There exists a loneliness in me that I cannot name. On nights when I end up alone, the kind of alone that has nothing to do with having no one around, I feel this loneliness creeping in like a dense fog.
It’s the kind of alone that presses in from all sides as it insulates me fully from light and touch and good thoughts. That kind of alone, I have never been able to name. On these nights I think of past lovers, of past friends, of past versions of people and events that exist no more. I think about how incredibly sad change can be, how sometimes happiness is only slated to be with us for a limited time before it waves goodbye and walks out the door, leaving us to wonder when and if it’s ever coming back again.
On these nights I crave the warmth of human companionship even when it is the manufactured kind that exists in online chat boxes or text messages. But something in me usually pulls away from reaching out and asking people for what I need or from responding to people reaching out to me.
Instead, I take my cigarettes and a lighter, go up to my building’s rooftop, and stay there for awhile. I look at the streets below, washed in yellow from the night lights that serve to guide tired people coming home from work, or those stumbling home drunk, or those conversing with their lovers or friends under the sepia glow. I look past these people towards the flickering blue windows of homes and at the flashing lights of cars driving past. I think to myself, “There’s so many of us here. How many are truly happy? How many are lonely?”
This kind of loneliness doesn’t hurt. Maybe it doesn’t, because in the same way that something you see or hear constantly tends to fade into the background even as it still exists, so too does this loneliness. When something has become familiar, its existence is inevitably relegated to a small drawer in your mind. It’s there, but sometimes it feels like it’s not. But it is ever present and you know it.
Maybe to be human is to ultimately be lonely, and in the face of constant pressure to connect with other people, maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps this unnamable loneliness signals a need to return to our core, gently forcing us to try and find peace even when alone. Maybe it’s a reminder to keep grappling with what’s good and bad inside of us until we learn to live in harmony with them, and this can be done only when no one’s around. Maybe this unnamable loneliness is a way to return to balance, to recoup the energy we expend just living and being with other people. It might be a path to being more comfortable in our skins and at ease in our own company.
Maybe it doesn’t actually insulate us from light and touch and good thoughts, but is giving us intimate space to sit with them quietly and know them deeper. There is a loneliness in the center of me that I cannot name and perhaps will never be able to. The best way to deal with it might be to embrace it and stop trying to find a cure and finally accept it as a part of the human experience: not an inherently negative thing, but necessary, natural, and organic.