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"Canada has tradition of loneliness." From The Gateway, 1967.
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some days I am like do not touch me I am the monster I spent my youth fearing I would become and other days I am like hug me hold me oh friends lend me the hand you first extended when you pulled me out of the depths and let me know I was never alone
There is one particular ship dynamic that never fails to wreck me, and I’ll call it Soulmates, But Not Like That. Not in a “some higher power has decided that we are destined to be together” way, but something that is almost the opposite of that. It’s that character who has been alone for a long time, and has maybe convinced themselves that they will be alone forever, and who has a lot of barriers to intimacy with most of the people around them, for whatever the relevant narrative reasons are. And then they just happen to cross paths with this ONE FUCKING PERSON who works for them, through some very specific combination of personality and circumstance and life experience and mutually compatible damage. And there is always the shock of what are the fucking odds, and underneath everything the terror of what if this doesn’t last. what if there’s no one else. I would just go back to being alone. I don’t know if I could do that after knowing this. Because when you finally let down that wall of emotional self-sufficiency the thought of having to put it back up again is painful. And in real life I don’t at all believe that there is only One Designated Person for anyone, but in fiction I do tend to gravitate toward characters who believe themselves to be The Only One in some way, and I will always be emotionally compromised by that dawning sense of oh. You are like me.
from Loneliness: coping with the gap where friends used to be by Olivia Laing for The Guardian
[Text ID: Last night, I ate dinner with my friend Jenny. In real life, on a warm London evening, forking up aubergine from the same plate. We laughed, shared family news, told each other the things we’d been worrying over. At home, alone in my study, they’d felt insurmountable, a sign that something was irredeemably wrong with me. Under the gentle scrutiny of my friend, they diminished to a normal size: just the grit of everyday traffic with other humans. I walked home feeling buoyant, nearly invincible. I need my friends. I bet you need yours.]
image description under cut:
I worry about empty houses. [an image of a house, with the words empty and houses each in windows]
Which is funny, really. I’ve always liked being home alone at my parents house. [the author, a white woman with a ponytail and sweater, is perched on stairs, seen from the side. Hung on the wall by the stairs are images of a family. Around the corner is visible an empty dining room, chairs pulled out from the table.]
Even at college, it’s nice to be the only one in the suite for a while. [the author sitting upside down, feet and legs on a chair, a phone on the ground nearby, playing music] It can be peaceful.
But ultimately, I like having people to come home to, to eat with, to live with. [the author walks through open door, starting to shrug off a coat. On the far side of the room lounges a friend, on his phone and raising a hand in greeting, not looking up.]
And I must assume that’s a fairly common desire. [a group seated around a table, eating a meal, and gesturing as if talking. Empty speech bubbles come off the group, indicating conversation.] Humans are, after all, social creatures.
But when I look to the future, I worry about empty houses. [figure standing at the end of a path, at the end of which is a house, similar to the one on the first page.] I see them at the end of a lot of paths.
All it takes is for your roommate to become someone else’s romance and well. [inside a house, a couple holds each other, while the figure sits outside, on the stairs to the door.] There’s not much room for someone to be both. (Not no room, I know) (not enough room.)
The assumption seems to be, you date someone, and then you live with them. [a couple lying next to each other in bed, covered mostly by a sheet.] It does, admittedly, make logistical sense.
It just rather doesn’t make much room for people who don’t date. [figure sitting alone in bed, back against the wall and feet dangling off the edge] It just rather doesn’t make much room for me.
And there are other options. I know that. [a group sits around comfortably on a couch] I’m not inevitably doomed to an empty house.
I just wish my path away were as clear as everyone else’s seems to be. [ figure standing at the start of a path, which winds into fog.]