vignettes on solitude
I’ve been taking notes on solitude/aloneness/and loneliness over the last several months. There is a lot more where this came from, and maybe you will get to read that, too.
This is the scene—my future bedroom is the choir balcony in a completely open 2,000 sq ft one-room church house built in 1897. Roughly six feet from my back door begins a cemetery even older than the church with gravestones dating back to the early 1800s. No rooms, wide open space, complete silence, the bones of the dead stewing beneath my feet.
I must have just fallen asleep, snuggled up to the dogs for warmth, when I heard footsteps clear as day downstairs. I looked at the clock and it was just after midnight. Of course I was alone. My first thought was that my realtor, Becky, who’s one of those moms who definitely looks like a dyke but is totally not, had a valid point when she told me to change the locks (I did not). Someone was inside. I pondered for a minute how it could be my contractor, the star of my cheesy porn-plot fantasies. My air mattress could hold us, but only because I didn’t yet have a cage to put him in.
Three or four footsteps landed, then a door slammed and clearly latched. Every door in the building was bloated beyond the jamb and took the full force of a body to close it completely. Whatever door I had just heard slam was not a door that currently exists in the building. Was I hallucinating? I pulled the blankets over my head, a solid strategy I employed as a kid to make the scary things go away, and eventually fell back asleep.
I always say that I don’t get embarrassed but then again I’ve never felt the need to admit to absolutely anyone that my most listened song of 2022 was Taylor Swift’s All Too Well (10 min version). Let me explain. This song was the star of my carefully crafted breakup playlist I made this past summer after, well, Thee Breakup. I played it any time I went anywhere, sometimes starting over immediately after it finished. Because the song is so long, it cut down on me listening to much of anything else. I’m far from a swiftie, in fact, I’m incapable of naming any other song she sings. Driving down Bushwick Avenue alone, rage-screaming “never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on youuuuuUUUUU” 300 times in the span of a few months really did something good for me, and for that I am grateful.
I started watching this show called The Story of Home where a couple restores an old farmhouse upstate. They do everything themselves including building furniture and storm windows. The man appears to do 90% of the actual work while the woman does things like mix homemade paint. As someone who’s watched hundreds of home renovation shows, I can expertly say that no one does this shit alone. It’s always a We. How delightful to have two sets of hands, two brains, someone to trade jobs with when your body is begging you to do something else. Two incomes, even! How wonderful to be twice as productive, move twice as fast. To be honest, this is a lot of what I think about when I am alone. When I’m tirelessly scraping glue off antique quarter sawn Doug Fir in a remote mountain town four hours from Brooklyn I’m thinking, “this was absolutely a mistake,” and “how much faster would this go if I married a useful, heterosexual man who knows how to use power tools?” But in my case We is just my gay ass and the six hundred muscles in my little body that I have enraged in the process.
I have always been a workhorse. I’m embarrassed of my love for productivity. What I mean to say is that my church is dangerous for me. I’ve spent an unnatural amount of time on my hands and knees—just me and my angle grinder, baby! I have a routine where I start on all fours, shift to one knee, and then the other. Once I’ve run through all my positions, my body begs for a break. It’s not in my nature to oblige but I’m trying to take better care of myself. “What would Davey do?” I whisper as I attempt some half-assed yoga poses.
On several occasions I have considered how much I could get done if I simply did not sleep. I look at my insurmountable to-do list. Surely my body would be fine. I am very strong and I have working-class blood. I picture myself collapsing from exhaustion like the celebrities of the early aughts. Except instead of being dehydrated from lots of drugs, I’m dehydrated from eating only chips and iced coffee for several days straight. I’d be whisked away by my publicist, Biz, to recover at some spa in Arizona, securely tucked away from the paparazzi. Except that’s not how it would happen—I’d be alone, of course, with no cell reception and no one to find me but my dogs.
After the Dyke Show event, on an unusually warm February night, I decide to take my time strolling through the West Village on my way to the train. There’s something sensual about solitude and the way it allows you to hone your attention, it feels almost vampiric. Padding over cobblestones with puffy eyes, I notice everything. I write the following list in my phone:
-Real gas lanterns
-Spider web transom
-Dozens of people crowded around to watch a movie set
-Everyone is outside eating in February
-Rich people with no curtains in their fancy homes with plaster ceiling medallions (most likely original) and god-awful modern light fixtures
-The street suddenly turns very gay with a men’s spa and trashy sex shops
-It is better to be alone than to not be seen by someone you love
My big plan was to spend an entire week working at the church while everyone else was doing the things they do for Christmas and New Year’s. I was going to be productive, finish the floors, get a real feel for country living. In between sanding sanding sanding, I listened to approximately 56 different playlists and talked to myself and the dogs at an alarming rate. Have you ever gone to Lowe’s hoping the cashier would strike up a conversation with you? Horrifying! By the end of the week I felt like I was losing my mind. As someone who loves being alone, I learned that I had never felt lonely before. Being alone had always been more of a choice and I could very easily choose company. Feeling lonely was heart wrenching, a feeling I decided I don’t care for at all.
I have been casually reading my own tarot cards for almost a decade. However, this past summer I decided it was time to get my very first professional tarot reading. Feeling raw and looking for anything to ground me, I met with S. She gracefully consulted the cards on my behalf. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of Thee Breakup the cards had a lot to say. One of the highlights of the reading was that I would spend the next sixteen months mostly alone, tending to my own nourishment. I nodded my head at S on our zoom call, knowingly. You will be softening, loosening your boundaries that no longer serve you. You made the right decision. You’ll never get what you need from them. The mystical cardstock reminded me that I’m completely responsible for my own peace. Peace often must come in the form of solitude, a trade-off with chaos.