DARK BEGINNINGS & LUMINOUS ENDS
conceive a man,should he have anything
would give a little more than it away
(his autumn’s winter being summer’s spring
who moved by standing in november’s may)
from whose(if loud most howish time derange
the silent whys of such a deathlessness)
remembrance might no patient mind unstrange
learn( nor could all earth’s rotting scholars guess
that life shall not for the living find the rule)
and dark beginnings are his luminous ends
who far less lonely than a fire is cool
took bedfellows for moons mountains for friends
—open your thighs to fate and(if you can
withholding nothing) World, conceive a man
Sometimes I don’t leave my flat for 48 hours, straight. The clouds are black, heavy with nothing but the weight of their existence. They hover and not a single drop falls. Sometimes the only corporeal being I talk to during these solitary hours is the overweight, snaggletoothed British man who fixes my radiator. It still doesn’t work. Sometimes I feel so alone that loneliness becomes inviting, comforting even, and the weight of these execrable clouds envelop me. Loneliness swaddles me and persuades me that I will never know anything but this blinding white document, but that at least this blankness provides respite from the deluge of other people’s opinions, their disappointment. Sometimes I like loneliness, because in loneliness, I morph into a sentimental monster whose every thought is painfully dissected and just as painfully discarded. Sometimes I seek out loneliness, it’s the only way I get anything done.
I’ve been staring at and tinkering with the above paragraph for a few days now. I’ve been trying to figure out what I meant, what I wanted you, dear reader, to learn about loneliness. Did I think I was expressing something profound? No, surely not. Did I hope my words might make you to feel less alone? Perhaps. Did I want your pity? Your concern? I don’t know. I suppose that I was trying to impart a message of the strangeness I feel when considering loneliness and inadequacy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I enjoy loneliness, nor that I welcome it, but that, for me, longing and the agony of isolation have a tendency to reveal important truths. Loneliness refocuses the picture that I visualize with tear-swollen eyes like a macro lens exposes details ordinary vision couldn’t possibly detect.
Without loneliness, these details, these apparitions, would continue to exist as subterranean currents. There, but invisible. Without loneliness, I would never ultimately feel compelled to fill the blank page that now appears somewhat conquered. Without the consumption of loneliness, its occasionally solicitous envelopment, I would never understand how much I love the people and places from which I’m presently separated. Without loneliness, I would never type the sentence that I’m about type: I’ve never missed anything like I miss California’s traffic, its smog, its lines, long, long lines, its oil derricks, its crowded beaches, its health food stores, its self-care espousing influencers, its opulence, its ridiculousness, its shamelessness, its utterly defiant will to live and let live. Without loneliness, I would’ve carried on loving to hate or hating to love California. I would’ve carried on complaining, carried on singing in the chorus of kvetches, I would’ve never learned to cherish that which is so easily loathed.
Through the lens of loneliness, I see California’s ever-present traffic as a beguiling window into mankind’s peculiarities and its uncanny similarities (who among us hasn’t looked into their neighbor’s car, coerced only by the tug of curiosity, and jumped at the sight of another person doing the same?). Through loneliness, I see the smog as both a metaphorical layer of toxic greed, but also as a mist that perversely produces magnificent, resplendent sunsets and inimitable colors whose splendor can scarcely be captured by an iPhone. I see the long lines at bakeries, cafés, restaurants, and bars, as a sign that someone’s dream of operating a small business has not only materialized, it has thrived. I see the religion of self-care as both a capitalist bid to stultify and turn inward any compulsion to rebel against existing social structures, but nightly face masks are decidedly better than the deadening effects of nightly alcohol—Huxley’s soma. I see California’s opulence, ridiculousness, and shamelessness, as both a garish culmination of insatiable avarice, and also as an audacious triumph of freedom—let the rich eat cake, anyway, I know that behind the walls of their tawdry, monstrous mansions, and their filler-inflated faces, hide feeble, fearful people who really are dead inside.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can even see oil derricks as both environmental pillagers, and also as icons redolent of an erstwhile era when California reigned as the land of unbridled resolve—an era that will reign again when a fresh class of culturally diverse juggernauts unite to melt down these rusted cranes and return the land to its ancestral glory. And no matter what some billionaire bootlicker writes for BeachGrit, I’ll take crowded public beaches over fenced-off tax havens any day of the week. California’s warts, and there are many warts, transform into beauty marks when viewed through loneliness.
In dark beginnings are luminous ends. I fall asleep cold, the radiator might never function, but I’m warmed by the knowledge that loneliness, mutable loneliness, flows like traffic on the 405. In mornings and in evenings a certainty, but a certainty that presents a magical, solitary period of reflection, an opportunity to notice something in the familiar that I’ve never before noticed. And when I happen to traverse the 405 at midnight or midmorning, I’ll fly by the sign in front of which I was once stopped for twenty minutes, but I’ll recall its proclamation:
“HAPPINESS MIGHT BE TEMPORARY, BUT LONELINESS IS ONLY TEMPORARY TOO.”