Monday, June 30, 2008

I will try not to worry you, I have seen things that you will never see...

I woke up this morning feeling lonely. The first real boyfriend I ever had always laughed at me for announcing my feelings like some sort of overly emotive train conductor abusing the loudspeaker. I don't think I've grown out of that habit because as soon as I had identified the disquieted feeling I woke up with, I cried out "I'm feeling lonely!" and D. abandoned his Wall Street Journal to come and see what new pregnant weirdness I had to share today. As I'm writing this, I realize what a basic need is met when you can cry out into the void (even if the void only gives way to your kitchen table) and have someone answer. It keeps you sane in a sense. They say that you should never ignore the cry of a newborn baby because that baby somehow needs to know that you're going to respond. After nine months of never being separated from their mother, they don't understand what it is to be alone. I think that after being created to enjoy the constant presence of God, we don't understand loneliness either.

All of this made me think back to one of the few times I've ever felt absolutely alone and the desperation I felt to connect with someone, something. The sad part about it was that I couldn't manage to do it. My mind jumped from topic to topic so fast that I couldn't carry my part of a decent conversation. I didn't understand my own feelings well enough to share them. I couldn't even manage to find comfort for my physical body. My favorite chair, my bed, my sofa all felt foreign and uncomfortable. I ended up sleeping wrapped in a quilt on my floor. I even stopped bothering to turn on the hot water in the shower. When it was all over, I had a little kerosene lantern light of understanding to illumine the nature of human desperation and what it does to make us unravel our lives in search of one ounce (or gram) of comfort even knowing it to be short-lived and ultimately destructive.

And then, I thought of her. Some of my long-term readers might remember the story of my neighbor who I watched disintegrate from being a single mother with a good job to being arrested for prostitution and possession several times over the course of a spring and summer before she was finally extradited to Florida to face a drug charge. 

And here's another.

She is, it occurs to me, a perfect example of loneliness and what it can do to derail a life. The last time I saw her, she was coming out of a Southtown housing project stuffing something into her pocket and looking around anxiously. The need for heroin must be that intense. Once, I saw a man sit down on the curb across from the downtown post office and cook up not even bothering to pull his fix through a ball of cotton to filter out visible impurities before he tied up and nodded off into the gutter. He licked his lips when he hit a vein and saw the blood register and threw his head back in satisfaction before rolling into the street. And I think it's loneliness. I think it's that kind of crazy loneliness that doesn't even respond to human interaction, but crowds out every memory of past pleasantness all the while screaming for some kind of chemical satisfaction in the face of certain destruction. I know that kind of loneliness and there but for the grace of God I go. Wasn't there any grace for her?

Every now and then, I try to find her online, just to see if she's clean or if her name shows up on internet logs of local newspaper crime blotters. For a while, I didn't find anything. But last week, she was arrested for passing a counterfeit $50 at a water park. When the police searched her motel room and found another $50 with the same serial number, she admitted to having received the money in exchange for sex. I'm heartbroken for her if not surprised. But the thing that I can't get out of my mind, despite my desperation to articulate something deep and meaningful about this happening, is the literal life lesson inherent in this fable. She traded herself for something, and got paid in fake currency. And that, it seems to me, is the root of Evil in the world. The seduction of something sweet that takes your life and demands more only to satisfy its debt with worthlessness.

Where is mercy?

Maybe I can make something of that when it isn't so fresh.

1 comment:

amy :) said...

resonating with me in my lonely little patch here. will hang onto this for a conversation another day. least until you're finished with your upcoming project. ;)