I remember a girl, sitting next to a hotel swimming pool, in Sri Lanka. She has a new notebook, a new pen, and a very scuffed Sony Walkman. She’s writing a story, long-hand, of a girl who has adventures. She doesn’t yet know about the concept of Mary Sue. She wants to feel important and write a story. She wants to be part of the raucously happy group of teenage-tourists who share the pool with her. But she’s on a deck chair. Fully clothed. She can’t swim. As much as these people fascinate her, they are always going to be ‘people to see’.
About 15 years later, she’s suffering through some phenomenally painful abdominal cramps she can’t explain. She’s on the floor in her room. Curtains are drawn. The carpet is itchy. She’s never liked carpets. They feel like living things, planning nefarious plans underneath one’s feet. The comforting solidity of the bed against her back and the corner of the desk in her shoulder is calming against the pain. It’s a new pain. Not the old enemy of the migraine. Or the deep, satisfying muscle-groans of post-running calves.
It’s unsettling, uprooting and brings the thoughts of loneliness back with a vengeance. The set of thoughts one has at the lowest points of life. ‘you’re alone’ , ‘People are happy and won’t miss you until they want something’ , ‘you will never mean anything’. Text message. Back-and-forth. No more replies. Can’t move any more. Consider calling the hospital. Rationalise against it. Drift. Shift. Compare the carpet’s unfaithfulness to the cool, solid, comfort of the mosaic floor of the room at home. Blinding pain. Sweat through clothes. Pull blanket to floor.
This is a new geography for me. It’s my suffering corner. Separate from my migraine corner, my paper airplanes corner and my insomnia corner. Once I have all these niches, I will have to move. And then have to find these new places in the new room. It’s a little uplifting. These necessary place-markers of a new accommodation.
See a friend’s incredible achievement. Compare with own negligible mark on the world. You’re a terrible human being for that. Envision what could be. Wonder if you could be that person. Wonder if you could know that person. Think about what the people you care about are doing. Think if you’d ever be a person they cared for. Plan future walks along paths that are well-loved. And those that are brimming with the potential of ‘haven’t been there yet’.
There’s something quite lovely about walking down a path with someone. It’s even more beautiful when you’re walking down yourself, and you know it’s okay to be by yourself. On the days you can depend on yourself of course. I’m a terrible companion to myself. Big bulky. Massive narcissist. If I were to die and my personalities were to split, I wouldn’t miss me.