No one ever tells you what it’s like to be alone. One day it happens and we adjust to solitude as a right of passage. Days spent lying on the grass and weekends spent lying to our parents replaced by evenings spent distracting or drowning a restless mind into complacency.
Every time I’d fly home and meet one of my friends there’d be this weird thirty minutes of us pretending we had our shit together, all these ‘Yeah, I like it,’ and these half smiles that bent the sides of our lips but never quite pinched the eyes. We’d have to remind each other of a few embarrassing stories before we returned to the people we knew.
‘How have we fallen so far apart, and how much further will we fall? Oooh, you’re so deep, bro,’ I thought as the elevator doors parted. It was Rollie-Pollie again, a girl who always wore a puffy black jacket with her hood on, hunched over so far that the black wires of her headphones looked like insect legs. I wondered if she ever looked up, maybe she could stare at Google Maps and find her way to wherever she was crawling.
The doors closed and I had the urge to jump as the elevator fell, I’d usually do it when she wasn’t there, it’s just not as fun when no one joins you. I think that’s the worst part about being alone, doing silly things isn’t as fun when there’s no one to laugh with you. It’s actually not fun at all – it makes you feel a little crazy doing something silly and laughing at yourself.
When I stepped outside I realized Rollie-Pollie was better prepared. I dropped my backpack and put my sweatshirt on, pulled the drawstrings to mummify my head and blinked a few times to keep my eyes from drying up. I called it ‘robo-mode’ because my hood pressed tight against my big headphones, so I assumed anyone walking behind me must be making that connection, and anyone walking towards me must think I look like a six-foot Teletubby.
Walking to work was the best part about being alone, especially in the fall when the ground was covered in leaves. I’d adjust my pace so the beat would time perfectly with the crunch of each step, sometimes I’d spot a big one with dried, sprawling petals as legs, bent by the wind to hold it up from the ground. I’d go out of my way to step on those. “Leaves are assholes,” I remembered my ex saying, because she was laughing and one fell perfectly into her mouth and she stood there frozen, scraping her tongue and groaning.
I stood still and craned my head towards the sky, the beige yellows and reds wrapped around my eyes and I turned my head counter-clockwise, smiling as it all spun like a kaleidoscope. I felt a leaf pat my shoulder and slide down my arm. It scraped across the back of my hand and I fanned my fingers and clutched as it passed my fingertips, wondering again how far apart we’d fallen.