It is Friday night at 8:00 p.m., and I am sitting with crumbs from what was formerly a $16.99 block of parmesan. My cable hasn’t been working for the past two days. This is unfortunate, because I returned to my apartment ten minutes ago filled with the desire to do nothing but finish this parmesan and watch C-SPAN.
I like C-SPAN, but only on certain days. Only on days like today.
Lately everything has gone wrong. I buy coffee and walk a mile before I take a sip and realize that I forgot to add cream. The logistics of my lab schedule don’t work out. I spend hours attempting to solve problems that I will never understand. I mistype e-mail addresses. I study the wrong material.
After a while, the many mistakes and misfortunes start to have an effect on me. I know they shouldn’t—I am young, smart, and well-educated, and I have it better than 99% of the people on this earth. But it’s all relative, and sometimes I think I deserve to feel sorry for myself. It can get lonely here.
I normally just pop in my headphones, hold my head high, and walk down the Infinite every day, just like everyone else. If everyone else can do it, I should be able to as well. So I walk. I walk quickly so that I don’t have to linger and think about how much time I spend alone at this school. At the end of the day, I scramble out of this cement jungle to get home to my apartment, which is usually empty. I pour myself a glass of milk, take my vitamins, and on the days when I spend a lot of time in solitude, I listen to Ray Charles sing “Lonely Avenue”.
It is during weeks like these that I wonder if exciting things will ever happen in my daily life. I so often find myself scheming in an attempt to draw some color into my day. I change my running route, hoping to jog past the handsome German guy I sometimes see on Washington Street. It’s stupid, I know. At one point or another, we all have to come to terms with the fact that this is what we get, and no matter how much we try to shake things up from day to day, this is it. This is our life.
But I’m not at that point yet. I’m still young. Life hasn’t yet given me all I’m going to get.
And that’s what really makes me lonely, because I start to think about the really lonely people out there—the guy who stands on St. James Ave. smoking a pipe with tobacco so sweet that I want to bake it into a cake, the old men who walk alone in Chinatown, the lonely professors I see walking the hallways late at night. No matter what time it is, there is always someone, surrounded entirely by his stacks of papers, with his head bent over a wooden desk, facing an old dusty chalkboard. I always wonder if he has anyone waiting for him at home. Lately I’ve been leaning toward no. No woman would allow that.
It is these people for whom I truly grieve on my lonely days. I might spend the vast majority of my time by myself, but at the end of the day, I have my whole life ahead of me. I have two wonderful friends to come home to. I have confidantes. I have kindred spirits. The fact that these lonely men might not have anyone like that is rather upsetting to me.
What do they do when they go home, if they even do go home? It’s so late that they probably can’t be cooking meals. Imagining anyone coming home to Lean Cuisine on a regular basis makes me want to cry.
But maybe I’m worrying about nothing. Maybe they’re not alone. Maybe they have wonderful women waiting for them at home with an open bottle of red and a great Woody Allen movie. Maybe life dealt them something good, and they don’t want something better to happen to them as they toil over equations.
Though on this night, I’m thinking about the fact that with everything that has gone wrong in the last week, all I want is another soul on this couch with me. It would be great to have someone to take over my responsibilities for a while. I have a pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed, but I won’t do them tonight. Doing laundry alone makes me think of those lonely old men who probably don’t have anyone to remind them to sort their lights and darks.
So instead I sit on the couch in my apartment, my “pastel palace,” as I once called it in a poem, and look out at the Cars Only sign on Storrow Drive that is swinging in the wind. And if the cable weren’t broken, I would switch on C-SPAN and watch everyone in their black suits and thank the Lord that I have people to take care of the big things for me.