friends. They would frolic and roll down hills by the light of the moon, swing on swings singing at the top of their lungs. Sometimes, they would act like different animals. Because who cares? No one is watching – and even if they were, we knew they would want to join us deep down in their hearts.
When I went back to the house (or one of them) that I grew up in, I would often take this walk to all these memories of the me that once were. I would pass the house I lived in and see if I could peek through the window at the family developing there. Were they like my family? Did the person who occupied my old room also find the nook in the walk-in closet attached to the bathroom the safest place to be? I would notice the corner my friend and I used to meet at to take our daily walks. I traveled the path to the greenway – the one I did all the best thinking on – past the fake boulder I climbed up on to talk and think and write. I would see the houses of my former friends and teachers, the pool I went to as a child and that a partner and I would later have sex at.
In remembering this, a thought came to mind. My middle school english teacher lived in the same neighborhood. Sometimes, we would run into each other while we each took our daily walks. She was a critic of the best kind. I thought sometimes that I was the only one who saw through her hard exterior. She pushed for me to be the best writer I could be and it was only when I found out that she had acquired leukemia a few years ago that I thought back on how much of a gift she had given me. Her absence in the world weighs on me sometimes. I’m not of the age that many of the people who shared my life have died. I can’t imagine the loss when more and more of the people you may have taken for granted and shaped you are removed from the earth. Sometimes, we don’t get goodbyes.
Today, as I ponder, I notice a TV on through a window. I found myself curious if a couple would be cuddled together on the couch, spending their “quality” time together mute in front of a talking box. No, there was only a woman – about my age. The light of the TV shone on her face. I had the strong desire to knock on her door and tell her to come out and see the moon with me or to invite me in so we could at least watch together and not be alone. But people don’t do that. It’s not acceptable in this world to not be a stranger. So I continue walking.
We choose our loneliness. I do too. I have chosen solitude lately – more and more of it. And though I’ve chosen it, I’ve resented it. It has felt big and looming. It feels like something I’ve been forced to do by others or the absence of them. I have all the choices to do other things, but my body continues to yell “Stay put Listen.” And so I do. I try. And this is where I find myself – typing away at this computer, like I do during the day for work.
But during my walk tonight, I remembered that loneliness is a state of mind, a trap that many of us fall into. There are always people out there willing to laugh and sing and dance with us. And sometimes, that person is ourselves.