It was Sunday night at Caribou, and all but one of the tables was filled with people alone by themselves or alone together – every was quiet, reading, working, studying. No one was smiling. How strange, I remarked to her, but I suppose it’s normal for a Sunday.
We were supposed to be doing the same, and in the end we did get a few things done, but mostly we talked about the weekend past and the summer coming. She shared her weekend, confessing her fear of developing attachment – a fear I knew all too well. She said she felt tired, anxious, skeptical, and at the edge of feeling a lot of other things she wasn’t sure she wanted to feel. And she felt awkward. I smiled that smile you give when you have sympathy instead of empathy and said I understood, but reminded her it was normal. Love can be complicated, awkward, and funny sometimes; it’s normal.
I had dinner with a friend the other day, or more accurately, an ex. It was yet another meal for introductions and approval seeking, and this week’s flavor was Funfetti. He had brough his new girlfriend home, and we chatted about things and places we all knew about – our mutual friend from Portland, the weather in San Francisco in the summer. She talked quickly and he watched the words leave her lips like all new lovers do, and I thought about what conversations topic a la sorority recruitment event I would pose next. Then we took a walk in the park; she ran to the tire swing, tangling herself up in its ropes with glee – look at me, look at me! she hollered. He lit a cigarette and asked what I thought of her. I smiled, watching the wind move through the budding trees and stepping sideways to avoid his smokey exhale. She’s a sweet girl, I said, and I could tell his eyes were tracing the lines on my strong face but I pretended not to notice. He waited for the follow up comments he had come to expect after all these year but I made none. It’s a bit chilly out here today, I said. It’s normal to realize you no longer have anything in common with your exes.
Right now I should be working on a project. I have textbooks to be reading, journal articles to be finding, and analyses to be writing – ones I should have been writing all weekend. Instead I cleaned my room, inventoried the things (not many, fortunately) that I will need for this summer, and decided to blog for the first time in two weeks. I can’t seem to make myself care about the deadline or my grade or even what my professor would think of me if I just didn’t come to class on the day of our final presentations. I remembered the other thing I said to her Sunday about how she felt: It’s the end of the semester you know; it’s normal to be apathetic and a little less than stable.
And lately I haven’t been sleeping. I find myself exhausted all day but can not seem to reach my dreams. My stomach never sits quite right, and I feel my chest weighing heavy with something. Waiting for change has always terrified me – from those elementary school days where I would cry every morning before going to school to the constant panic attack that was my last semester at Albion. The change is never a problem, but the waiting always is. For me, it’s normal to be tied up in knots anticipating change.
Tonight I am alone. With my mother in Chicago, my father in San Diego, and my sister at school in Holland, it’s just me and Poco here in this big house. There are new shoes in my closet and travel plans scribbled out on pretty paper on my desk. The fridge is stocked with wine and there’s leftover Thai food too. The lawns are manicured and the trees are just begining to bloom… and yet I feel empty. This feeling has been lingering and puzzling me for days now, as in recent years I have grown so accustomed to needing no one but myself. Selfishness has, admittedly, been my main objective for the last four years, and for this reason I have avoided serious attachment to anyone or anything, craving the freedom to move across an ocean at the drop of a hat. But the lustre of that dream has been wearing thin, and I am begining to remember the one thing that lights me up more than anything (even shoes and experiential marketing) – people. Love. The hardest thing yet has been reminding myself that it is normal to feel lonely when you are alone.