Dear Old Friend

Wish You Were Here!

A pill under the tongue tastes pleasingly bitter as it dissolves. Let it melt just until the taste buds in the sides of the tongue prick in protest, and then take a gulp of cold white wine to wash it down. The anticipatory minutes between the swallowing of the pill and the actual spread of its loose warmth through your limbs will be the best part of the night. The first flush is the next best; the ensuing waves, whether they rise or diminish, are almost beside the point.

You might think about taking drugs as spelunking: tunneling inwards. A way to leave the immediate everydayness of things and become an explorer. But that is an overly romantic characterization. Getting high is not about discovery, but about self-granted absolution. A way of saying, You can go now.

If you were to map your desire to love, or the times when you’ve wanted to leave more than stay, what would it look like?

Greetings from the Grand Canyon!

Pretend that you are five years deep in a committed relationship. Neither a lifetime nor a fling. You and your person live together and share furniture, but your bank accounts are separate; you still believe in out there.

Although decisions have been made to stay, you often feel as if you have somehow “ended up” here: that this is not a life you chose but rather one that came across your path and snuffled stubbornly against your leg. You alternate between periods of feverish decorating—new paint, new light fixtures, rearranged chairs, as if each change might make things click into place: Poof! Happy Home!—and maudlin daydreaming. Try as you might, you cannot build a flame. You pine for fire.

Bright Lights, Big City!

When you were single, life seemed endless. Because you are malleable, you always changed, slightly, for each person you were with. You shifted to fit ticks and wants. It felt appealing, then, to indulge the fantasy of everlasting life by imagining different people you could be, lives you could lead, if you entered this relationship or that one.

Once you chose, the fantasy was clipped. Commitment carried a whiff of decay—a sense of last things.

You might deduce that it would have been better not to choose, or at least to have made a different choice. Meanwhile, your body continues to sag.

Vermont Country Bed and Breakfast

The decision to leave a home can take years to make. In expensive cities, a decent apartment can feel like a foothold on a cliff; losing it might send you plummeting. Rocks, seaweed, a broken body. Fish will feed on you.

Still, you are brave and a good climber; you move your foot. Gone, suddenly, are the cats and familiar bowls. Your life is stored in cardboard. You live out of a suitcase.

It really was cheaper to live with a partner. This was always your fear, and it was, you now know, founded. You scan ads on the Internet and think about the necessity of windows in a bedroom. Maybe not so important! They say there’s a skylight, that sun reaches from the living room.

Hot Hot Hot in the Arizona Desert!

You are single and ready to mingle. You are, this is the phrase, sleeping around.

The various sheets you encounter have low thread counts; this is not a euphemism. The bedding is always grainy and faded, because you are going home with losers.

One chews gum and flips on an overhead fluorescent light, because he doesn’t get outside during daylight and misses the sun.

One is woefully drunk, tugging at his penis.

Another and another—not worth detailing.

Historic Hotel Grand

It is surprising how much of one’s life can be lived in bed. If the rest of the apartment feels off-limits, if one’s neighborhood feels foreign and unappealing, the bed can be dining table, desk, cupboard, entertainment and restaurant-calling center and, last of all, sleeping apparatus. The crumbs can be swept aside with a flat hand. Crackers can be kept in bags at the far end of the duvet, books in stacks.

The middle of one’s back might begin to ache after several months of slouching against pillows and lying on one’s side, and one might begin to notice a thickening around the middle, a strain of the pants.

It is time to stand up.

Country Getaway

When you were a child, you spent ages by yourself. Trees knew you, liked your hands on their trunks. This was the creation of worlds; you were always playing pretend.

You hated outings; you whined and begged to skip dessert, which dismayed your sister—no cookies for her. But you were waiting for your room, the chance to shut your door and return to the plastic horses on the floor where you’d left them, the spot on the bed where you could curl and think.

Imagination is changed by hormones. At some point as a young woman, the worlds you created began to revolve around partners. The opening of the front door after a day of work, the foot over the threshold. A wearying world behind you and a softer, private one in front. Hey, have you eaten?

Magical World of Disney

You are your mopeyest at night. Oh, bed! Oh, dark room!

Sometimes you split into two beings, a gruff bartender speaking to a sad sap: Chin up, honey. Loneliness is the human condition!

That’s true, you think.

It takes time to rebuild an independent mind. You imagine your future self, self-possessed, full of success. You’re not so bad now but you always feel halfway to somewhere. One day is the dream.

Two More Miles to South of the Border

Yow, hormones! You’ve met someone you like. Your pants are on fire, your head is a sparkler. Say words like “boy” and “crush.” Grab women by the arm like schoolgirls, dig your nails in. Hiss, He’s so cute.

Oh, and he is. Beautiful blade of grass, sign of life. He breathes, you want to taste him.

This is the life you want.

World-Famous Dust Bowl Museum

A week without a phone call can be a disappointment, but one can think of excuses. Early mornings, business trips, this city. One can still indulge the full-body flush at thoughts of the beloved.

Note the incremental steppings-down of passion: One week, soaring hopeful; two weeks, holding on; three weeks, a pursed mouth and shrug; four weeks, a small thorn healed over.

Home Sweet Home

The world when you’re alone is the one in which one you’ll die. Who doesn’t know that? The lenses through which you view things change, but the voice—your voice—that narrates remains as long as you live. You should love it.

Still, it is intoxicating to see yourself through someone else’s eyes, and then to lose yourself while you focus on that person.

The decision to plunge is the pill, dear friend.

Next Time, Come with Me

The soul, if there is one, is porous. It likes to suck in: The feeling of another person—give it to me. The friction of jokes—give it to me. Your thoughts, your distastes, give them to me! Hungry little beast, it needs to be wrung out sometimes.

You are happy alone, but more entertained by company. You like to escape from yourself, even if it is with yourself that you belong.

Go on and chafe for contact. Social and cagey creature, I’m here. TC Mark

image – Mosman Library

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