The Loneliness of an Idle Saturday Afternoon

Saturday, 4:45 PM

I'm sitting alone on a bookstore patio under gloomy autumn skies; my earphones are in but nothing plays except the soft rock of the patio that sends me achingly adrift back to California. I don't want to think about California. 

I'm supposed to be writing but I'm lost in a fog. I've been checking social media every few minutes with the excuse that I need to do so for work. I scroll through my Whatsapp messages looking for someone to talk to and keep me company - maybe even someone to see. 

Sent messages. Seen messages. Unread messages I can't get myself to acknowledge. I stare beyond the words on my screen at some sort of nothingness. 

I play music through my earphones and drop my head into my hands, finally putting the feeling into words: God, I'm lonely. I blast worship music and hope to pray the lonely away, immersing myself in the God who promises to be my comfort and my strength, who has been for the whole year I've lived here. Instead, tears are dropping into my lap as I hope no one at the table next to me takes notice. I don't have words; I just have tears and an all-too-familiar clenching feeling in my heart. I'm lonely. 

I scroll past names of friends in Canada and I can't get myself to reach out - I've been putting so much weight on them lately and relying on them for company because I'm struggling to find that right now. I've been talking to someone a lot lately but I don't want to feel like I need to depend on him for companionship and making friends. There's no attraction, but it's almost like a drug rushing through my body. I need it. 

I need someone to talk to. 

I need someone to share thoughts and feelings with. 

I need someone to care enough to see how I'm doing. 

I need someone to dig past the smile. 

I need someone to be vulnerable with. 

Anyone, really. 

No. Not anyone. Because there are these unread messages from people seeking me out, and I'm sitting here in my loneliness disregarding them entirely. 

Why do I need to feel that validation from the people I want and not from the people who want me? 

Why can't I seek out this aunt or that friend or anyone else who's been trying to see me? Why can't I go visit family? The options are there - I'm just not choosing them. I don't understand. 

Part of me thirsts. 

Some days God can fill that and it's beautiful. Most days, someone will cancel plans on me last minute and I'll feel like the scum of the earth because I'll have nothing to do and no one to see, and no group to fall back on. I don't have a support system like I did in Canada. It's heavy. 

I message my mother, my safe space in any situation. Someone who won't disregard me. I tell her that life here is getting lonely again and it's hard to find people to spend time with and call friends. She says what she can to make it better. Find a young adults group at church, she says. Yeah, I've been meaning to do that, but it's a bit intimidating. 

Reach out to this girl or that - tell her you need to make friends and maybe she'll invite you out with her friends. You two are close. 

No, mom. I'm not going to go beg for friends. My pride and my dignity won't allow me to beg friendship and affection and pity from people. If I tell someone I'm lonely, they'll drop things to be with me. But if I don't tell them I'm lonely, I'm not enough of a priority for them to reach out. 

Maybe my mind is overthinking, my heart is overfeeling, but this is just where I am. 

"I'd rather stare at a wall," I tell her. Then I stop talking. I'm hurting and I'm angry, and I don't want her to hurt with me. 

My head falls back into my hands as I try desperately to beg without words for the loneliness to go away. 

I'm here to write! I try to convince myself. I want to be like all these authors in this bookstore. I want to accomplish so much. So why am I crippled by the reality that I'm here alone? Why am I using writing as an excuse for the fact that I don't have plans today? 

More California music. More stifled tears. 

I reach out to one of the friends my mother mentioned. I put my heart on my sleeve. I don't directly tell her I need a friend; I still can't do that. Instead I ramble about boys and contentment and validation: 

Finding contentment in God and not in guys is a lot harder when you find yourself feeling/being alone when there's no guy involved. 

Before I left to Canada, life was busy and I was happy. Lots of people involved. And now that group fizzled. A guy showed up in my world before Canada but isn't around anymore. He's really fun and I enjoy his company, but I know he eventually wants in my pants. But I also know that I'm gonna want to see him because he was a fun friend, and right now there's none of that. 

Finding that validation in God is a lot harder when it's your only option and not just 'an option' - does that make any sense? 

I've never been one to know that guys are attracted to me sexually - it was something I needed to feel and experience again and again. It wasn't a truth in my life. Now, it seems that guys being attracted to me sexually is the only way I know how to make friends.

I've had guys tell me time and time again about elaborate travel plans we could take together. We both pretend it's because I'm a good travel buddy. I hold to the idea of a fun trip with a friend and all the validation that comes with it. The trip never comes. 

I think the complication here is company. I don't feel this need when I find myself comforted and around people. When I have a fallback and a support system. I didn't have this in the same capacity in Canada. But, here, it goes something like this ... 

"Okay... Where do I find company? How do I make friends? Oh, cool, you seem fun! Let's hang out. Oh, you're just trying to get in my pants. Well, I guess I'll just milk this as long as I can, or until you disappear. You disappeared. That sucks. I'm don't want anything from you, I just miss my friend." 

Her response is telling me to keep myself busy and make new friends. That's what I've been told my whole life. That's what I keep telling other people when they hurt. That's what I keep telling myself.

Just make new friends. 

Yeah, if it was that easy then maybe I wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.

Artwork by Juleen Gerges.