She sits in the corner of the bar, up the back, against the wall. Her dreadlocks catch on the brick and she takes a fistful and twines them in on themselves. She always sits like this, in the corners of pubs, rooms, theatres, because it makes her feel less obvious and that she’s not here by herself. In the corner she can relax and not be concerned with the vigilance of being alone.
Things clatter in the kitchen and the chef dings a bell, signalling that plates of hot wings are ready for distribution. She watches the waiter take the greasy sustenance to a table where a group of people sit in wait. They smile and chatter and it makes her wonder what it would be like to be here with someone else, other people, a friend, a man who is not her husband. What would it be like if someone approached and wanted to join her, to sit down with her, to talk, to be interested in who she is if however brief the encounter might be?
Would being with other people take away from the experience, from the experiences? Would it weigh on her, bear her down and crush away a little of the self-righteousness she feels when she does these things alone. How many other people, women, girls, can do these things alone? She always thinks. She knows the answer is very few. That makes her feel special. She doesn’t want to surrender that.
On the beach, that afternoon, she wondered how it would feel to share her life with others, to take them with her on her endless quest for novelty and adventure. Would they want to climb up the cliff to meet Buddha, who had been placed by someone long ago, high up in a small cave? Would they want to walk barefoot across the bed of pumice just to feel the pieces grate against one another. Do other people see the same beauty as she? Do they find amazement in the dunes, the flotsam, the bones, the feathers caught in the sand between the low and high water zones? Would they brave a swarm of insects in their hair to see around the corner of the headland? She can’t tolerate fear; she can’t accept the denial of it either. She needs others to embrace everything the way she thinks she embraces it all.
Is she alone again doing these things, not by choice, but because now it is something which is the way she does things? Has it become like a habit, a pattern, a rule? Are there neurological networks now mapped in her brain that represent the aloneness of being so independent? Or was she always alone?
It’s hard to reconcile, for her, this independence, with being so extroverted. She wants to run up to other people and love them, be with them, know them, but she can’t because that’s not what we do here. We stay apart and act like it doesn’t matter. She tells herself it doesn’t matter, but she knows that she needs those others to get her work done. She can’t define that work, that good work, that important work, only knowing that she needs those others to get it done. She craves them, those others. What would it be like if they didn’t have so much otherness? If there was more oneness? No more separateness, only togetherness.
It confuses her when people speak of friendships, friendships where women bond through touch, through shared experience, through knowledge of the same, through simply being women. She doesn’t know that and it makes her wonder. She says to herself, I just can’t imagine ever having that many friends, or even one friend who is all of that. And she can’t because she never did. She wasn’t like the other girls and not like the other women who seem to need each other in a way that she just doesn’t know. She completes things on her own, without them, without anyone because that’s the way she’s safest, intact, pure. It’s the way to need less.
There isn’t anyone else in this bar who sits alone as she does. She acknowledges that she rarely sees others sitting alone, doing alone, being alone. People express surprise that she is always alone, doing things that seem like they require the participation of more than one. Like hiking, like travelling, like gigs, like everything. “I’m not afraid, I just like to be around my friends to have a good time,” one woman said to her. It made her wonder why being with other people seems so central to the ability to enjoy an occasion, an activity, an experience. Why do we need others in this way? She gets annoyed when she thinks of it. For her it is a way to not know yourself because the space around you is so busy all of the time with the chatter, gaiety, frivolity that there is no room for the sound of your soul. They drown it out with all their womaness, manness and their themed togetherness.
How many of these people truly know themselves? How many of them take responsibility for their own lives, how many of them recognise and eschew control? How many, how many, how many? It concerns her and she wonders about it almost always.
How would people react here if she began to sing? She often wants to sing, but is aware of the control that exists unspoken that prevents her from being truly who she is. She wishes often that she could become who she really is without being concerned for convention, niceties, rules. Always the rules. They permeate everything. Every experience governed by rules, everywhere, all of the time, always. Nothing gets by without its own set of rules. Even sitting here now she knows that she is abiding by the rules, concerned momentarily that the bar staff will ask her to leave because she is not abiding by the rules of the bar in that she consumes no alcohol. Then, also there are her own rules.
Alcohol, it’s always everywhere. She wonders about it and has never known what it is actually for. She has asked others this and they really cannot answer this question either, but seem concerned that the question itself is a threat to their assumed right to consume alcohol. Their right to be stupid, to be ugly, to be drunk. It’s a hideous disease. It makes her feel a strong separation from people, from celebration, from society and a resounding confusion. There are some things she just can never know.
Later, back in her tent, she wonders what it would be like to have others share the large empty space with her. Would they chatter before falling asleep as in childhood or would they too stare quietly at the ceiling and wonder about all things the same as she? How would they fit together, those friends, those others? What would join them, bond them, keep them together? What commonality would all of them, all of us share that would keep and does keep us together? Is it our shared daily rituals or a shared pattern of a long-dead past, somewhere imprinted in a space kept reserved in our most intimate and private depths? A place that cannot not be touched lest we expire, extinguish, perish, die.
How do we belong?